Heriot-Watt University

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Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt University logo.svg
Established1821 – as the School of Arts of Edinburgh
1966 – as university by Royal Charter
ChancellorRobert M Buchan
PrincipalSteve Chapman
Chairman of CourtLord Penrose
Admin. staff1,737[1]
Students20,994 worldwide[1]
Undergraduates5,796 on Edinburgh Campus[1]
Postgraduates2,032 on Edinburgh Campus[1]
LocationEdinburgh, Scotland
Other campus locationsScottish Borders
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Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt University logo.svg
Established1821 – as the School of Arts of Edinburgh
1966 – as university by Royal Charter
ChancellorRobert M Buchan
PrincipalSteve Chapman
Chairman of CourtLord Penrose
Admin. staff1,737[1]
Students20,994 worldwide[1]
Undergraduates5,796 on Edinburgh Campus[1]
Postgraduates2,032 on Edinburgh Campus[1]
LocationEdinburgh, Scotland
Other campus locationsScottish Borders

Heriot-Watt University is a public university based in Edinburgh, established in 1821 as the world's first mechanics' institute. It has been a university by Royal Charter since 1966. It has branch campuses in the Scottish Borders, Orkney, Dubai, and Putrajaya in Malaysia.[2]


statue of James Watt
This statue of James Watt commissioned for the School of Arts today sits at Heriot-Watt's Edinburgh Campus.

School of Arts of Edinburgh[edit]

Heriot-Watt was established as the School of Arts of Edinburgh by Scottish businessman Leonard Horner on 16 October 1821. Having been inspired by Anderson's College in Glasgow, Horner established the School to provide practical knowledge of science and technology to Edinburgh's working men.[3][4]:64–66 The institution was initially of modest size, giving lectures two nights a week in rented rooms[5] and boasting a small library of around 500 technical works.[3][4]:100 It was also oversubscribed, with admissions soon closing despite the cost of 15 shillings for a year's access to lectures and the library.[3]

The School was managed by a board of eighteen directors[3] and primarily funded by sponsors from the middle and upper classes including Robert Stevenson and Walter Scott. It first became associated with the inventor and engineer James Watt in 1824, as a means of raising funds to secure permanent accommodation. Justifying the association, School Director Lord Cockburn said:

"[The building] shall be employed for the accommodation of the Edinburgh School of Arts; whereby the memory of Watt may forever be connected with the promotion, among a class of men to which he himself originally belonged, of those mechanical arts from which his own usefulness and glory arose.[4]:103 "

In 1837, the School of Arts moved to leased accommodation on Adam Square, which it was able to purchase in 1851 thanks to funds raised in Watt's name. In honour of the purchase, the School changed its name to the Watt Institution and School of Arts in 1852.

Watt Institution and School of Arts[edit]

Heriot-Watt's time as the Watt Institution marked a transitional period for the organisation, as its curriculum broadened to include several subjects beyond mathematics and the physical sciences. While the School of Arts had catered almost exclusively to working-class artisans and technical workers, the Watt Institution admitted a large number of middle-class students, whom it attracted with new subjects in the sciences, social sciences and humanities. By 1885, the skilled working class were no longer the majority in an institution that had been created explicitly for them.[4]:133–135

A shifting class make-up was not the only demographic change to affect the student body, as in 1869 women were permitted to attend lectures for the first time. This move put the Watt Institution some way ahead of Scottish universities, who were only permitted to allow women to graduate 20 years later following the Universities (Scotland) Act of 1889.[6]:163 The decision to admit women was made in large part owing to pressure from local campaigner Mary Burton, who later became the Institution's first female director in 1874.[4]:133–135[7]

In 1870, the Watt Institution was forced to move following the demolition of Adam Square.[4]:148–153 After a brief period on Roxburgh Place, it relocated to the newly constructed Chambers Street near where its former site had stood. The move caused the Institution severe financial difficulties, which were compounded by a combination of declining funds from subscribers and increased costs from its growing student body. In 1873, the Directors turned to George Heriot's Trust for support, and agreed to a merger of the Trust's endowment with the Institution's own. The proposed merger was provisional to changes in the structure of the Watt Institution, which would see the organisation become a technical college with representatives of the Trust in management positions. Accepting these changes, the Watt Institution officially became Heriot-Watt College in 1885, and was subsequently on far firmer financial ground.[4]:160–161

The Watt Club[edit]

