The James Watt statue at the Edinburgh Campus lit up by fireworks exploding overhead
United Kingdom

200th anniversary

Heriot-Watt University is celebrating the 200th anniversary of its founding roots in Scotland in 1821, which created the world's first mechanics institute in the heart of Edinburgh.

Group of students on the grass opposite the main entrance, Edinburgh Campus

200 years of Heriot-Watt

In 2021, Heriot-Watt University celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding in Scotland. From its beginnings as the world's first mechanics institute in the heart of Edinburgh, two centuries of innovation have led to what is today a unique international institution with campuses in the UK, Dubai and Malaysia.

Throughout the year, there was an extensive programme of events and debates across its campuses, and online, offering something for everyone to take part in and enjoy.

Heriot-Watt University is a pioneer in educating women and men from different backgrounds to achieve their potential in research and enterprise.

While the University is using its bicentenary to recognise its past, it continues to be a pioneer in education, working towards overcoming global challenges and with a focus very much on the future.

What's on

Stay up to date with all bicentenary activities and hear more about our latest events and news.

200th anniversary

History and heritage

Our heritage

In 1821 linen merchant Leonard Horner and clock maker Robert Bryson founded the Edinburgh School of Arts – the world's first Mechanics Institute.  With a remit to provide technical education for working class men, and ultimately also women, the School inspired a global movement to expand access to education.  With subsequent additional funding from the George Heriot's Trust and the James Watt subscription fund, the School became Heriot-Watt College in 1885 and became a University in 1966. The University continues to promote innovation in teaching and research in a global environment.

Our heritage
St Cecilia's Hall, line drawing of students gathering for a lecture

Watt a legend

Throughout 2021 our #WattALegend celebrated the people, past and present, who have made Heriot-Watt University what it is today. We began by celebrating two key figures in our history – Robert Bryson, one of the founders of the world's first mechanics institute and Mary Burton, a revolutionary campaigner for educational and social reform.

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Heriot-Watt 200 branded Russell Athletic hoodie, black