University of Oxford - Image courtesy: University of Oxford University of Oxford - Image courtesy: University of Oxford

The 10 Oldest Universities in the UK


The 10 Oldest Universities in the UK

26 January 2024


by aparto student

aparto student

The UK has some very old and famous universities known for their excellent education and long history, which are popular all over the world. In this exploration, we'll look at the ten oldest universities in the UK. We'll find out when they were founded, what courses they're known for, and some of their famous alumni. Let's travel back in time to learn more about them!

Read: The Easiest & Hardest Universities to Get Into in the UK


Table of Contents

  1. University of Oxford (1096)
  2. University of Cambridge (1209)
  3. University of St Andrews (1413)
  4. University of Glasgow (1451)
  5. University of Aberdeen (1495)
  6. University of Edinburgh (1583)
  7. University of Manchester (1824)
  8. University College London (1826)
  9. Durham University (1832)
  10. Aberystwyth University (1872)


1. University of Oxford (1096)

University of Oxford

Established: The University of Oxford is one of the oldest universities in the world, with its roots dating back to the 11th century.

Address: Wellington Square, Oxford

Popular courses: Oxford offers a wide range of programs, with popular courses including African & Middle Eastern studies, anthropology, art & design, Asian studies, biomedical sciences, business & management studies, classics, English, history, law, philosophy, and politics.

Interesting fact: The University of Oxford has produced a remarkable number of Nobel laureates, making it one of the most successful institutions in terms of Nobel Prize winners.

Famous alumni: Sir Walter Raleigh (explorer and writer), Stephen Hawking (theoretical physicist), Oscar Wilde (poet and playwright), J.R.R. Tolkien (author of "The Lord of the Rings"), Hugh Grant (actor)


2. University of Cambridge (1209)

Cambridge University

Established: The University of Cambridge traces its origins to the early 13th century, with formal establishment occurring around 1209.

Address: The Old Schools, Trinity Ln, Cambridge

Popular courses: Cambridge is known for its strong programs in science, engineering, and humanities, with subjects like natural sciences, computer science, and history being highly regarded.

Interesting fact: Cambridge has a rich history of scientific achievements and discoveries. Some of the most notable breakthroughs include: the work of Sir Isaac Newton, who formulated the laws of motion and universal gravitation while at Cambridge and the discovery of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick.

Famous alumni: King Charles III, Sir Isaac Newton (physicist and mathematician), Charles Darwin (naturalist and biologist), Alan Turing (mathematician and computer scientist), Stephen Fry (actor, comedian, and writer), Emma Thompson (actress and screenwriter)


3. University of St Andrews (1413)

St Andrews University

Image courtesy: University of St Andrews

Established: Founded in 1413, the University of St Andrews is Scotland's oldest university.

Address: College Gate, St Andrews, Scotland

Popular courses: The university is renowned for its courses in international relations, computer science, and physics.

Interesting fact: The University of St Andrews has a distinctive graduation tradition known as the "Kate Kennedy Procession." Named after a former student, Kate Kennedy, who was said to be the niece of King James IV, the procession involves students wearing academic gowns and walking through the town accompanied by a series of characters in historical dress. It is a colourful and festive event that adds a touch of pageantry to the graduation ceremonies.

Famous alumni: Prince William of Wales, Princess Catherine of Wales, Sir James Black (Nobel Prize-winning pharmacologist), Thomas Reid (philosopher), Alex Salmond (Scottish politician), John Cleese (British comedian and actor)


4. University of Glasgow (1451)

Glasgow University

Established: Established in 1451, the University of Glasgow is one of Scotland's oldest and most prestigious institutions.

Address: 2 The Square, The University, Glasgow

Popular courses: Glasgow offers a wide array of courses, including those in medicine, engineering, law, and social sciences.

Interesting fact: The University of Glasgow's main building, known as the Gilbert Scott Building, is an iconic and stunning piece of architecture. Designed by renowned architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, the building features a distinctive neo-Gothic style and is often considered one of the most beautiful university buildings in the United Kingdom.

Famous alumni: Adam Smith (economist and philosopher), Lord Kelvin (physicist and mathematician), James Watt (inventor of the steam engine), Nicola Sturgeon (Scottish politician), David Livingstone (Scottish explorer), John Logie Baird (inventor and engineer), Edwin Morgan (Scottish poet and author)


5. University of Aberdeen (1495)

Aberdeen University

Established: The University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495, making it the third-oldest university in Scotland.

