University of Stirling

The University of Stirling is a public university in Stirling, Scotland, founded by royal charter in 1967. It is a plate glass university located in the Central Belt of Scotland, built within the walled Airthrey Castle estate. Since its foundation, it has expanded to four faculties, a Management School, and a number of institutes and centres covering a broad range of subjects in the academic areas of arts and humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and health sciences and sport.

The University Of Stirling
Established1967 (1967)
Endowment£3.2m (as of 31 July 2016)[1]
Budget£113.3 million (2015-16)[1]
ChancellorJack McConnell
PrincipalGerry McCormac [2]
Administrative staff
1,872 [3]
Undergraduates8,585 (2016/17)[4]
Postgraduates3,480 (2016/17)[4]
56°08′45″N 3°55′10″W
Campus360 acres (1.5 km2) parkland campus
(satellite campuses in Inverness and Stornoway)
Colours     Heritage green and
     Energy green
AffiliationsAssociation of Commonwealth Universities

The university campus is approximately 360 acres (1.5 km2) in size, incorporating the Stirling University Innovation Park and the Dementia Centre. The campus, with its wildlife, loch and mixture of native and exotic flora are located in the foothills of the Ochil Hills and is often cited as among the most beautiful in the UK.[5] In 2002, the University of Stirling and the landscape of the Airthrey Estate was designated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites as one of the UK's top 20 heritage sites of the 20th century.[6] The institution also occupies buildings in the city of Stirling.

The university attracts students from a wide range of backgrounds, with more than 14,000 part-time and full-time students enrolled in the 2016/17 academic year.[7] Stirling has international degree programme partnerships in China with Hebei Normal University, Singapore with Singapore Institute of Management, Oman and Vietnam.


Stirling was the first new university to be established in Scotland for nearly 400 years.[8] The original site of the campus was selected from a shortlist of competing sites, which include Falkirk, Perth and Inverness. The author of the Robbins Review, which recommended an expansion of the number of universities in the UK during the 1960s, Lord Robbins, was appointed as the University's first Chancellor in 1968. In 1967 a house for the University Principal Tom Cottrell was completed, designed by architects Morris and Steedman. It was listed as category A in 2009.[9]

The Pathfoot Building, which represented the first phase of development on the campus, was completed in 1968 and originally housed lecture theatres, offices and classrooms in addition to the iconic 'crush hall' where the university displayed its emerging collection of contemporary Scottish art. The building was extended in 1979 to include a Tropical Aquarium and again in 1987 to include a Virology Unit associated with the university's Institute of Aquaculture. In 1993, the Pathfoot Building was selected by the international conservation organisation DoCoMoMo as one of sixty key Scottish monuments of the post-war era. It was also voted as one of Prospect's 100 best modern Scottish buildings. In 1970, development began on what was subsequently named the Cottrell Building, in memory of the university's first principal Cottrell. It comprises two parallel buildings with cross link corridors and interspersed courtyard gardens. The building today houses most of the university administration, lecture theatres, departmental offices, classrooms and computer laboratories. The University Library, Atrium and MacRobert Centre are housed in an adjoining building, the Andrew Miller Building, which was completed in 1971.[10]

On 13 October 1972, during a visit to the new campus by HM The Queen, she was subjected to a rowdy reception by students, widely reported in the media. The students were protesting about the lack of social spaces in what was at the time a relatively newly built university. The 24 students involved were charged for the disruption, but charges were later dropped.[11] There were no further Royal visits until 2011, when Prince Edward formally opened the refurbished library.[12]

A department of Business studies was set up in 1982.[13] The Institute of Aquaculture, a research institute specialising in fish farming and genetics, opened the same year. In 1983 it sold 300 acres of land to Wang Laboratories.[14] The R.G. Bomont Building (named after the second University Secretary), which houses the Faculty of Social Science, was completed in 1998. The Iris Murdoch building was opened in 2002 to house The Dementia Services Development Centre, and the Colin Bell Building was completed in 2003.


The University campus is set within 330 acres (1.3 km2) of grounds beneath the Ochil Hills, 2 miles (3.2 km) from the centre of Stirling, close to the town of Bridge of Allan. It is regularly described as one of the most beautiful campuses in the world[15] and was ranked 1st in the UK for its campus environment in the International Student Barometer 2016.[16] It is situated on the site of the historic Airthrey estate which includes the Robert Adam-designed 18th century Airthrey Castle and includes the Hermitage woods, Airthrey Loch,[17] Airthrey Golf Course[18]. The Andrew Miller Building incorporates an Atrium, which contains several retail and food outlets including a bookstore, bank and general store. This building links the Library and Robbins' Centre Students' Union and has connecting bridges to the Cottrell Building, on-campus student residences and the MacRobert Arts Centre.

