University of the West of Scotland

The University of the West of Scotland, formerly the University of Paisley, is a public university with four campuses in south-western Scotland, in the towns of Paisley, Blantyre, Dumfries and Ayr, as well as a campus in London, England. The present institution dates from August 2007, following the merger of the University of Paisley with Bell College, Hamilton. It can trace its roots to the late 19th century, and has undergone numerous name changes and mergers over the last century, reflecting its gradual expansion throughout the west of Scotland region.

University of the West of Scotland
Coat of Arms of the University of the West of Scotland
Former names
Paisley College of Technology, Paisley College, University of Paisley, Bell College of Technology, Bell College, Craigie College of Education
MottoDoctrina Prosperitas
Motto in English
Learning is success
Established1897 (as Paisley College of Technology)
1992 (granted university status)
2007 (renamed to UWS)
ChancellorDame Elish Angiolini
PrincipalCraig Mahoney[1]
Chairman of the CourtWaiyin Hatton
Administrative staff
Students15,955 (2016/17)[2]
Undergraduates13,395 (2016/17)[2]
Postgraduates2,565 (2016/17)[2]
United Kingdom
ColoursRed, black and white
AffiliationsMillion+, Scottish Universities Physics Alliance
MascotFrancesca the Phoenix (Sports Union), Burnie the Pyro (American Football), Wolfie Wolf (Rugby)

Holding a regional reputation for vocational undergraduate and post-graduate courses the university currently has 15,955 students, with approximately 1300 staff, spread across six schools of learning. The Crichton Campus in Dumfries is maintained in partnership with a number of other institutions, including the University of Glasgow.

The university's highest ever ranking for UK Institutions came in 2009 when the Complete Universities Guide placed UWS 62 out of 113 universities.[3] In 2017, UWS was ranked 100th out of 129 universities in the same league table.


Although classified as a new university, the University of the West of Scotland has a rich, diverse history inherited from the various institutions that preceded it, including the Paisley School of Art (1836–1897), University of Paisley, Bell College of Technology, Craigie College of Education and Dumfries and Galloway College of Nursing.

Paisley Campus

55°50′37″N 4°25′49″W

At the time of the Industrial Revolution, Paisley was renowned for thread weaving. The Coats mill was run by two brothers, Peter and Thomas Coats. These men, children of the Scottish Enlightenment had liberal ideals and became noted philanthropists. As members of the Philosophical Institution, founded in 1808 the Coats donated a museum and library to the town, funded the building of the Coats observatory and promoted education throughout Paisley.[4][5]

The Philosophical Institution, helped establish the School of Arts in 1836, which become a Government School of Design in 1846, one of twenty similar institutions established in UK manufacturing centres from 1837-1851. They were set up to improve the quality of the country's product design through training in design for industry. Peter Coats was director of both Paisley Philosophical Institution and the Government School of Design. Later, the Design schools were renamed Schools of Art, and once again as Schools of Art and Science.

In 1897 Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll laid the foundation stone of a grand new building for the College. The design was the winner of an architectural competition and partially funded by local industrialists (Peter Brough, and Thomas Coats both contributed).

By the start of the twentieth century, Paisley Technical College and School of Art, (as it was known from 1904) was a centre for teaching the University of London External Programme. Perhaps the most famous principal of the College was Lewis Fry Richardson, FRS principal from 1922 to 1940. A mathematician, physicist, meteorologist, psychologist and pacifist who pioneered modern mathematical techniques of weather forecasting, as well as the application of similar techniques to studying war. He also carried out ground breaking work on fractals.

Throughout the first half of the century the institution had a financial struggle. After the second world war Central Institution status provided a regular Government income but unfortunately also meant closing the school of Art, and ceding students to Glasgow School of Art. The new entity thus became Paisley College of Technology; a Government funded Central Institution in 1950. In the 1960s a large physical expansion took place alongside the Neo-Classical original building on the main 20 acre (81,000 m²) Paisley town centre site.

At the time Paisley, in common with other Central Institutions and the former Polytechnics, already offered a range of degrees under the Council for National Academic Awards. With the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, the Paisley College of Technology was granted the title University of Paisley and was established as a University with a Royal Charter and degree awarding powers. Today, this institution forms Paisley Campus of the University.

UWS, 2007 – Present

On 1 August 2007, the University of Paisley merged with Bell College, Hamilton. On 30 November 2007, the Privy Council approved the name University of the West of Scotland for the merged institution. The name change was resisted by many in Paisley, seeing it as a break with tradition and the connections binding the previous university to the town. The 'Keep It Paisley' campaign attracted a number of supporters, amongst them local MP and then Secretary of State for Scotland, Douglas Alexander.

Between 2008 and 2010, UWS opened offices in Glasgow with a focus on the creative industries. The School of Media, Culture & Society has offices in Film City Glasgow and the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA). This forms a metropolitan base for research, performance, events and exhibitions, work with industry, and knowledge exchange activities, connecting the university's four campuses with the city where the media and arts sector is most concentrated in the west of Scotland.