Address: Aberdeen, Scotland.

Popular courses: The university excels in courses like land and property management, sociology, civil engineering, creative writing, and general engineering.

Interesting fact: The University of Aberdeen is actually a federation of two historic colleges: King's College and Marischal College. Marischal College, in particular, is known for its stunning architecture. It is one of the largest granite buildings in the world and is considered an iconic example of the Gothic Revival style.

Famous alumni: Alistair Darling (former chancellor), Laura Main (actress), Dr Adam Watson (biologist), Iain Glen (actor)


6. University of Edinburgh (1583)

University of Edinburgh

Established: Established in 1583, the University of Edinburgh is one of the oldest universities in Scotland and the United Kingdom.

Address: Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh

Popular courses: Edinburgh is known for its programs in medicine, science, literature, and humanities.

Interesting fact: During the 18th century, the University of Edinburgh played a central role in the Scottish Enlightenment, a period of intellectual flourishing. Prominent figures like David Hume, Adam Smith, and Joseph Black were associated with the university and made significant contributions to philosophy, economics, and science during this era.

Famous alumni: Charles Darwin (naturalist and author), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone), Sir Walter Scott: (Scottish novelist and poet), Arthur Conan Doyle (creator of the iconic fictional detective Sherlock Holmes), Sir James Young Simpson (pioneering obstetrician), David Hume (philosopher), Robert Louis Stevenson (author), J.M. Barrie (creator of Peter Pan)


7. University of Manchester (1824)

University of Manchester

Established: The University of Manchester was established in 1824, making it one of the oldest universities in the United Kingdom.

Address: Oxford Rd, Manchester

Popular courses: The University of Manchester offers a wide range of courses in various fields, including science, engineering, humanities, business, and social sciences. Some popular courses include social work, history, law, biomedical sciences and biology.

Interesting fact: The University of Manchester boasts one of the largest university library systems in the United Kingdom. The John Rylands Library, a historic library on campus, is renowned for its impressive collection of rare books and manuscripts, making it a valuable resource for scholars and researchers.

Famous alumni: Ernest Rutherford (physicist), Anthony Burgess (author), Benedict Cumberbatch (actor), Phil Collins (artist)


8. University College London (1826)

University College London

Established: University College London (UCL) was founded in 1826, and it has a rich history of pioneering education and research.

Address: Gower Street, London

Popular courses: UCL offers a wide range of courses across various disciplines. Popular courses include education, architecture, archaeology, anatomy and physiology, anthropology, geography and medicine.

Interesting fact: UCL is known for being the first university in England to admit students regardless of their religion and for admitting women on equal terms with men.

Famous alumni: Mahatma Gandhi (leader in the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule), Alexander Graham Bell (inventor of the telephone), and Christopher Nolan (film director)


9. Durham University (1832)

Durham University

Image courtesy: Durham University

Established: Durham University, founded in 1832, is one of the oldest universities in England, known for its historic and picturesque campus

Address: The Palatine Centre, University, Stockton Rd, Durham

Popular courses: Popular courses at Durham University include physics, economics, law, psychology and geography.

Interesting fact: Durham University is known for its strong emphasis on research across various disciplines. It is a member of the Russell Group, a prestigious association of research-intensive UK universities

Famous alumni: Heidi Alexander (labour politician), Daniel Casey (actor), Peter Dixon (former England Rugby Union international), Nish Kumar (comedian)


10. Aberystwyth University (1872)

Aberystwyth University

Established: Aberystwyth University was established in the year 1872, making it one of the UK's longstanding educational institutions.

Address: Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth

Popular courses: Aberystwyth University offers a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate courses across various disciplines. Some popular courses include politics, biology, and computer science.

Interesting fact: Aberystwyth University shares its campus with the National Library of Wales, one of the UK's major research libraries. This partnership provides students and researchers with access to a vast collection of books, manuscripts, and archives, making it a valuable resource for academic studies and historical research.

Famous alumni: Charles III (King of the UK), HRH Muhriz Tuanku Munawir (ruler of the Malaysian state of Negeri Sembilan), Melanie Walters (actress), Sharon Maguire (director), Catherine Bishop (rower)


In conclusion, the United Kingdom is home to several longstanding and prestigious universities. They continue to excel in teaching and research, with numerous notable alumni. These universities have played a significant role in shaping the UK's academic landscape and remain influential institutions today.

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