The Library holds over 500,000 volumes and over 9,000 journals. Home to the archives of both the novelist Patrick McGrath[19] and filmmaker Norman McLaren,[20] the Library reopened in August 2010 after a major refurbishment programme. MacRobert Arts Centre is a small theatre and cinema complex open to members of the University community and the general public. The University houses a considerable fine art collection in the Pathfoot Building, comprising over 300 works including paintings, tapestries and sculpture.[21]


The University of Stirling student accommodation can cater for almost 3,000 students in over 20 properties located on and off campus.[22] Most accommodation is in university halls and located on campus. There are town houses at Alexander Court for families and groups of students. Of the 2,000 rooms located on-campus, 800 were built since 2013 as part of a £40m investment programme in student accommodation which was completed in September 2015.[23]

Halls of Residence located on campus include:

  • Andrew Stewart Hall
  • Willow Court Flats & Studios
  • Beech Court Flats & Studios
  • Juniper Court Flats & Studios
  • Fraser of Allander House
  • H H Donnelly House
  • Muirhead House
  • Polwarth House
  • Penderich Way
  • Spittal Hill

Residential buildings located off-campus, within Stirling city centre, include Union Street, Bayne Street, Lyon Crescent and John Forty's Court, as well as Centro House and Alangrange.

Sport facilities

Stirling was designated as Scotland's University for Sporting Excellence by the Scottish Government in 2008.[24] Scholarships are available in five core sports: football, golf, swimming, tennis and triathlon, which allow student athletes to prepare for international competition.[25]

The University has a comprehensive range of sports facilities including a 9-hole Airthrey Golf Course[18] and a 50-metre swimming pool[26] completed in 2001 as part of the National Swimming Academy - a partnership between the University, Scottish Swimming and British Swimming. The sports centre also holds the Gannochy National Tennis Centre, badminton and squash courts, a fitness centre, strength and conditioning centre, sports halls and all-weather playing fields available for students, University staff and the public. The campus is the headquarters for a number of sports agencies including the sportscotland institute of sport, Commonwealth Games Scotland, Scottish Swimming and triathlonscotland.

At Rio 2016, a number of students and alumni from the university competed for Great Britain. Swimmers included Duncan Scott and Robbie Renwick, who both earned silver medals,[27] as well as Commonwealth gold medalist Ross Murdoch.[28]

Top seed tennis player Andy Murray and his brother Jamie Murray trained on the university courts when they were young.[29] Gordon Reid, wheelchair Olympic gold medalist in 2016, was a tennis scholar at the university.[30] The university men's and women's golf teams are consistently ranked among the best in Europe.[31]

The university's most senior football teams compete in the main Scottish league pyramid; the men's team in the regional fifth tier, and the women's team in the second tier. Lower teams compete in the BUCS Football Leagues.

Highland and Western Isles campuses

The University has campuses in Inverness and Stornoway which specialise in Nursing and Midwifery. The Highland site is on the outskirts of Inverness within the grounds of Raigmore Hospital. The site has purpose-built teaching facilities and student accommodation. The Highland Health Sciences Library is also located on this campus and caters for both the students and staff of the University, as well as the employees of NHS Highland and its associated Trusts. The Western Isles campus is located in Stornoway and the teaching accommodation is part of the Western Isles Hospital. This is a small campus site and also has student accommodation within the environs of the hospital.

International degree partnerships

The University has international degree programme partnerships in Singapore,[32] Oman[33] and Vietnam.[34]

Ras al-Khaimah

In 2018, the university opened a branch in Ras al-Khaimah, United Arab Emirates.[35]

Organisation and governance

In August 2016, the University reorganised into four faculties, the Stirling Management School and the Stirling Graduate School.[36]

  • Faculty of Social Sciences
    • Applied Social Sciences
    • Education
  • Faculty of Arts and Humanities
    • Communications, Media and Culture
    • History and Politics
    • Law and Philosophy
    • Literature and Languages
    • London Academy of Diplomacy
  • Stirling Management School
    • Accounting & Finance
    • Economics
    • Management, Work and Organisation
    • Marketing and Retail
    • Centre for Advanced Management Education
    • Centre for Graduate Research in Management
  • Faculty of Natural Sciences
    • Aquaculture
    • Biological and Environmental Sciences
    • Computing Science and Mathematics
    • Psychology
  • Faculty of Health Sciences and Sport
    • Sport
    • Health Sciences


The statutes of the University are laid out in its Royal Charter. University Court is the governing body of the University and the Academic Council looks after academic affairs[37] Day-to-day management of the University is undertaken by Gerry McCormac University Principal (who is also Vice-Chancellor). The Chancellor is James Naughtie.[38] The University's constitution, academic regulations, and appointments are outlined in the University calendar.[39]


