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Robert Gordon University

The Robert Gordon University
Motto Omni Nunc Arte Magistra
Motto in English
Now by all your mastered arts
Established 1992 (origins mid-18th century)
Type Public
Chancellor Sir Ian Wood
Principal Ferdinand von Prondzynski
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 17,082 (2014-15)
Undergraduates 10,634 (2014-15)
Postgraduates 6,448 (2014-15)
Location Aberdeen, Scotland, United Kingdom
Campus Suburban (main campus) and Urban (Administration Building in city centre)
  Purple and White</span>

Historic Colours:
Royal Blue, Red and Gold
Nickname Template:If empty
Logo of The Robert Gordon University

The Robert Gordon University, commonly referred to as RGU, is a public university in the city of Aberdeen, Scotland. It became a university in 1992, and originated from an educational institution founded in the 18th century by Robert Gordon, a prosperous Aberdeen merchant, and various institutions which provided adult education and technical education in the 19th and early 20th centuries. It is one of two universities in the city (the other is the much older University of Aberdeen).

According to the 2013 Times Good University Guide it is the best modern university in the UK,[2] while according to The Guardian University Guide 2013 it is the best modern university in Scotland and 2nd-best in the UK.[3] It was shortlisted for Sunday Times University of the Year 2012 and was named Best Modern University in the UK for 2012 by The Sunday Times University Guide.[4] Of those who graduated from full-time undergraduate degrees in 2011, 2012 and 2013, over 97% were in employment or further study within six months - the most of any university in the UK.[5][6][7]

The university, which brands itself “the professional university”, awards degrees in a wide range of disciplines from BA/BSc to PhD, primarily in (but not limited to) professional, technical and artistic disciplines and those most applicable to business and industry. A number of traditional academic degree programmes are also offered, such as in the social sciences. Disciplines available include the social sciences, life sciences, engineering, computing science, pharmacy, nursing, allied health professions, social work, law, accountancy, business administration, management, journalism, fine art, applied arts and design, and architecture. In addition, the university's academic and research staff produce world-class research in a number of areas.[8]

RGU is a campus university and its single campus in Aberdeen is at Garthdee, in the south-west suburbs of the city amid parkland on the banks of the River Dee. The university also operates an Administration Building in Aberdeen city centre, at Schoolhill. Until summer 2013 a second campus was also located here and at St. Andrew Street nearby, but this campus has now closed apart from the Administration Building, which is to be retained. Academic departments located there have moved to new buildings at the main Garthdee campus.


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Administration Building on Schoolhill in Aberdeen city centre.
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Main plaza at Garthdee campus (2013)

The university derives from Robert Gordon's Hospital, an institution set up in the mid-18th century to provide the poor with a basic education and reasonable start in life, and the various educational institutions which developed in Aberdeen to provide adults with technical, vocational and artistic training, mostly in the evenings and part-time.[citation needed] Following numerous mergers between these establishments, it became Robert Gordon's Technical College in 1910, then following further developments became Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology in 1965 and began to conduct increasing amounts of research and provide degree-level education (by now mostly offering day classes to full-time students). Finally, it became a university in 1992. Unlike some modern universities in the UK which were created following the government reforms of 1992, it has never been a polytechnic (these were never part of the Scottish education system).

Founding institutions

Robert Gordon was a Scottish merchant, who had grown up in Aberdeen and graduated from Marischal College. Following a successful career, mostly in Danzig where he amassed a fortune, he retired to Aberdeen around 1720. In the last decade of his life, he prepared plans for a Hospital similar to that founded in Edinburgh by George Heriot. The purpose of Robert Gordon’s Hospital was “the Maintenance, Aliment, Entertainment and Education of young boys whose parents are poor and indigent… and to put them to Trades and Employment”. Gordon died in 1731, and left his entire fortune to the project. However, it took nearly two decades for buildings to be completed, with the first boys admitted in 1750. The aim was not a sophisticated education, but to provide the poor with a reasonable start in life. Boys were taken in between 8 and 11 years old and received food, accommodation and a basic education including English, Latin, writing and arithmetic. They left the Hospital between 14 and 16 years old as an apprentice in a trade or to a merchant. The Hospital expanded through the 18th and 19th centuries.[9]