The merged institution served over 18,000 students and remains the largest 'new university' in Scotland. The Principal and Vice-Chancellor is Craig Mahoney.

Ayr Campus

55°27′30″N 4°36′56″W

The establishment of the University of Paisley prompted a merger with Craigie College of Education in Ayr in 1993, and led to the incorporation of nursing colleges in the town. The Ayr Campus was operated by the University of Paisley before the merger that established UWS. Set in 20 acres (81,000 m2) of the old parkland of Craigie House bordering the River Ayr, the campus also houses the West of Scotland Management Centre, the Business School’s management training and development facility.

In August 2011, a new campus for the university in Ayr opened on a riverside site adjacent to the previous campus. It is shared with the Scottish Agricultural College.

Lanarkshire Campus

55°46′49″N 4°02′50″W
The Lanarkshire campus was originally founded in 1972 based at Almada Street, Hamilton, South Lanarkshire as the Bell College of Technology. A "Memorandum of Understanding" between the College and the University of Strathclyde was signed in 1993 to allow the College to offer degree level courses. In 1995, the Lanarkshire and Dumfries & Galloway Colleges of Nursing & Midwifery were amalgamated into Bell College, which then merged with the University of Paisley to create UWS in 2007.

Following extensive consultation with the local authority, stakeholders, students and staff about the future of the Hamilton campus, UWS announced plans to relocate to the new UWS Lanarkshire Campus at Hamilton International Technology Park (HITP), actually within the neighbouring town of Blantyre, off the A725 bypass road near to West Craigs.[6][7] The Almada Street campus closed and the HITP campus opened in September 2018.[8][9][10]

Dumfries Campus

55°02′59″N 3°35′28″W

The Crichton University Campus in Dumfries is the result of a joint project between the University of the West of Scotland, the University of Glasgow, Dumfries and Galloway College and the Open University. The campus mainly offers business, computing and, since the merger with Bell College, Nursing courses. Established in 1999 to provide a hub for higher education in the south-west of Scotland, the Crichton Campus has helped the regeneration of the Dumfries and Galloway economy.


51°29′54″N 0°05′59″W
The London Campus is located near London Bridge underground and Borough Market. It was launched in March 2016 and provides UWS degree and postgraduate programmes to the international student population in London.


The University of the West of Scotland is organised into four schools:[11]

  • School of Business and Creative Industries
  • School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences
  • School of Education and Social Sciences
  • School of Health and Life Sciences

The university offers over 100 degree courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level, and has a rapidly growing number of doctoral students. It also carries out research and consultancy work for industry, and is ranked second in Scotland for the number of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with businesses. The University attained Skillset Media Academy status in August 2010. Many courses at the University of the West of Scotland have an emphasis on vocational skills and offer students the option of spending a year working in industry at home or abroad.

The University has also worked with NHS Ayrshire and Arran resulting in a partnership in 2012 in the renaming of Ayr Hospital to University Hospital Ayr and Crosshouse Hospital to University Hospital Crosshouse. Its partnership with the Gaiety Theatre, Ayr has established Scotland's first 'Learning Theatre'.


The university has the 4th highest level of student satisfaction in Scotland in the 2020 Complete University Guide [12]

National rankings
Complete (2020)[13]104
Guardian (2020)[14]114
Times / Sunday Times (2020)[15]92
Global rankings
THE (2020)[16]401–500

The university is ranked second in the United Kingdom for Education in the 2020 Complete University Guide.[17]

Student life

Student accommodation

The university has a number of halls of residence, ranging from modern en-suite/studio flats at Ayr Campus to furnished flats within Paisley. Students at Dumfries may apply for a place within the University of Glasgow managed accommodation at the Crichton. In September 2012, the new £13.2 million on-campus Paisley student residence opened situated next to the library.[18]

Student Associations

The university currently has two affiliated Students Associations that cover all 5 campuses. The Students' Association of the University of the West of Scotland, (informally SAUWS) is officially the recognised student organisation across the university however Crichton University Campus Student Association also serves students at the Dumfries Campus. Both associations are members of the National Union of Students. The key function of the organisations are to represent students studying at the University. The current SAUWS Sabbatical Team are Franklin Jacob (President), Dan Hutchison (Vice President of Education), Clare Hunter (Vice President of Student Development) and Ismail Ali (Vice President of Welfare and Wellbeing).

  • Students' Association University of West Scotland (SAUWS):

The majority of the Student Clubs and Societies come are available to Scottish-based UWS campuses and are run by students for students. These include the Christian Union, Islamic Society, gaming societies and course groups.[19] There are also a collection of liberation groups and peer support groups. These were set up to counter under-represented and oppressed sections of the student body.[20]

In 2016 SAUWS won the NUS Scotland award "Higher Education Student Association of the year". This was award due to the organisations work and campaigns such as Keep UWS in Hamilton, the Summer Safety Net and its work developing its services.

