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Historical background

The period 1747-1897.

Sir David Brewster, by Thomas Rodger, 1850.  Image courtesy of University of St Andrews Library.   ALB-1-7

Two important events punctuate the history of the University in this era.  These are the creation of the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard by Act of Parliament on June 24, 1747, and the coming into effect in 1897 of the Ordinance (number 46 St A No5) which made University College Dundee part of the University of St Andrews.  The dates of these events define the period covered by this database.

The educational achievement of the 1747 Act was that it implemented finally and completely an idea which had persisted since the sixteenth century, that all classes should be taught by subject specialist professors, thereby doing away with the “regenting” system, under which any entrant class of arts students would be taught all the subjects of their four year degree course by a single regent.

The changes at the other end of the period brought about by an expanding curriculum and by ordinances of Commissioners under the Universities Scotland Act 1889 meant that entrant classes of arts students would no longer remain with their fellows throughout their four year degree course, attending the same classes in rotation.  Although it was feared that this new arrangement might have damaging effects on student society and camaraderie, other organisations run by students for students began to emerge and these at least partially alleviated this difficulty, and perhaps others, as the emphasis of university teaching was no longer, as it had been at the beginning of the period, on the production of articulate educated students through disputation and oral examinations, but on listening to lectures and written examinations.

James Maitland Anderson’s matriculation roll for this period contained 6807 names, but he indicated the deficiencies of the record and mentioned further sources which might make good the lacunae. Robert N. Smart collated these with others for the 2004 Biographical Register, together with the various sources for the names of graduates and officers of the University and its colleges, bringing the total number of the names covered by both the printed Register and the database to some 11,736.

This total consists of 6,970 whose first connection with the University was as arts students at United College; 200 whose first connection was as arts students at University College, Dundee; and 361 whose first connection was as divinity students at St Mary’s College.  There were 159 individuals whose first connection was as officers of the University.  The rest were individuals whose first connection was as external graduates, 28 MA degrees, 56 BD degrees, 57 DD degrees, 161 LLD degrees, 4 Mus Doc degrees and 10 MB degrees.  3,630 were individuals whose first connection was as MD graduates.

The Register includes students who began their University connection before 1747-48, but continued into or after that session.  Similarly it includes students who began their University connection in or before 1896-97, but did not conclude their connection until later. Only those students of University College, Dundee, who matriculated at the University before 1896-97 are included as before that date most University College students did not also become students of the University.