Meanwhile, in the early 19th century, the Industrial Revolution led to a greater need for scientific and technical education for working-class adults, with “Mechanic’s Institutes” spreading through Scotland, patterned on that founded by George Birkbeck at Glasgow (he would later found Birkbeck College, the University of London’s night school). The Aberdeen Mechanic’s Institution opened in 1824 providing evening classes in subjects such as physics, chemistry, mathematics, book-keeping, maritime navigation and art. By 1855 it was receiving government funding as the School of Science and Art, with a Technical School founded two years later.[9]

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Bust of John Gray, whose philanthropy founded Gray's School of Art
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Plate-glass windows reflect the colours of autumn at Gray's School of Art building, Garthdee campus.

Child and adult education combined: Robert Gordon’s College (1881)

Government education reforms in the 1870s saw the “Hospital” system fall out of favour and encouraged mergers with other educational establishments. As part of these reforms, the Aberdeen Mechanic’s Institute and Technical School merged with Robert Gordon’s Hospital in 1881. The resulting institution was known as Robert Gordon’s College. It provided an education for boys but as a day school only, and evening (and later day) classes for adults (male and female) in science, technology, commerce and general subjects. Art classes offered by the Mechanic’s Institution were transferred to a new, independent School of Art close by, paid for by local businessman John Gray and opened in 1885.[9]

Splitting child from adult: Robert Gordon’s Technical College (1910 on)

By the end of the 19th century, Robert Gordon’s College was a major provider of technical education, receiving large government grants. Following further reforms, in 1903 the adult education part of the College was designated a Central Institution along with Gray’s School of Art (which became a Central Institution two years earlier), allowing the adult education activities to develop independently rather than under the control of the local School Board. However, even this was not sufficient to meet demand for technical education, and dedicated Technical Colleges were being set up in other Scottish cities. As a result, in 1910 adult education activities were split from the school and became Robert Gordon's Technical College.[citation needed] Also merged into the new Technical College was the city’s School of Domestic Economy which provided classes in domestic science. The day school for boys continued as Robert Gordon's College, and the two institutions shared a campus, buildings and until 1981, a Board of Governors and administrative staff.[citation needed]

During the 1920s, the first Ordinary and Higher Certificates and Diplomas were awarded, and by the 1930s Robert Gordon’s Technical College was made up of Schools of Engineering, Chemistry, Maths & Physics, Pharmacy, Art (including architecture), Domestic Science, and Navigation. Around this time the first students began to be prepared for external degree examinations – for the University of Aberdeen’s BSc in Engineering. A system of student governance also developed, with a Student Representative Council formed in 1931. In the closing years of World War II, candidates started to be prepared to sit exams for external degrees of the University of London, in subjects such as Chemistry and Engineering, but only via part-time and/or evening classes. After 1945, to aid with settling large numbers of returning soldiers into a career, the Government backed a Business Training Scheme which allowed the Technical College to introduce courses in Business Administration.[9]

Technical College to Institute (1965) to University (1992)

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Atrium of Riverside East building at Garthdee campus.

In 1955, the Technical College received a large gift of land. Local property developer and entrepreneur Tom Scott Sutherland purchased the Victorian manor and estate of Garthdee House in 1953, located by the banks of the River Dee on the outskirts of the city. Finding himself and his wife living out of only four rooms in the enormous mansion, he donated it and the estate in 1955 for a new school of architecture.[citation needed] These classes had taken place at Gray's School of Art, but had been expanding in the 1940s and 50s and much more space was needed. Following completion of a modern extension to the house, the new Scott Sutherland School of Architecture opened in 1957. In 1966, Gray’s School of Art also moved to a large new building on this estate, freeing its Schoolhill building for administrative use. By 2013, all activities had transferred to Garthdee, with the addition of land immediately adjacent purchased from Aberdeen City Council in the 1990s.[citation needed]

