The first university in Scotland was St John's College, St Andrews, founded in 1418. St Salvator's College was added to St. Andrews in 1450. The other great bishoprics followed, with the University of Glasgow being founded in 1451 and King's College, Aberdeen in 1495. St Leonard's College was founded in Aberdeen in 1511 and St John's College was re-founded in 1538 as St Mary's College, St Andrews. Public lectures that were established in Edinburgh in the 1540s would eventually become the University of Edinburgh in 1582. In 1641, the two colleges at Aberdeen were united by decree of Charles I (r. 1625–49), to form the ‘King Charles University of Aberdeen’. They were demerged after the Restoration in 1661. In 1747 St Leonard's College in St Andrews was merged into St Salvator's College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard. A new college of St Andrews was opened in Dundee in 1883, though initially an independent institution. The two colleges at Aberdeen were considered too small to be viable and they were restructured as the University of Aberdeen in 1860. Marischal College was rebuilt in the Gothic style from 1900. The University of Edinburgh was taken out of the care of the city and established on a similar basis to the other ancient universities.
After the Robbins Report of 1963 there was a rapid expansion in higher education in Scotland. By the end of the decade the number of Scottish Universities had doubled. New universities included the University of Dundee, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, and Stirling. From the 1970s the government preferred to expand higher education in the non-university sector and by the late 1980s roughly half of students in higher education were in colleges. In 1992, the distinction between universities and colleges was removed. This created new universities at Abertay, Glasgow Caledonian, Napier, Paisley and Robert Gordon. in 2001 the University of the Highlands and Islands was created by a federation of 13 colleges and research institutions in the Highlands and Islands and gained full university status in 2011.
|University||Image||Location||Year of foundation||Year of university status||Motto||Notes|
|University of St Andrews||St Andrews, Fife||1410||1413||ΑΙΕΝ ΑΡΙΣΤΕΥΕΙΝ
Ever to excel
|University status conferred on 28 August 1413 by a papal bull of Pope Benedict XIII.|
|University of Glasgow||Glasgow||1451||1451||Via, Veritas, Vita
The way, the truth, and the life
|University status conferred on 7 January 1451 by a papal bull of Pope Nicholas V.|
|University of Aberdeen||Aberdeen||1495||1495||Initium sapientiae timor domini
The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord
Established as King's College, Aberdeen in 1495 by a papal bull of Pope Alexander VI, and in 1860 merged with Marischal College (established 1593 as Aberdeen's second university), explicitly maintaining the date of foundation of King's College.
|University of Edinburgh||Edinburgh||1582||1582||Nec temere, nec timide
"Neither rashly nor timidly"
|Established as the ‘Tounis College’ in 1582, after James VI of Scotland granted the Edinburgh Town Council a royal charter to establish a college on 14 April 1582.|
|University of Strathclyde||Glasgow||1796||1964||The Place of Useful Learning||The Royal College of Science and Technology was granted university status by royal charter in 1964, although the precursor Anderson Institute can be traced back to 1796 and the name Anderson's University was used between 1828 and 1887.|
|Heriot-Watt University||Edinburgh||1821||1966||Heriot-Watt College was granted university status by royal charter in 1966, although the precursor School of Arts of Edinburgh was established in 1821.|
|University of Dundee||Dundee||1881||1967||Magnificat Anima Mea Dominum
My soul glorifies the Lord
|First established (1881) as University College, then Queen's College under the University of St. Andrews, until establishment as an independent university in 1967.|
|University of Stirling||Stirling||1967||1967||Innovation and Excellence||Planned as part of the Robbins Report of 1963, and constructed at a greenfield site on the estate of Airthrey Castle.|
|Edinburgh Napier University||Edinburgh||1964||1992||Nisi Sapientia Frustra
Without knowledge all is in vain
|First established 1964 as Napier Technical College.|
|Robert Gordon University||Aberdeen||1750||1992||Omni Nunc Arte Magistra
Now by all your mastered arts
|First established 1750 as Robert Gordon's Hospital.|
|Glasgow Caledonian University||Glasgow||1875||1993||For the Common Weal
For the common good
|The University traces its origin to The Queen's College, Glasgow (founded 1875) and the Glasgow Polytechnic (founded 1971).|
|Abertay University||Dundee||1888||1994||Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam.
Blessed is the one who finds wisdom.
|First established in 1888 as Dundee College of Technology.|
|Queen Margaret University||Musselburgh, East Lothian||1875||2007||First established 1875 as The Edinburgh School of Cookery and Domestic Economy. Moved to a new campus in Musselburgh in 2007-8.|
|University of the West of Scotland||Paisley, Hamilton, Dumfries and Ayr||1836||2007||Doctrina Prosperitas
Success comes through learning
|First established 1836 as a School of Arts, then in 1992 as the University of Paisley, and re-formed in 2007 following a merger with Bell College.|
|University of the Highlands and Islands||Highlands,
and Northern Isles
|2001||2011||Foghlam aig ìre Oilthigh air a' Ghàidhealtachd is anns na h-Eileanan
University-level study in the Highlands and Islands
|A federation of colleges, planned from 1992 onwards and first established in 2001 as the UHI Millennium Institute and awarded full university status in February 2011. The central administration and largest college is in Inverness.|
The University and King's College of Aberdeen, and Marischal College and University of Aberdeen shall be united and incorporated into one University and college, in all time coming, under the style and title of the "University of Aberdeen"; and the said united University shall take rank among the Universities of Scotland as from the date of erection of King's College and University, viz., the year one thousand four hundred and ninety-four; and all the funds, properties, and revenues now pertaining or belonging in any manner of way to the University and King's College, or to Marischal College and University, shall in time coming pertain and belong to the University of Aberdeen.