Records of the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard in the University of St Andrews

Scope and Content

The United College was founded in 1747 but its records include earlier material particularly relating to the lands owned by both St Salvator's and St Leonard's Colleges, 1550-1891 with cartularies, 1699-1856, and relating to visitations 1616-1719. There are titles, presentations and other documents relating to bursaries in both St Salvator's and St Leonard's Colleges from 1530. There is material relating to students including annual lists 1854-1962, prize lists 1829-1845 and a discipline book, 1851-56. The minutes of the college from 1751-1962 continue the series of minutes of St Leonard's College, 1710-1747 which extend to 1751 and which can be found at GB 227 UYSL. The letter books series covers 1833-1892. Financial material includes annual accounts 1747-1901, and a comprehensive set of vouchers for the accounts from 1748-1892. There are daybooks 1769-1896, reports on the accounts 1839-1898, diet books 1768-1784, apparatus fund, sinking fund and class fee books. The factors' letters and other business papers cover 1747-1892 and contain much miscellaneous material including on the dispersal of St Leonard's property after 1747, teaching, staff, land held by the college, benefactions, furnishings, college chapel, etc. Material relating to the administration of college lands includes rentals, 1755-1906, tenants' ledgers 1833-84, feu duty and rental books, 1862 and 1866, a drainage book 1848-64, teind book and papers 1780-1885. Bursarial papers include mortification books, letter books, accounts, vouchers for bursary fund accounts 1770-1892, bursary books 1871-1936 and payment books 1842-1891. There are also accounts and vouchers for various special funds and bursaries and papers relating to legal cases involving the College.

Administrative / Biographical History

On 24 June 1747 the two colleges of St Leonard (1512) and St Salvator (1450) were "united, incorporated and erected into one College, to be at all times thereafter called The United College of Saint Salvator and Saint Leonard in the University of St Andrews'. The period immediately before the union had seen outward decay in the buildings of the university and the decline in the number of students attending. There was no fund for maintaining the fabric of the colleges, the salaries attached to the professorships were small and their teaching overlapped. Negotiations for union were begun in 1738, the main part being taken by Thomas Tullideph, Professor of Divinity at St Mary's College who became Principal of St Leonard's College in 1739.

The North Street site of St Salvator's College was chosen as the location for the United College despite the fact that the buildings must have been in a much poorer condition than those of St Leonard's. The residential quarters of St Salvator's were partially repaired but had to be largely rebuilt between 1754 and 1757. A new building was built along the north side of an enlarged quadrangle but the older east and south quarters of the old cloister court remained behind the church for the next 50 years. The college chapel was fitted up for the congregation of St Leonard's parish which moved to St Salvator's chapel in 1759. The buildings of St Leonard's College, except the chapel, were alienated. The United College remained a residential community, although this became increasingly rare until, finally, the Common Tables were discontinued at the United College in 1820.

By the time of the Royal Commission of visitation in 1826 the buildings of the United College were in desperate need of repair and were felt to be unsuitable for teaching purposes. The Chancellor, Lord Melville, had already mooted the reconstruction of the College and this was approved by the Commissioners. Plans of 1828 by Robert Reid involved the retention of the original frontage to North Street and the reconstruction of a new building around the North and East sides of a larger quadrangle but in fact only resulted in the completion of the east wing between 1829 and 1831. Plans by Nixon of 1845-6 resulted in the demolition the old north and west wings and the erection of a large cloister behind the church. The buildings were taken over by the government and maintained as a public charge until 1890.

The two uniting colleges each included six senior members - a Principal or Provost, three 'Professors of Philosophy', and professors of Greek and Humanity - but, at the time of the union, the post of Provost of St Salvator's College and one of the professorships of philosophy there were vacant. Another of the professors of this college and two of those at St Leonard's retired. There were thus left Principal Tullideph of St Leonard's with six professors from the two former colleges, and the two university professors of Mathematics and Medicine, to form the membership of the United College. This was fixed as follows: "One Principal, One Professor of Greek, Three Professors of Philosophy, whereof one to be Professor of Logick, Rhetorick and Metaphysicks, another to be Professor of Ethicks and Pneumaticks and the third to be Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy, one Professor of Humanity, one Professor of Civil History, one Professor of Mathematicks, and a Professor of Medicine, sixteen bursars on the original foundation, together with such as have been added, or may hereafter be added, and servants necessary to the said United College'. 1747 saw the end of the ancient system of regenting as specialisation in teaching was recognised. The change had been a gradual one since the appointment in St Salvator's of Professors of Greek in 1705, and of Natural Philosophy in 1724. In practice, all professorships were 'fixed' in St Salvator's from 1742 and in St Leonard's from 1744.