The 1963 Robbins Report on the future of UK higher education recommended major expansion, which led to the renaming of the institution to Robert Gordon’s Institute of Technology to suggest its increasing role in higher education rather than further education.[citation needed] As well as new “plate-glass” universities, reforms following the report created the polytechnics in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It also created the Council for National Academic Awards (CNAA) to allow non-university institutions (like the polytechnics and Scottish central institutions) to run programmes that graduated students with CNAA degrees. The Institute’s first CNAA degree programmes began in pharmacy in 1967, then in engineering, chemistry and physics in 1969, and expanded at undergraduate and postgraduate level to all disciplines. Around this time, the government also began to transfer non-degree teaching (e.g. certificate courses in navigation) to local-authority colleges.

During the 1960s, an academic committee structure was set up, headed from 1969 by an Academic Council. During the 1970s, these committees underwent expansion and reform to improve participation by academic staff in decision-making. For the first time, a faculty structure was introduced, with Faculties of Art & Architecture, Engineering, Arts, and Sciences, led by deans. A department dedicated to providing computer services to the Institute was also established in 1974, and the first professorships were introduced in 1975. In 1981, the separation of the Board of Governors and administration staff from Robert Gordon’s College was completed, although the school and Institute continued to share some buildings. Beginning in the 1970s, the Institute also began to provide extensive consultancy and training for the North Sea oil industry, particularly in engineering and offshore safety and survival.[9]

File:Autumn at RGU 2.jpg
Autumn at Garthdee campus, showing Faculty of Health and Social Care building (left) and University Library (tower) and Riverside East building (centre and right).

The Robert Gordon University (1992 to present)

Following the reforms of the Further and Higher Education Act 1992, the Institute was awarded university status as The Robert Gordon University on 12 June 1992.[10] The new university inherited numerous small campuses, and during the late 1990s and 2000s embarked on large building projects (primarily at Garthdee) to consolidate teaching at its City Centre and Garthdee campuses, assisted by a large purchase of land at Garthdee from Aberdeen City Council in the mid-1990s. As new Garthee facilities were completed, the majority of these previous campuses were sold as land for housing development (such as at Kepplestone and King Street), while City Centre facilities that were no longer required were often sold to Robert Gordon's College, with the sale proceeds paying for the expansion and new construction at Garthdee. In the 1990s and 2000s student numbers also increased considerably, requiring new and larger facilities. A merger with the University of Aberdeen was discussed in 2002, but was rejected in favour of remaining separate but collaborating more closely. By 2000, the University had consolidated to two campuses, at Garthdee (the main campus today) and a City-Centre campus at Schoolhill and St. Andrew Street in central Aberdeen. However, it had been planned since the early 1990s to eventually move all facilities to a single campus at Garthdee, and during this time additional land was purchased to enable new state-of-the-art academic buildings to be constructed to house academic departments which had been at the City Centre campus. The first phase was completed in summer 2013 with the opening of the Riverside East building, after which the City-Centre campus closed apart from the Administration Building on Schoolhill. RGU is now a single-campus university.


RGU operates a single campus in Aberdeen, in the south-western suburbs at Garthdee. While all academic departments are located at Garthdee, the university also has a building in the city-centre at Schoolhill - the Administration Building.

City Centre facilities

File:RGU building at St. Andrew Street, Aberdeen.jpg
Former building at St. Andrew Street, due to be converted to luxury hotel
File:RGU Schoolhill entrance.jpg
Administration Building at Schoolhill. This building was constructed around 1885 as Gray's School of Art, then converted to administrative use in the 1960s.

The university currently operates one non-academic facility in the city-centre. The building at Schoolhill is situated next to the Aberdeen Art Gallery and Robert Gordon's College, a prestigious private school which is no longer affiliated to the university but shares a common heritage and motto. The Administration Building is listed as an architecturally significant building,[11] constructed in the Victorian period of carved and ornamented granite, typical of Aberdeen's famous Granite City architecture.

