History and Constitution
For 267 years there were two separate universities in Aberdeen, each with its own statutory rights and degree-granting privileges. The first, King’s College, was founded in Old Aberdeen by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, under a papal bull dated 10 February 1495. The second, Marischal College, was founded in New Aberdeen by George Keith, Fifth Earl Marischal of Scotland, under a charter dated 2 April 1593. The two colleges remained rival institutions until 15 September 1860, when a Royal Ordinance united them under the title of the “University of Aberdeen”. Before the union of 1860, each of the two Universities was governed by its Chancellor supported by the Principal, the Rector and the Senate Academicus or Senate.
King’s College was the third University to be established in Scotland, following St Andrews (1411) and Glasgow (1451). Together with the University of Edinburgh (1583), these first Scottish Universities are generally referred to as “the four ancients”. Their governance was prescribed by the Universities (Scotland) Act of 1858 which created the University Court and other such instruments “for the better government and discipline of the Universities of Scotland”: the latter included the General Council (or assembly of graduates). The Senatus also retained its authority to regulate the teaching programmes and its responsibilities for discipline. The Universities (Scotland) Act of 1889 confirmed the structure of the University Court and invested it with major new powers, including the sole responsibility “to administer and manage the whole revenue and property of the University”. The 1858 and 1889 Acts were confirmed by a further Act, in 1966, which extended the role of the Senate to include “the promotion of research”.