The UK is home to a number of extremely old universities, with some dating back almost 1,000 years. With all that history comes a flurry of surprising, interesting, zany, and downright crazy facts and in some cases, wild rumours.
Here, we’ll look not only at the UK’s oldest universities, but we’ll dive just a little deeper into some of the more outlandish facts and stories about them.
|S No||Oldest universities||Educational establishment|
|3||St Andrews University||1410 – 1413|
|4||University of Glasgow||1451|
|5||University of Aberdeen||1495 – 1505|
|6||University of Edinburgh||1583|
|7||University of Manchester||1824|
|8||University College London||1826|
The oldest university in the UK is Oxford University. Given its prestige, that shouldn’t really come as a surprise.
Well, we don’t know for sure when its grand grounds were built, but we do know that it’s been an educational establishment since at least 1096.
Bonus fact: Latin, not English, was the language of academic middle-ages England. English was considered more the language of the, ahem, “common people.”
The second oldest university in the UK is Cambridge University. Cambridge University was established in 1209 after something of a fallout between the scholars of Oxford and the local townspeople.
You see, Oxford was experiencing frequent riots between the academics and the non-academic locals. In fact, these very clashes were the basis for the English phrase “Town & Gown”, as academic scholars of Oxford wore gowns daily (there’s another two bonus facts for you).
To escape the riots, many scholars from Oxford relocated 140km away to the town of Cambridge, where they lived under the watch (and protection )of a town master. Over the following centuries, Cambridge University grew and was eventually recognised by the Pope in 1318.
Moving north to Scotland, the third oldest university in the UK is the University of St Andrews. Recognised as one of the most beautiful and eminent universities on the planet, St Andrews was founded by a Christian religious order known as the Augustinians in 1413.
As mentioned above, students from Britain were often sent to Paris to study. But a religious disagreement known as the Avignon Schism drove the Augustinians from Parisian universities, and then a War of Independence drove them from English Universities. And so they went it alone. More bonus facts!
And the rest: 7 more surprising (and shocking) facts about the UK’s oldest universities
Edinburgh University has a pretty great literary heritage too. Sherlock Holmes creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was a student here, while Robert Louis Stevenson, the writer of Treasure Island and Kidnapped was also here. In fact, Stevenson created the UK’s oldest student magazine, aptly called The Student, while at the university in 1887.
University College London, which is the 8th oldest university in the UK, became the very first university in the UK to admit women in 1878 (even before St Andrew’s in Scotland).
University College London has also featured in some extremely famous movies including Gladiator, Inception, and Batman Begins. The front quad was used as a model for Ancient Rome in the Gladiator, while both Inception and Batman Begins filmed scenes in the portico and the main library. For Batman superfans, you may also recognise the university’s National Institute for Medical Research, which was used as Arkham Asylum, while the courtroom trial scene in the movie was filmed in the Thomas Lewis Center.
And finally, one more horrible history for you, this time again from the University College of London:
“Why???” I hear you thinking, “Why would he do this?”.
Well, Bentham was an odd fellow by all accounts. Apparently, he wanted it to be possible for his body to be wheeled out at social gatherings, just in case his old friends and colleagues missed him!
Here’s hoping these facts about the UK’s oldest universities have piqued your interest in studying abroad in the UK. If you’re thinking about studying in the UK, check out the amazing range of courses provided by our partner universities.
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Sean is a writer, copywriter & editor from Ireland.