Also located here was the old City Centre campus. Many of these buildings were sold over the years to Robert Gordon's College for school use, while others are for sale or have been sold for redevelopment. In July 2014, the St. Andrew Street building (which had been replaced by the Riverside East building at the Garthdee campus) was sold to the Canadian hotel Sandman Hotels group to be converted to a 4-star hotel.[12] The 12,000 square- metre building was constructed around 1908 and had served as the Aberdeen College of Education until purchased in 1968;[13] the University claimed it to be the third-largest granite building in Europe, after the Spanish Escorial palace near Madrid, and Marischal College.[14] The university plans to retain the historic Administration Building for the foreseeable future.[15]

Administration Building

The Administration Building has a frontage directly onto the public street of Schoolhill and was completed in 1885. It is a significantly larger building than the street frontage suggests. On completion, it housed Gray's School of Art and was designed by the prominent Aberdeen architect Alexander Marshall Mackenzie, who designed many of the city's grand granite buildings in the 19th century. The building is constructed of grey and pink Corrennie granite ashlar with Corinthian columns and was designed to match the Aberdeen Art Gallery adjacent to it,[16] and like these buildings, it is Category A listed by Historic Scotland. As the School of Art grew in size, the building was extended in 1896 and again between 1928 and 1931. However, it eventually became too small and when Gray's School of Art moved to a new modernist building at Garthdee in the 1960s (see above), the building was converted for administrative use.[17] From then until 2013 it housed the Principal's office (which moved to Garthdee House at the Garthdee campus). Today it provides offices for senior academic and administrative figures and their staff, central administrative functions such as student records, committee and meeting rooms, and other facilities.

Student Union

The Student Union building is located next to the Administration Building, on a corner site at Schoolhill and opposite Belmont Street. The Union closed its doors for the last time in July 2014, and although it is still owned by RGU, it is up for sale.

Garthdee campus

The Garthdee campus is the university's main campus, where all academic departments are located and teaching and research takes place. The campus is located in parkland on the outskirts of the city and noted for its modern architecture.

The Garthdee campus is situated in the south-west of the city, on the banks of the River Dee. For much of its history it was a greenfield site, with parts used as the gardens and estate of the Victorian manor of Garthdee House, farmland, and open meadows. The first university buildings were in use from the 1950s, with major additional developments in the 1960s, 1990s, 2000s and early 2010s. The design concept produced in the mid-1990s by architects Norman Foster + Partners was to separate the site into three zones; to the north, by the road, would be car parking; a central zone would contain the main buildings, and the southern boundary by the riverbank would be for parkland and wildlife. Ancient lines of beech trees and woodlands were retained in the concept. It also included a "university street" running east-west and connecting the buildings, which were to be "pavilions in the landscape".[18] These elements of the design concept have been more or less adhered to in subsequent developments by other architects.

File:RGU campus parkland A.jpg
Parkland at Garthdee campus
File:RGU parkland B.jpg
Round Tower student residences (left) and Central Services administration building (right)
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Gray's School of Art building

The Garthdee campus has seen major investment in recent years, with numerous new buildings constructed since the late 1990s which include a "University Street", part of Norman Foster's design concept for the modern campus.[citation needed] Campus buildings are usually named after the faculty or department that they house.

The campus extends to Script error: No such module "convert"., although some of this is currently landscaped parkland, undeveloped, or under construction. In addition, the university owns a further Script error: No such module "convert". of land to the west (primarily woodland) and Script error: No such module "convert". at Waterside Farm on the opposite bank of the River Dee;[19] this former farmland is currently undeveloped. According to the university's masterplan for the campus, the Waterside Farm site is at a low level and lies in a 1:200 year floodplain, and is to be developed as sports pitches at a future time.

