14th April 1582

The University of Edinburgh is granted its royal charter

As is the case with many such institutions, the University of Edinburgh started as a college before being granted university status. Its foundation was funded largely through two bequests: one in the will of Bishop Robert Reid, and another in the form of a library of theological books from Clement Litill.

Reid had been bishop of Orkney but spent a lot of time working in Edinburgh and, upon his death, left 8000 merks for the construction of a large college. Litill, on the other hand, was a town clerk, book collector, and one of Reid’s friends.

Royal charter granted

Although it had already been up and running for several years, the institution was put on a more official footing through the granting of its Royal Charter, as Tounis College, by King James VI on 14 April 1582, and it accepted its first students in this capacity the following year. This made it Scotland’s fourth university, and Britain’s sixth.

The range of subjects was initially limited and, upon first opening in 1583, it offered just one course: a four-year Masters of Arts degree. Such a limited syllabus was not unusual, and over the next 150 years it added divinity, languages, mathematics, and medicine.

Name change and growth

The university grew steadily and, in 1617, its name was officially changed to King James’ College. Robert Adam and William Henry Playfair each oversaw periods of expansion through the addition of new buildings to the campus. Further expansion came through mergers with other nearby institutions, and the botanic garden was created in 1670.

The university was initially managed by the town council but became self-governing in the mid-1800s.



Other events that occured in April

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