See also: The Watt Club

The Watt Club was founded at the Watt Institution on 12 May 1854, and is today the oldest alumni organisation in the UK.[8] Following the unveiling of a statue of James Watt outside the Institution, local jeweller J.E Vernon proposed that

"[a club should be formed] whose object would be to sup together on the anniversary of the birth of James Watt…and also to promote the interests of the School, by raising a fund each year to provide prizes.[4]:144–145"

Watt Club Medals are still awarded by the organisation each year to Heriot-Watt's most highly achieving students, while the Watt Club Prize is awarded by The Watt Club Council to recognise student initiative and enterprise.[9]

Heriot-Watt College[edit]

The former site of the Watt School
The former site of Heriot-Watt College on Chambers Street, today occupied by the Edinburgh Crown Office.

After the establishment of Heriot-Watt as a technical college, the new management committee set about extending the institution's buildings and strengthening its academic reputation.[10] In its new form the College was one of only three non-university institutions in the UK with the power to appoint professors, and the first of these was appointed in 1887. In 1902 the College became a central institution, while in 1904 it introduced awards for graduating students which were similar to university degrees.[10]

Expansion meant that the College made increasing demands on George Heriot's Trust throughout the first part of the 20th century, which ultimately led to the independence of the two bodies in 1927. While the Trust continued to pay Heriot-Watt a fixed sum each year, from then on the College was responsible for managing its own financial affairs.[10] Heriot-Watt continued to expand after becoming independent, opening a new extension in 1935.[4]:243

Both World Wars impacted on the speed of the College's expansion. During World War I, student numbers dropped as young men joined the army, while teaching in engineering stalled as the department was used for the manufacture of shells and munitions.[4]:213–215 During World War II, student numbers dropped again and the electrical engineering department became involved in training the armed services in the use of radar.

After the College introduced a postgraduate award in 1951, it offered awards equivalent to university degrees and doctorates in all practical respects. Recognising this, in 1963 the Robbins Report recommended that it should be awarded university status. On 1 February 1966 the recommendation was enacted, as the institution officially became Heriot-Watt University.[10]

Heriot-Watt University[edit]

While Heriot-Watt continued to expand in the centre of Edinburgh after attaining university status, the institution had grown big enough that relocation was felt to be desirable.[10] In 1966 Midlothian Council gifted the Riccarton estate in South West Edinburgh to the University and in 1969 work began on transforming the site into a future campus.[4]:252 The process of relocation to Riccarton continued until 1992, with teaching and facilities divided between the new campus and the city centre until this time.[4]:379–381

The University continued to grow after completing its move to Riccarton, constructing additional student halls, a sports centre and a postgraduate centre on the site. The institution also expanded beyond Edinburgh, merging with the Scottish College of Textiles to create a campus in the Scottish Borders in 1998, opening a campus in Dubai in 2006[4]:436–441 and a campus in Putrajaya, Malaysia in 2012.[2]


the Edinburgh campus loch
A view of the loch at Edinburgh Campus.

Heriot-Watt currently has five campuses, and also runs distance learning programmes through 50 approved learning partners to students around the world.[11]


Heriot-Watt's main campus is located in Riccarton in South West Edinburgh on 380 acres of parkland. The campus consists of: student residences, a postgraduate centre, shops, several library collections, childcare, healthcare, a chaplaincy, a variety of recreational and sports facilities, and a museum.[12] It is also home to the Edinburgh Conference Centre and Europe's oldest research park, which opened in 1971.[4]:386

Halls of Residence[edit]

Heriot-Watt's Edinburgh Campus has 1,600 furnished rooms available for students. This allows the University to guarantee accommodation to all new full time undergraduates and postgraduates.[13] 300 new rooms opened in September 2012 as part of a £14m residences development to replace some of the campus's older accommodation.[14]

Scottish Borders[edit]

Heriot-Watt's Scottish Borders Campus
Scottish Borders Campus

Heriot-Watt's Scottish Borders Campus in Galashiels is home to the University's School of Textile and Design.[15] The School began life in 1883 when the Galashiels Manufacturer's Corporation began running classes in practical courses for its workers. The institution gradually grew both in terms of student numbers and the number of courses it offered, and it ultimately became known as the Scottish College of Textiles in 1968. In 1998 the College merged with Heriot-Watt, leading to the creation of the School of Textiles and Design in its modern form.[4]:436–444

The School is one of the few fashion schools in the world which offers a menswear course at bachelor degree level, and the only school in Scotland to offer a fashion communication course. It was ranked 11th place in the UK for art and design in the 2013 Complete University Guide,[16] produced a winner and five other finalists for the Scottish Fashion Awards Graduate of the Year in June 2012.[17]

While the Scottish Borders Campus shares some facilities and administrative functions with Edinburgh, it is largely self-contained. As well as its own library, accommodation and catering facilities,[18] it has its own branch of the Student Union which runs events on the site[19] and is home to a collection of textile records and artefacts.[20] A new £12m student village opened at the Campus on September 2012.[21]

In addition to the School of Textiles and Design, Heriot-Watt's Borders Business Programme is also based at the Scottish Borders Campus. The entire campus is shared with Borders College, whose students make up the majority of those who study at the site.