The main buildings of the campus are:

  • Riverside East building - In March 2014, construction began on a five-storey extension to the east end of the building to house the School of Architecture and all facilities needed for its staff and students, such as office space, classrooms, studios and IT labs. The 4,500 square-metre extension is to cost £9.5 million and will replace the current mid-20th century building housing the Architecture School.[20]
  • Aberdeen Business School building which houses the departments of Accounting & Finance, Communication & Media, Information Management, Law, and Management, and a large Study Centre which occupies the former library space.
  • Faculty of Health and Social Care building houses the Schools of Applied Social Studies, Nursing & Midwifery, and Health Sciences. The building also acts as a hub for student services, with the university's student helpdesk, careers service, disability and dyslexia service, accommodation office and counselling service located in facilities off the main atrium
  • The RGU:SPORT building is a campus sports and fitness centre, designed by architectural firm Thomson Craig & Donald and opened in 2005 at a cost of £10.7 million,[21] including support from organisations such as sportscotland. It provides extensive facilities for sport, exercise and physical training, including several gyms with facilities for cardiovascular and resistance training, a 25-metre swimming pool, climbing wall, studios for group exercise classes, and a large sports hall for a wide range of indoor sports.
  • The International College (ICRGU) building is a modular pre-fabricated two-storey building situated at the rear of RGU:Sport. It was constructed in 2011 to provide additional teaching space for the "International College at RGU" (ICRGU).
  • The Gray's School of Art building opened in 1966 to allow the art school to expand from its Victorian building next to the Aberdeen Art Gallery in the city centre (now used as the university's Administration Building).
  • Garthdee House is the location of the Principal's Office and also houses part of the School of Architecture. It is a Victorian manor house which formed the core of the Garthdee estate, which with later purchases of adjacent land became today's campus. The Scott Sutherland School of Architecture was the sole user of Garthdee House until 2013, when the Principal's Office also moved into the building.
  • the Scott Sutherland building houses the Scott Sutherland School of Architecture and Built Environment.
File:RGU Garthdee House, April 2014.jpg
Garthdee House serves as the Principal's Office
File:RGU Garthdee House and Lawn, April 2014.jpg
Garthdee House seen across lawn.
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Business School building at evening

Organisation and governance

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Side elevation of Faculty of Health and Social Care building.

Academic faculties

Academic activities at the university are divided into three faculties. Each faculty is led by a dean and is sub-divided into various Schools or Departments as follows. There are also numerous administrative departments which support the university's activities. All academic Schools and Departments are based at the main Garthdee campus.

  • Faculty of Health and Social Care (Dean: Professor Valerie Maehle[22])
    • School of Applied Social Studies (including the social sciences and social work)
    • School of Health Sciences
    • School of Nursing and Midwifery
    • School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences
  • Aberdeen Business School (Dean: Professor Rita Marcella[24])
    • Department of Accounting and Finance
    • Department of Communication and Media
    • Department of Information Management
    • Department of Law
    • Department of Management


File:Autumn at RGU 4.jpg
Library tower (right) and riverbank path. Faculty of Health and Social Care building also visible.

Under the terms of the Further and Higher Education (Scotland) Act 1992 and The Robert Gordon University (Scotland) Order of Council 1993, the university's governing body comprises a Board of Governors, consisting of 23 governors appointed to exercise the functions of management and control. The official head of the university is the Chancellor, although in practice he or she acts mainly in a ceremonial or symbolic role. At an operational level, most of the day-to-day management and control of the institution is delegated to the Principal and Vice Chancellor (commonly known simply as the Principal). The Board of Governors also delegates functions relating to the overall planning, co-ordination, development and supervision of academic affairs to the university’s Academic Council. Both the Board of Governors and the Academic Council are supported by a wide range of committees.

The Principal's Office is based at Garthdee House on the main Garthdee campus but many other administrative departments and staff are based at the Administration Building at Schoolhill in the city centre.


  • Sir Bob Reid (1992–2005)
  • Sir Ian Wood CBE (2004–present)

At Scottish universities, the Principal of the university is its general chief executive and is the administrative head of the institution, second in precedence only to the Chancellor. This means that the day-to-day running and leadership of the university is the responsibility of the Principal.