  • Crichton University Campus Student Association (CUCSA):

For students at Dumfries, CUCSA has a more limited range of sports and societies on offer and CUCSA is currently working with students to produce a new Netball club, both Boys and Girls Football clubs and an improved Riding Club.[21][22]

The Ayr Campus is also home to the university's student radio station UWS Radio. It broadcasts on DAB, 87.7FM to the campus and online. The station has interviewed greats such as Brian May from Queen and Jesse Rae.

SAUWS Union bars are at the heart of the student community and are home to various events and activities including; screenings of major sporting events, stand-up comedy gigs, quiz nights, poker competitions, karaoke and open mic sessions and pool tables and quiz machines.


Sporting affairs are regulated by TeamUWS,[23] the Sports and Societies branch of the main Students Association headed by the Sports President. There are a large number of varied clubs, including Aikido, Basketball, Curling and Snowsports who regularly compete in BUCS and Scottish Student Sport competitions. Students who join one of the sports clubs affiliated with the university must also join the Sports Union. However, there are also regular classes and drop-in sessions for various sports which are non-competitive and available to all university gym members. The University operates two sports centres across the west of Scotland, Robertson Trust Sports Centre at Thornly Park Campus in Paisley[24] and Hamilton Leisure Centre [25] on site on Hamilton Campus.

The university, as the University of Paisley, has also had a number of previous clubs including Ice Hockey, Shinty, Gaelic Football and Ice Sports. There have been attempts in recent years to resurrect these teams, most notably the Paisley IcePanthers, the university's former ice hockey team in 2008 by Finnish and German students, but due to lack of interest the club never happened. The most successful of all the resurrections was the American Football team. The Paisley College of Technology/University of Paisley Panthers American Football played between the 1989–90 British Collegiate American Football League and the 1996–97 British Collegiate American Football League seasons until the club rejoined as the University of Paisley Pyros at the start of the 2004–05 British Collegiate American Football League season.

TeamUWS competes in the East vs West varsity competition against Edinburgh Napier University in the sports of American Flag Football, Badminton, Basketball, Football, Hockey, Netball, Rugby and Volleyball which is at the moment the biggest sport club (2017). In the 2013/2014 competition the hockey games were cancelled due to location and weather difficulties.

According to the Scottish Daily Record, it is rumoured that South Ayrshire Council is considering giving the dated Dam Park Stadium, the venue for UWS-SRUC-Ayrshire College Varsity, to the University saving nearly £70,000. As part of the transfer, the facility will continue to be used by Ayr Seaforth AC and the local community.[26]

Notable people


  1. "Senior Officers". University of Paisley. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 1 August 2007.
  2. "2016/17 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (CSV). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  3. "University league table 2009". Complete University Guide. Retrieved 31 May 2015.
  4. "Sir Peter Coats and Thomas Coats".
  5. "200 years of the Paisley Philosophical Institution".
  6. "New UWS campus in Hamilton takes one step forward". Evening Times. 31 October 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  7. "UWS campus move to Hamilton International Technology Park worth £443million to local economy over 25 years". Daily Record. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  8. "Lanarkshire Campus". University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 3 October 2019.
  9. UWS – A look inside, The Blantyre Project, 13 August 2018
  10. UWS Lanarkshire campus opens to students after £110m project, ITV News, 3 September 2018
  11. "UWS - University of West Scotland - Academic Schools". University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  12. "Scotland - Top UK University League Tables and Rankings 2020". Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  13. "University League Table 2020". The Complete University Guide. 1 May 2019.
  14. "University league tables 2020". The Guardian. 7 June 2019.
  15. "The Times and Sunday Times University Good University Guide 2020". Times Newspapers.
  16. "World University Rankings 2020". Times Higher Education.
  17. "Complete University Guide 2020 Education Table". Complete University Guide. Retrieved 8 December 2019.
  18. "UWS - Paisley - Accommodation". University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  19. "SAUWS - Students' Association University of West Scotland - Societies". Student Association University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  20. "SAUWS - Students' Association University of West Scotland - STAR Groups". Student Association University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  21. "CUCSA - Crichton University Campus Student Association - Sports". Crichton University Campus Student Association. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  22. "CUCSA - Crichton University Campus Student Association - Clubs and Societies". Crichton University Campus Student Association. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  23. "SAUWS - Students' Association University of West Scotland - Sports and Societies". Student Association University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  24. "UWS - University of West Scotland - Paisley Campus Sports Centre". University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  25. "UWS - University of West Scotland - Hamilton Sports Centre". University of the West of Scotland. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  26. "Daily Record - Who will bear the brunt of South Ayrshire Council's brutal cuts? Find out what services are set to be slashed". Scottish Daily Record. Retrieved 5 June 2015.
  27. "UWS Student Wins Gold at World Junior Curling Championships".
  28. "Biography of Executive Secretary Shamshad Akhtar". UNESCAP. Archived from the original on 17 January 2017. Retrieved 19 April 2019.
  29. "2013 Inductee: Andrew Gavin Hastings".
  30. "David Scott bio.University of the West of Scotland". Archived from the original on 22 January 2010. Retrieved 5 February 2010.
  31. "An international perspective on Scotland's youth work practices". Retrieved 19 April 2019.
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