On this day 1451: The University of Glasgow is founded

Students on graduation day 2018 at Glasgow University, which was founded 568 years ago today. PIC: John Devlin/TSPL.
Students on graduation day 2018 at Glasgow University, which was founded 568 years ago today. PIC: John Devlin/TSPL.
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It is one of Scotland’s oldest institutions - and the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Glasgow University was set up on this day in 1451, when a papal bull was granted by Pope Nicholas V, following a suggestion of King James II, to allow a university to be added to the city’s cathedral.

Glasgow University moved from the East End to its site overlooking Kelvingrove Park in 1870. PIC: John Devlin/TSPL.

Glasgow University moved from the East End to its site overlooking Kelvingrove Park in 1870. PIC: John Devlin/TSPL.

Small numbers of students joined the university in its early years.

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It wasn’t until 1700 that the student population reached around 400, a significant number given Glasgow was still a small provincial town at the time.

Students started university as boys - women were not offered a university education in Scotland until 1892- with learners starting as young as 10.

“The majority of students were sons of ministers, burgesses and farmers; these were accompanied by a smaller number of sons of the nobility and gentry, and a number of bursars whose parents could not otherwise afford the expense of higher education,” a history of the university said.

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The university first started in the in the chapterhouse of Glasgow Cathedral before moving to nearby Rottenrow, in a building known as the “Auld Pedagogy”.

In 1563, Mary Queen of Scots gave the university land and income previously enjoyed by the city friars. She founded bursaries for “five pouir children” and granted it the manse and kirkroom of Blackfriars as well as 13 acres of land and 10 bolls of meal.

By the 17th Century, the university was centred on two courtyards surrounded by walled gardens.

Attendance at the University brought an expectation of certain standards of behaviour. Undergraduate arts students, the majority of the student population, were required to wear gowns and were known as the togati, from the Latin for gown. From 1695, it was further ruled that the gowns had to be scarlet.

Students were also expected to carry a Bible and speak to their fellow students in Latin.

By the mid-17th Century, the College permitted the playing of lawful games, “such as gouffe, archerie and the like”. Cards and dice were, however, forbidden.

According to a history of the university, there were occasional official celebrations, with the College windows illuminated with candles and coal bonfires in the High Street and quadrangles, such as those to commemorate such events as King James VI’s delivery from the Gunpowder Plot on 5 November 1605 and on coronations.

In 1870, parts of the Old College Campus, including the Lion and the Unicorn Staircase, were transferred to the university’s imposing new home at Gilmorehill in the city’s West End.

The new campus was designed by George Gilbert Scott, the mastermind behind the hotel at London’s St Pancras station.

By the time the university opened in the West End in 1870, around 1,300 students were attending classes there.

Today, around 26,600 students are enrolled at Glasgow University.