Principal and Vice-Chancellors[25]

Academic profile

Reputation and rankings

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Daffodils in bloom on Garthdee Road, close to entrance to Garthdee campus
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University Library, Riverside East building.

In The Guardian University Guide 2013, RGU ranks 35th in the UK[3] (above the University of Aberdeen at 38th) and is the best modern university in Scotland and 2nd-best modern university in the UK (behind University of the Arts London). Of the 120 universities in the list, Coventry University is the next-best post-1992 university at 46th.

The Sunday Times awarded RGU the title of Best Modern University in the UK for 2012 in its University Guide 2012. The title had previously been won by Oxford Brookes University for each of the preceding ten years.[26] RGU received the 2012 award partly due to ratings of the quality of teaching and research, but also due to its employment record which was judged the best of any UK university. The citation read: "With just 3.8% of graduates unemployed six months after leaving, a degree from the Robert Gordon University (RGU) is as near to a guarantee of a job after graduation as you can get.....RGU's graduates don't just get jobs, they get good ones, with 84.9% securing jobs commensurate with their qualifications...with starting salaries at an impressive £20,897".[4] RGU was also named as Best Modern University in the UK in The Times Good University Guide 2013.[2] The university was also shortlisted for Sunday Times University of the Year 2012 (the only post-1992 university on the shortlist), but the title was awarded to the University of Bath.

In The Complete University Guide 2014, RGU is at 53rd place (out of 124), and is the highest-ranking post-1992 university in Scotland, and jointly the third-highest post-1992 university in the UK (with the University of Hertfordshire). The two UK post-1992 universities ranked higher were Oxford Brookes University and the University of Lincoln.[27]

Graduate employment

For at least two years, the Robert Gordon University has had the highest rate among the UK universities of graduates in employment or postgraduate study six months after graduation. In July 2012, the Higher Education Statistics Agency released figures for graduate employment for those who graduated in 2011. Six months after graduation, 97.1% of RGU graduates from full-time undergraduate degree programmes were in employment or further study, the highest level of graduate employment of any UK university (although a small number of higher education institutions specialising in only one discipline, such as the Royal Academy of Music, Harper Adams University and the Institute of Education, scored higher). Other universities scoring highly were the University of Northampton (95.6%), King's College London (95.2%) and the University of Glasgow (94.9%).[5]

This result was repeated in the statistics for 2012,[6] with 97.7% of RGU's 2012 graduates in work or further study within six months. As the previous year, only specialised institutions such as the Royal Academy of Music and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance had a higher percentage of graduate employment than the Robert Gordon University. Other universities scoring highly in 2012 were Bishop Grosseteste University in Lincoln (97.0%), the University of Buckingham (96.9%), Glasgow Caledonian University (96.2%) and the University of Derby (96.1%).

In 2013, HESA announced that 97.7% [7] of RGU graduates were in work or further education within six months of graduating. Only specialised institutions such as Royal College of Music, Institute of Education and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance scored higher than Robert Gordon University. Other universities scoring highly in 2013 were University of Buckingham (97.3%), St Mary's CollegeTemplate:Disambiguation needed (97%) and University of Surrey (96.9%).


RGU is a teaching-focused university (unlike the University of Aberdeen) but significant amounts of research are conducted by its academic and research staff. Much of this is applied research, but basic research is also conducted. The Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) assesses the quality of research in UK universities, with the outcomes used to allocate research funding. In RAE 2008, over 70% of research at the Robert Gordon University was classified as being of international quality and 20% rated as internationally excellent.[8]

The Research Excellence Framework (REF) replaced RAE and the results were published on 18 December 2014. RGU was ranked 102nd.

