The story of Heriot-Watt University
Heriot-Watt is a global university with strong, abiding links across Europe and the rest of the world. We are proud that since our foundation in 1821, we have been outward looking pioneers of education, in pursuit of knowledge to the benefit of society and the world.
Pioneering Education since 1821
In 1821 Edinburgh was at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment which viewed education as a means to moral and material self-improvement and a way to tackle the challenges of the industrial revolution.
Leonard Horner, a linen merchant and social reformer, came up with the idea of providing evening classes for fees that working men could afford. With the financial backing from influential Edinburgh citizens, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Cockburn, judge and conservationist and the Craig family of Riccarton, The Edinburgh School of Arts - the first Mechanics Institute in the UK, was established.
Origins of our name
In 1852 The Edinburgh School of Arts changed its name to become the Watt Institution and School of Arts, in honour of the great scottish inventor, mechanical engineer and chemist, James Watt, inventor of the steam engine. George Heriot was a 16th century philanthropist and financier to King James. In 1855 we became Heriot-Watt college and in 1966 Heriot-Watt University was established by Royal Charter.
Both Heriot and Watt were two successful, pioneering professionals of their time, whose skills and attitudes are still reflected in the ethos of the University today
Opportunities for women
Twenty years before legislation forced Scottish universities to open their doors to women, Mary Burton led a successful campaign to persuade the Directors of the Watt Institution to admit women students. This was a truly radical step. Mary Burton went on to become the first woman on the School's Board of Directors. Of the 2,000 students studying at Heriot-Watt college in 1885, 15 per cent were women. Today one of the University's school buildings is named after her.
Leaders in ideas and solutions
When the School of Arts was established in 1821 its purpose was to "address societal needs by incorporating fundamental scientific thinking and research into engineering solutions".
A focus on the practical application of knowledge and learning for the betterment of society is an essential characteristic of Heriot-Watt University. Throughout the early and mid 1900s the academic curriculum of the college developed with a strong emphasis on the needs of industry. A snapshot of this includes:
- the Department of Mining established in 1913 due to demand from the coal industry
- programmes in Physical Chemistry, Fuel Science, Metallurgy and Intermediates introduced in 1919
- the Department of Building established in 1934 to provide tuition up to Associateship standard
- Brewing given departmental status in 1950 and the introduction of classes in Management Studies
- a new Associateship programme in Civil Engineering introduced in 1953.
Throughout our history we have remained open to change, adapting to the needs of our students and partners. This has ensured we have remained at the forefront of research in many industry sectors while strengthening our international networks of business and alumni.
Our global reach
We were the first British university to set up in Dubai International Academic city in 2005. Our reputation for world-class teaching and research, with strong links to industry, has made us the biggest and fastest growing campus in the UAE with over 3,000 students. In 2014 we invested £35 million in a purpose-built campus in Malaysia. This is the first green campus in the country and the first university in Putrajaya, the government capital of Malaysia.
In addition to our campuses, we have 53 learning partners and over 30,000 students across the world.