Heriot-Watt has a satellite campus in Dubai International Academic City. Founded in 2006, the Campus was the first to be established by an institution which came from outside the UAE.[22]

Offering a range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses similar to those found in Scotland, the Campus facilitates student exchanges between Britain and the Emirates. It has facilities including a library, catering, computer access and shops.[23] An expanded campus opened in the city in November 2011, allowing double the number of students to study for a Heriot-Watt degree in the city.[24]


After announcing plans to open a Malaysian Campus in 2011,[25] Heriot-Watt officially opened a temporary campus in Putrajaya in November 2012. The university is currently constructing a purpose-built campus in the city, which should be complete by 2014.[2]


Heriot-Watt's campus in Stromness, Orkney is home to the International Centre for Island Technology (ICIT), part of the University's Institute of Petroleum Engineering. The Campus provides education to a small number of postgraduate students and is host to eight members of research staff.[26][27]

Associate Campus in London[edit]

West London College is an independent higher education institution situated in the borough of Mayfair in central London. The College has offered Heriot-Watt University academic programmes as an Approved Learning Partner since 1993 and in 2012 became an Associate Campus of the University.[28]

As an Associate Campus, the College maintains very close links with the University, including a permanent University staff presence. The programme delivery is also subject to the same quality control. All teaching staff are approved by the University and work in close contact with their counterparts in Edinburgh and Galashiels.

West London College students studying on Heriot-Watt University courses are awarded the same degrees as students studying at any other Heriot-Watt University campus. They are also entitled to graduate at the same ceremony in Edinburgh.


Heriot-Watt is divided into seven schools and one institute that coordinate its teaching and research:

Rankings and achievements[edit]

(2014/15, national)
(2014/15, world)
(2015, national)
The Guardian[39]
(2015, national)
Times/Sunday Times[40]
(2015, national)

Heriot-Watt is known for the strong prospects of its students, with 80% in graduate-level jobs six months after leaving the institution.[41]

It came 1st in Scotland and 4th in the UK in the 2012 National Student Survey,[41] and saw the largest increase in UK applicants of any UK university for the 2013 academic session.[42]

In 2011, Heriot-Watt was named as the Sunday Times Scottish University of the Year 2011-2012, with the paper emphasising the employability of the institution's graduates.[41] In 2012, it was again Scottish University of the Year 2012-2013 for the second year running, and also became UK University of the Year for student experience.[43]

In 2014, it was ranked 13th in the UK and 2nd in Scotland by the Guardian University League Table,[44] and 4th in Scotland by the Complete University Guide.[45]

Student life[edit]

Heriot-Watt has a diverse student body, with one-third of students on UK campuses coming from overseas.[46] Students have been represented at Heriot-Watt since the establishment of a Students' Representative Council in 1929,[4]:237 and today are represented in the UK by the University's Students' Association.

Students' Association[edit]

The Students' Association at Heriot-Watt is a student-led organisation headed by individuals elected from the student population. The Association has represented students both locally and nationally since its foundation in 1966,[47] and is a member of both the Edinburgh Students' Forum and the National Union of Students (NUS).[48] It is also responsible for running the University's Student Union, which runs events for students and supports student societies, of which over 50 currently exist.[49] In addition, it runs several services at the Edinburgh and Scottish Borders campuses including catering facilities, a nightclub, an advice centre and a student shop.[50]

Sports Union[edit]

The Sports Union is responsible for the University's 30 sports clubs[51] and runs annual social events for students involved in sport. As with the Students' Association, the organisation is headed by elected Heriot-Watt students.[52]

Notable alumni[edit]