The two University Professorships of Mathematics and Medicine were converted into chairs in the United College, although the University retained the patronage of the medical chair. The introduction of a new chair in Civil History was rather anomalous as there were no classes in that subject within the compulsory Arts curriculum. This post was a sinecure for most of the eighteenth century, as were the chairs in the same subject at Edinburgh (1719) and Oxford and Cambridge (1724). Between 1747 and 1897 the following chairs were developed: Chemistry (Purdie chair) 1840; Natural history (Kennedy chair) 1850; and English Literature (Berry chair) 1897. By 1826 the Faculty of Arts had become nearly indistinguishable from the United College.

By 1826 the colleges were the most powerful elements in the university. The United College administered its own property and finance, appointed its own officers except those in the gift of the crown and private patronage and exercised disciplinary control over its students. The Report of the Commissioners, published in 1831, made sweeping proposals for changes to the administrative structure of the University that was to impact on the college. There was to be a new body to deal with "the whole administration and management of the revenue and property of the University and Colleges'. This was to be known as the University Court. The College might continue to appoint to the professorships and bursaries within its own patronage and to exercise what powers were left to it, but the Court was to be the dominant element in University life. It was not until 1858 that many of these recommendations were actually incorporated into the Universities (Scotland ) Act, except that the Court was only 'to inquire into and control' the administration of the finances of the university by the Senate and colleges, instead of administering them itself. However, the college did lose the patronage of chairs at this time.

The Universities (Scotland) Act of 1889 had the effect of transferring the administration of the college to the University Court. This included the finances, buildings and patronage of all its senior posts save for the Principalship and the Professorship of Mathematics which remained Crown appointments. In 1890 the new office of Principal of the University was linked with the Principalship of the United College. In 1953 the University of St Andrews Act instituted the office of Principal of the University in its own right. The act of 1953 also reconstituted the United College as an 'unincorporated society' of teachers and students, and effectively absorbed the College into the parent university. It did continue to have its own presiding officer, however, the headship of the college being a part-time post held by a senior member of the academic staff. The Master of the United College remains one of the senior Vice-Principals of the University.

The college site became the focus of science teaching in the University and in 1891 an independent Chemical Laboratory was presented to the United College by Mrs Purdie of Castlecliffe. Research laboratories were added by Professor Purdie in 1905 and these formed a new block behind the east wing of the United College. In 1900 a Physics laboratory was also built here and the east wing was extended between 1904-6 to provide new lecture rooms for Physics and other departments. Some departments relocated away from the college after the development of the North Haugh as a centre for the physical sciences from the 1960s.


The material has been arranged in accordance with a classification scheme imposed since 1961. This creates the following groups of records which reflect the different areas of activity of the College: 

  • UYUC100-199 Privileges, lands and buildings
  • UYUC200-299 Officers and staff
  • UYUC300-399 Students
  • UYUC400-499 Executive proceedings
  • UYUC500-599 General administration
  • UYUC600-699 Bursaries
  • UYUC700-799 Miscellaneous
  • UYUC800-899 Relations with outside bodies

Access Information

By appointment with the Archivist. Access to unpublished records less than 30 years old and other records containing confidential information may be restricted.

Acquisition Information

University of St Andrews.


Description compiled by Rachel Hart, Archives Hub Project Archivist.

Other Finding Aids

Hand list available in Reading Room. Name index was compiled for the college minutes in the 1960s.

Alternative Form Available

Transcripts are available for some items.

Conditions Governing Use

Applications for permission to quote should be sent to the University Archivist.Reproduction subject to usual conditions: educational use and condition of documents.

Appraisal Information

This material has been appraised in line with standard GB 227 procedures.

Custodial History

Retained in the custody of the University of St Andrews.



Related Material

Material relating to the component colleges can be found in GB 227 UYSS for the records of St Salvator's College, 1411-1747 and GB 227 UYSL for the records of St Leonard's College, 1268-1747.


RG Cant, The University of St Andrews: A Short History, (3rd ed., St Andrews, 1992), Evidence, oral and documentary, taken and received by the Commissioners for visiting the Universities of Scotland, vol. III, St Andrews, (London, 1837), RG Cant, The College of St Salvator (Edinburgh, 1950).

Additional Information

This material is original.

Geographical Names