Dundee's fight to become a university

January 5, 1996

By January 1964, six Scottish towns had made bids to house the country's next university: Stirling, Falkirk, Perth, Inverness, Dumfries and Ayr.

But an emergency resolution from Dundee Council urged the creation of a new Dundee university by upgrading the status of Queen's College Dundee, then part of St Andrews University.

Files newly opened by the Scottish Record Office show the Scottish Education Department taking a firmly hands-off approach, stressing that since the Secretary of State for Scotland was not responsible for matters of university development, this was an issue for the University Grants Committee.

The Office of the Lord President and Minister for Science in London reminded the SED that the initiative lay with St Andrews, and the UGC's role would be confined to advising Government on how the institution or institutions should be funded.

In a bid to avoid duplication, the arts and divinity faculties had been centred in St Andrews, with law, applied science and social sciences in Dundee, and only science straddling both campuses.

But St Andrews principal, Sir Malcolm Knox, warned that rising student numbers made the policy of denying developments in both campuses academically unjustifiable. "There have been a great many rumblings below the surface and it seems to us to be certain that with our increase in numbers, this dissatisfaction would erupt like a volcano if we did not take measures to allay it," he told the SED.

One argument against the creation of a totally new university in Dundee was that the Tay road bridge, due to be completed in 1966, would cut the travelling time between the campuses. But Sir Malcolm said the distance between Dundee and St Andrews was almost exactly the same as that between Newcastle and Durham, formerly two divisions of Durham University, but which had become separate institutions because of the pressure of student expansion.

The files end in February 1965, with uncertainty over when the university might be set up. It won university status in August 1967.

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