University College Dundee

Scope and Content

Official records of the College, including minutes, reports, and Principal's and Secretary's files; financial records; calendars, college magazines and other publications; departmental files; matriculation and other student records; papers of teaching staff; plans and photographs, c 1882-1954

Administrative / Biographical History

University College Dundee was established on the last day of 1881. The Principal and the first four professors were appointed in 1882 and the College officially opened on 5 October 1883. The creation of the College was due to a growing insistence amongst Dundee's elite that the city both needed and was worthy of university level education. The College was financed by a Deed of Endowment with the bulk of the money, 120,000, coming from Mary Ann Baxter, a member of the prominent textile manufacturing family. John Boyd Baxter, a distant cousin, gave 5,000, and a little later they each gave additional sums. The Deed establishing the College stated that the College would provide teaching in science, literature and the arts to persons of both sexes and stipulated that no-one should be required to state his or her religious belief and that no religious teaching should be introduced.

The administrative structure provided by the Deed was a tripartite arrangement of the Governors, the Council and the Education Board, who were respectively the supreme governing body, the management, and the directors of education. This remained relatively unchanged throughout the life of the College. William Peterson, a 26 year old classics scholar, was appointed as the first Principal and proved adept at picking his professors, all dynamic men with an average age of just 28. The subjects offered were mathematics, natural philosophy, chemistry, engineering and drawing, classics and ancient history, English language and literature, and modern history. In addition, evening classes were available in most subjects. Student enrolment for the first session numbered 373, including 75 women.

Initially University College Dundee acquired four detached town houses on the Nethergate. During 1882, a corridor was built linking the four properties and a purpose-built chemistry department was begun behind them. Various purchases of land and existing property as well as new building projects expanded the College north from the Nethergate and to the west. Between 1885 and 1889 four more Chairs were appointed in biology, botany, anatomy and physiology. Faculties of Medicine and Science were established in 1897 and a Dental Hospital was founded in 1914. By 1954 the College was teaching a full curriculum of medicine and science and had increased the number of arts and social science subjects.

In 1890 University College Dundee was affiliated to the University of St Andrews. There had been much discussion from the outset over whether a Dundee college should be independent or affiliated to St Andrews and whether it should teach a full range of subjects or just medicine and science to fill a gap in the St Andrews' curriculum. Even after 1890 the exact nature of the relationship remained in dispute and the affiliation was declared invalid in 1895. In 1896, however, a union by Ordinance was pronounced lawful and the next year University College Dundee was officially incorporated as a college of the University of St Andrews. Controversy over the status of the College was to continue throughout its existence.

In 1954 University College Dundee changed its constitution and its name to Queen's College as a result of the Tedder Report recommending fuller incorporation into the University of St Andrews. In 1967, by Royal Charter, Queen's College became the University of Dundee.


The material was previously arranged in order of accession. It is awaiting rearrangement under a proper structure.

Access Information

Open for consultation subject to preservation requirements. Access must also conform to the restrictions of the Data Protection Act and any other appropriate legislation.

Acquisition Information

The records were mainly transferred by the University of Dundee.


Fonds level description compiled by Lisa Strachan, GASHE Archivist, December 2000 and revised by Caroline Brown, June 2003.

Other Finding Aids

The items were numbered as accessioned and filed in the Recs A series. Lists of these records are available as are databases and source lists.

Alternative Form Available

No known copies.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproduction is available subject to preservation requirements. Charges are made for this service, and copyright and other restrictions may apply.


Some possible.

Related Material

UR-DU University of Dundee

UR-QU Queen's College, Dundee

UR-SF University Staff records

Further records of UCD at University of St Andrews; further papers of Patrick Geddes at the University of Strathclyde Archives


Donald Southgate, University Education in Dundee: A Centenary History, (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Academic Press, 1982)

Michael Shafe, University Education in Dundee 1881-1981: A Pictorial History, (Dundee: University of Dundee, 1982)

Mary Ann Baxter and John Boyd Baxter, Deed of Endowment and Trust of University College Dundee 1881, (Dundee: printed by John Leng & Co, 1882)

Index to the Correspondence and Papers of Sir D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, (St Andrews: St Andrews University, 1987)

William Peterson, St Andrews and Dundee: A Retrospect, (Dundee: Council of University College Dundee, 1893)

Professor Knight, Early Chapters in the History of the University of St Andrews and Dundee, (Dundee: William Kidd & Sons, 1902?)

Robert Gordon Cant, The University of St Andrews: A Short History, (Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1970)

Additional Information

The material is original.