  1. Lord Robbins -1967 to 1978
  2. Sir Harold Montague Finniston -1978 to 1988
  3. 8th Lord Balfour of Burleigh, Robert Bruce -1988 to 1998
  4. Dame Diana Rigg -1998 to 2008
  5. James Naughtie -2008 to 2018
  6. Jack McConnell -2018 to present


  1. Tom Cottrell -1967 to 1973 (d. 1973 in office)
  2. Sir Frederick Holliday[40] (Acting Principal) - 1973 to 1975 (d. 2016)
  3. Sir William Alexander Cramond[41] -1975 to 1981 (d. 2004)
  4. Sir Kenneth (Ken) John Wilson Alexander[42] -1981 to 1986 (d. 2001)
  5. Arthur (John) Forty -1986 to 1994
  6. Andrew Miller[43] -1994 to 2001
  7. Colin Bell -2001 to 2003 (d. 2003 in office)
  8. Christine Hallett -2005 to 2010
  9. Gerry McCormac -2010 to present

University Court

The University's governing body is the University Court. It has overall responsibility for the management of the University's resources, the ongoing strategic direction of the University and the approval of major developments. The Court meets four times over the course of the academic year. In May 2015 the University appointed Fiona Sandford as Chair of Court, taking up the post on 1 August 2015, for a period of four years.[44] She succeeded Alan Simpson who was Chair from 2007 to 2015.

Academic Council

Academic Council is the body responsible for the management of academic affairs, awarding of all degrees, and for the regulation and superintendence of the education, discipline and welfare of the students of the University. The Council consists of various academics and is chaired by the Principal of the university.

Academic profile


Most Scottish degree programmes are designed to include four years of study with the intention of providing a broad and flexible education. Stirling has offered four year, modular degree programmes since the university was first founded. In the 1960s and 1970s Credit Accumulation and Transfer Schemes, which create flexible pathways for students to acquire qualifications, were predominantly used in the US with the UK system operating on a disciplinary progression model. Initially, Stirling's modular approach, and its inherent flexibility, was seen as novel in the UK, but through time, more institutions moved to a semester basis and today almost all universities operate in this way.

Teaching at Stirling is delivered on a two-semester basis with the academic year beginning in mid-September and the first semester ending in mid-December. The second semester runs from the beginning of January to the end of May each year. At undergraduate level, three modules are taken in the first semester and three in the second. The basic module of study at Stirling is assigned 20 Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework[45] (SCQF) credit points. Ordinary degrees have a minimum credit total of 360 points.

The University offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses covering the liberal arts, natural science, management school and health science.[46] Stirling achieved a 5 Star Excellence Award for Teaching by QS Stars in 2016.[47]


Stirling is an interdisciplinary research-intensive University with a range of research activity focused on Health and Wellbeing; Culture and Society; Environment; Enterprise and the Economy; and Sport. The Research Excellence Framework also rated almost three quarters of research activity either world-leading or internationally excellent.

The University is home to some specialist research centres:[48]

  • Centre for Environment, Heritage and Policy
  • Stirling Media Research Institute (SMRI)
  • Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies.
  • Dementia Services Development Centre
  • Centre for Gender and Feminist Studies
  • Centre for Transnational Legal Methods
  • Stirling Environment and Energy Network
  • Centre of Postcolonial Studies
  • Stirling Centre for International Publishing and Communication
  • Contemporary Portuguese Political History Research Centre
  • Stirling Centre for Translation, Interpreting and Intercultural Studies
  • Centre for Policy, Conflict and Co-Operation

Stirling has a research publications database, STORRE, which is a source of free, full-text access research outputs.[49]

The University has major industrial research links through Stirling University Innovation Park. This large science park was founded in 1993 and is located adjacent to the main university campus. It is home to around 50 companies engaging in various forms of research and development.[50] During the 1990s the University built a stand-alone Management Centre on the campus. This developed over time into a Conference Centre with residential accommodation. In 2015, the Management Centre was rebranded the Stirling Court Hotel.

