University of Aberdeen

University of Aberdeen

Overview of University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen is Scotland’s third oldest university, and the UK’s fifth. It was formed in the merging of two colleges, King’s and Marischal, in 1860.

King’s College was founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, the then Bishop of Aberdeen, who used the great European universities of Paris and Bologna as his model.

With just 36 staff and students when it first opened, King’s was dedicated to training teachers, doctors, lawyers and the clergy who would serve northern Scotland and the Scottish monarchy. It offered studies in arts, theology and the law, and its position of chair of medicine, established in 1497, was the first to be created in the English-speaking world.

Marischal College meanwhile was opened in 1593, in the New Town of Aberdeen, by the fourth Earl Marischal.

The two colleges merged and for a time King’s focused on arts and divinity while Marischal focused on law and medicine.

The first women were admitted as students in 1894, with four women graduating in arts in 1898. By 1899, women were a quarter of their faculty.

Current students of the university number around 14,000 and prominent alumni include former Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, former Cabinet Office Minister Tessa Jowell, two judges of the supreme court of Scotland and a number of university vice-chancellors.

Health and healthcare have long been a research priority for Aberdeen, with the region boasting the highest concentration of health and life scientists in Europe. In 2002, a new Institute for Medical Sciences was opened followed by a new Health Sciences building in 2006, while the Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare, a £20m training facility, opened in 2009.

The university also opened a new £57 million library, the Sir Duncan Rice in Old Aberdeen, in 2012, and in 2014 an aquatic centre with an Olympic-standard swimming pool.

University of Aberdeen summary

Location Aberdeen, Scotland
Established in 1495
Popular courses Life Sciences, Law, Arts and Humanities, Engineering and Technology
International students population percentage 38%

University of Aberdeen ranking

The University of Aberdeen has achieved its highest ever position in the Complete University Guide league table.
The University’s climb from 40th to 28th in the UK is the biggest rise of any of last year’s top 50 universities and takes it into the top 30 of the main league table for the first time. In Scotland, the University has risen from 7th to 4th place, from 14 institutions.

Accomodation at the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen offers student living for undergraduates at our Hillhead Student Village and at a number of residences based on our King’s College campus. International Exchange and Study Abroad students are integrated in to the halls with other University of Aberdeen students, so you will have the opportunity to meet local students as well as other international students.
International Exchange and Study Abroad students are guaranteed a place in student accommodation for the duration of their studies (1 semester or 1 academic year), as long as they apply by the stated deadline. Information regarding how to apply for accommodation and the relevant deadlines and contract dates is provide at the point of acceptance.

Student Services and Facilities


  • The university’s £57 million Sir Duncan Rice Library opened in 2012. Its eight floors house the largest of the university’s modern collections – including Arts, Humanities, Sciences and Social Sciences, and historic collections of rare books, manuscripts and archives in the Special Collections Centre on the lower ground floor.

Student jobs

  • Part time work is advertised via Aberdeen University Student’y Association (AUSA) and the careers service within the university.
  • Opportunities exist across tutoring, care, administrative and office work, advertising, research, hospitality and retail in the city and beyond.

Careers advice

  • The university’s careers service provides full careers guidance sessions either in person or online to support employment options, enterprise and mentoring
  • Careers fairs and support information is available online to assist with CVs and interviews and in campus events and workshops.
  • There information about working overseas, vacation work, internships and placements plus voluntary work in the city and shire.

Counselling services

  • The university’s Student Counselling Service offers short-term counselling provision; in addition it can signpost students to longer-term or specialist support, as appropriate.
  • The Student Advice and Support team offers impartial and confidential advice and support on a range of issues, including finance, disabilities and specific learning differences, visa and immigration matters, mental health and well-being, and more.

Disability support

  • Disability advisors offer support in areas such as mobility, examinations and timings and learning methods.
  • The university provides training on assistive technology software and hardware to enable access to ClaroRead Cloud, Braille printing and computers with assistive technology.
  • There is parking on site for disabled students and online services for student’s to support different abilities. Offsite advisors can help with accommodation needs and other requirements.

Students' Union

  • Aberdeen University Students’ Association (AUSA) is made up of over 150 sports clubs and societies, offering something for every student.
  • Situated in the heart of the King’s College campus, the AUSA building hosts a bar, convenience store, computer cluster and food outlets. Also located in the same building is the careers service, the international team and student support.

Fascinating fact about the University of Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen has its own tartan, created for its 500th anniversary celebrations in 1992.

Notable Alumni and Famous Faces from the University of Aberdeen

  • Nicky Campbell – journalist and broadcaster, BBC – UK
  • Richard Klein – former Controller of BBC4 and Head of Factual at ITV
  • Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP – former Chancellor of the Exchequer – UK Government
  • Lord Frank Mulholland CBE – QC, Lord Advocate for Scotland
  • The Hon A Gail Prudenti – former Supreme Court Justice, New York State
  • Anthony Hilton – Financial Editor, London Evening Standard
  • Dr Adrian Ivinson – Executive Director, BWH Institute for the Neurosciences, Harvard Neuro Discovery Center
  • Lady Susan Rice CBE – former Chairman and Chief Executive, Lloyds TSB Scotland plc
  • Ali Smith CBE FRSL – author
  • Iain Glen – actor, with credits including Game of Thrones and the Resident Evil series