See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Annual statistics 2011-12.". Retrieved 10-08-2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  2. ^ a b c "Heriot-Watt University: Official Opening of Heriot-Watt University Malaysia.". Retrieved 03-12-2012.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d Jameson, R, (1824), Some Account of the School of Arts of Edinburgh., The Edinburgh philosophical journal 11: 203–205 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p O'Farrell, P. N. (2004). Heriot Watt University: An Illustrated History. Pearson Education Limited. ISBN 0-273-69605-X
  5. ^ "GASHE: School of Arts, Edinburgh.". Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  6. ^ Barnett, H. (2011). Constitutional & Administrative Law (8th Edition). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415578813
  7. ^ "Gazetteer for Scotland: Mary Burton.". Retrieved 06-12-2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  8. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: A Short History of the Watt Club.". Retrieved 06-12-2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  9. ^ "Heriot-Watt Academic Registry: Prizes and Awards.". Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  10. ^ a b c d e "NAHSTE: Records of Heriot-Watt College.". Retrieved 06-12-2011.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  11. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Study in your own country.". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  12. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Facilities at Edinburgh Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-18. 
  13. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Accommodation at Edinburgh Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  14. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Work begins on £26m student accommodation project.". Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  15. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Scottish Borders Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  16. ^ "Complete University Guide 2013: Art and Design.". Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  17. ^ "The Scotsman: Scottish Fashion Awards: The winners in full.". 
  18. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Scottish Borders Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  19. ^ "Heriot-Watt Student Union:SBC Homepage.". Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  20. ^ "The Guardian: University guide 2013: Heriot-Watt University.". 10 May 2009. Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  21. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Accommodation at Scottish Borders Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-24. 
  22. ^ "The Scottish Government: New £35m Heriot-Watt campus in Dubai.". Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  23. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Facilities at Dubai Campus.". Retrieved 2012-05-23. 
  24. ^ "Times Higher Education: Scottish internationalism: Salmond welcomes Heriot-Watt’s Dubai campus.". Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  25. ^ "Edinburgh Evening News: City university lands overseas campus deal.". Retrieved 2012-06-20. 
  26. ^ "ICIT: Courses.". Retrieved 2011-11-30. 
  27. ^ "ICIT: Staff.". Retrieved 2011-11-30. 
  28. ^ http://www.hw.ac.uk/student-life/campus-life/west-london-college.htm
  29. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of the Built Environment.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  30. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of Engineering and Physical Sciences.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  31. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of Life Sciences.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  32. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of Management and Languages.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  33. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of Mathematical and Computer Sciences.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  34. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: School of Textiles and Design.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  35. ^ "Edinburgh Business School.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  36. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Institute of Petroleum Engineering.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  37. ^ a b "QS World University Rankings 2014/15". Quacquarelli Symonds. Retrieved 19 September 2014. 
  38. ^ "University League Table 2015". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  39. ^ "University league table 2015 - the complete list". The Guardian. 2 June 2014. Retrieved 5 June 2014. 
  40. ^ "The Times and Sunday Times University League Tables 2015". Times Newspapers. Retrieved 22 September 2014. 
  41. ^ a b c The Sunday Times University Guide 2012, 11-09-2011. Leonard, Sue, "Full steam ahead for Heriot-Watt", London.
  42. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Annual Review." (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-25. 
  43. ^ "BBC News: Scottish University of the year". Retrieved 2012-09-28. 
  44. ^ "The Guardian: University League Table 2015.". 2 Jun 2014. Retrieved 2014-06-02. 
  45. ^ "Complete University Guide: University League Table 2015 – Scotland.". Retrieved 2014-05-27. 
  46. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Key facts about Heriot-Watt University.". Retrieved 2011-11-29. 
  47. ^ "Heriot-Watt Student Union: History.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  48. ^ "Heriot-Watt Student Union: What is Representation?". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  49. ^ "Heriot-Watt Student Union: A-Z of Societies.". Retrieved 2012-04-30. 
  50. ^ "Heriot-Watt Student Union: Services.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  51. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Sports Union Clubs.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  52. ^ "Heriot-Watt University: Sports Union.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  53. ^ "Baxters: Audrey Baxter.". Retrieved 2012-06-19. 
  54. ^ "Female First: Christopher Kane New Gen Profile.". 
  55. ^ "The Scotsman: Doctrate for Formula One mechanic.". Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  56. ^ "Edinburgh Rugby: Lee Jones.". Retrieved 2012-04-16. 
  57. ^ Nasmyth,J. (1885, reprinted 2010). James Nasmyth, Engineer: An Autobiography. BoD – Books on Demand. ISBN 3867414599
  58. ^ "Helensburgh Heroes: Richard Tait.". Retrieved 2012-05-21. 

External links[edit]