Reputation and rankings

National rankings
Complete (2020)[51]43
Guardian (2020)[52]40
Times / Sunday Times (2020)[53]47
Global rankings
ARWU (2018)[54]901-1000
QS (2020)[55]
THE (2020)[56]351-400

Stirling is a mid-ranked,[57] pre-1992 UK university with a reputation for high teaching quality[57] and socially relevant research. It is among the top 50 universities in the world that are under 50 years old - 2nd in the UK and 46th in the world,[58] according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and among the top 40 in the UK in the Complete University Guide.[59]

The University is ranked 1st in Scotland and 3rd in the UK for graduate employability according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, with more than 96% of graduates in employment, or further study, within six months of graduating.[60]

In 2016 the University of Stirling achieved 5 stars in the QS World University Rankings in five categories - "Teaching", "Employability", "Facilities", "Inclusiveness" and "Internationalisation".[61] In The Complete University Guide 2017, Stirling was ranked 1st in the UK for Social Work, 2nd in Scotland for Communication and Media Studies, and 2nd in Scotland for Marketing.[57]

The University of Stirling was ranked 5th in Scotland and 40th in the UK for research intensity in the 2014 assessment of research in the UK, the Research Excellence Framework.[62] The University was one of the twenty institutions to be awarded a Queen's Anniversary prize in 2014 - the prize for Higher and Further Education for ground-breaking research, recognising work led by the Institute of Social Marketing into the effects of tobacco, alcohol and food marketing on the health of young people.[63] In March 2016, the University of Stirling Management School was accredited by the Association of MBAs (AMBA) for its MBA and MBM programmes.[64]

Student life

Students' Union

The University of Stirling Students' Union is based in the University's Robbins Centre Students' Union on campus and is affiliated to the National Union of Students. The Union provides students with entertainment, welfare and information services and represents students interests to a range of organisations, including the University. Senior members of the Union are entitled to seats on the University Court.[65] The Union supports more than 90 clubs and societies.[66] The Sports Union supports 53 sports clubs. The University has student-run media services. Brig has been the campus newspaper since 1969. Air3 Radio was the first campus radio station in Scotland (previously URA – University Radio Airthrey), and AirTV (formerly Videoworks) is a television station for students, set up in 2002.

The Students' Union is governed by a Board of Trustees as well as a Chief Executive. The 4 Sabbatical Officers of the SU are the Union President, Sports President, Vice-President Education and Vice-President Communities. Alongside these full-time, paid officers are numerous part-time volunteer Executive Officers.[67]

Notable academics and alumni



Arts and Media



Academia and Science:


See also


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  2. "Gerry McCormac".
  3. Scottish funding council (September 2004). "Scottish Funding Council – Description of Human Resources Management Modernisation in the University Sector" (PDF). Stirling University. Archived from the original (PDF) on 7 February 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2007.
  4. "2016/17 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (CSV). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  5. "University of Stirling most beautiful campus in the UK". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 September 2016.
  6. "Daily Record". Daily Record. 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  7. "Facts and figures – University of Stirling". Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  8. Finlay, Anthony (23 October 1971). "From country estate to academic community". The Glasgow Herald. p. 7. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  9. Historic Environment Scotland. "Stirling University Campus, 1 Airthrey Castle Yard, Principal's House  (Category A) (LB51322)". Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  10. "History of the Estate – Cottrell and Pathfoot Development". Stirling University. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  11. Buchanan, Raymond (12 October 2012). "Day Queen booed at Stirling university remembered". BBC News.
  12. "People-watching Prince opens £11.5m library". The Scotsman. 2 March 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  13. "Stirling University gets down to business". The Glasgow Herald. 28 August 1985. p. 6. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  14. "Land deal unfair to university". The Glasgow Herald. 16 May 1983. p. 7. Retrieved 6 October 2016.
  15. "Stirling University". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  16. "Stirling top in Scotland for welcoming international students". University of Stirling. 16 January 2017. Archived from the original on 31 March 2017. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  17. "InStirling". Airthrey Estate Overview. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  18. "Golf course – University of Stirling". Retrieved 8 January 2016.
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  20. "Archives & Special Collections: Norman McLaren". Information Services. University of Stirling Archives. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  21. "Art at Stirling". Stirling University. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  22. "Properties – University of Stirling". Retrieved 8 January 2016.
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  24. "Salmond in sports university vow". BBC News. 14 May 2008.
  25. "Sport and wellbeing - Student life". University of Stirling.
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  37. "Court and Committees". Retrieved 5 April 2007.
  38. "Professor Gerry McCormac". Stirling University. Retrieved 15 September 2016.
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  40. "Sir Frederick Holliday, marine biologist and university vice-chancellor – obituary". The Telegraph. 16 September 2016.
  41. "Bob Crammond Obituary". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
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  43. "Prof Andrew Miller biography". Retrieved 11 September 2016.
  44. "New Chair of Court appointed" (Press release). University of Stirling. 8 May 2015. Retrieved 8 January 2016.
  45. "Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework". Retrieved 15 September 2016.
  46. "Postgraduate Courses – Taught degrees – University of Stirling". Retrieved 2 March 2016.
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  50. "About Us". Stirling University Innovation Park. Archived from the original on 23 February 2007. Retrieved 5 April 2007.
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  67. "student officers & trustees". Retrieved 8 July 2019.
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