The university has three multidisciplinary research institutes which bring together and support researchers in certain themes. Academic staff can apply to join an institute once they have reached a level of seniority. The institutes provide a focus for delivery of research and knowledge transfer as well as for allocating funding. These are the Institute for Health & Welfare Research, the Institute for Innovation, Design & Sustainability Research and the Institute for Management, Governance and Society Research.[28]


UK rankings
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993
Times Good University Guide 52nd 46th[29] 51st[30] 54th 55th 56th 58th= 58th 61st 59th 61st 59th= 59th= 59th 58th 58th 62nd= 74th= 66th= 83rd=
Guardian University Guide 46th[31] 51st[32] 55th 35th 38th 27th 36th[33] 50th[33] 39th 58th 97th 70th 78th
Sunday Times University Guide 49th 49th 54th[34] 54th 62nd 65th[35] 68th 72nd 72nd 83rd= 101st 96th= 70th 64th 72nd
The Complete University Guide 53rd 52nd 51st 51st 47th[36] 61st[37] 55th[37]
The Daily Telegraph 55th[38][39] 89th=
FT 58th 57th 55th 55th

Symbols and Corporate Identity

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The new RGU logo (2013-present)

The university's logo and corporate identity make frequent use of the colour purple and the "Gordon" font, all of which appear extensively on campus signage, printed material and online. The current logo was unveiled in February 2013. From 2009 to 2013, the logo consisted of a roundel derived from the university's coat of arms.

Most universities in the UK are designated by order of the Privy Council; unusually for a university named after an individual, according to The Robert Gordon University (Scotland) Order of Council 1993[40] the official name of the university includes the prefix "The" (as with The George Washington University, The Ohio State University and The College of William & Mary). However, current university branding typically leaves it out although it is still used for graduation.

Coat of Arms

File:The Robert Gordon University shield.jpg
Coat of arms of the Robert Gordon University

The coat of arms derives from the one issued by the Lord Lyon King of Arms (the state official responsible for heraldry in Scotland) to Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology in 1982, which in turn derives from that first used in 1881 by the governors of Robert Gordon's Hospital when it became Robert Gordon's College.[9] The arms consist of a shield only and are used infrequently, usually at formal occasions such as graduation, and can also be seen over the main entrance to the university's Administration Building at Schoolhill and various academic buildings at the main campus at Garthdee, such as the entrance to the Faculty of Health and Social Care building. The shield also formed the previous logo which still features on some older signage.

On the left side of the arms, the three boars on a blue background edged in gold are taken from the arms of the Gordon family, while on the right the castle on a red background is taken from the arms of the City of Aberdeen. This symbol of the city is shared with the arms of the University of Aberdeen. A black wavy band divides the two sides, and features heraldic symbols in gold representing technology (a mechanical cog), learning (a flaming torch) and commerce (a gold coin).[9]


The university's motto is Omni Nunc Arte Magistra, which translates literally from Latin as "Now by all your mastered arts...", as if to suggest making use in everyday life of knowledge and skills gained. It is sometimes translated as "Make the best of all your abilities", although this is a somewhat more liberal rendering of the Latin. It comes from Virgil's Aeneid, Book VIII, line 441, as the god Vulcan encourages his workers at the forge.[9] It shares this motto with Robert Gordon's College, who use it more frequently. Unlike some universities, the motto is not seen frequently, although it has appeared in graduation materials and is engraved on the shaft of the university's ceremonial mace.

Ceremonial mace

A ceremonial mace is used at many universities as a symbol of authority and independence. The RGU mace appears mainly at graduation ceremonies, where it is placed prominently on the stage in front of the Chancellor and Principal and in full view of the audience. It may also be seen occasionally at other important university events. The mace is a modern design in silver and black[41], designed and crafted in 1993 by Gordon Burnett (a member of staff at the university's Gray's School of Art), and paid for by the City of Aberdeen as a gift to the new university. It was presented to the university at a ceremony on 26 June that year during which the first chancellor of the university, Bob Reid, was installed.[42] The mace is primarily jet-black, with wavy fins edged in silver that run vertically down the full length of the mace's head (reflecting the wavy black band in the university's coat of arms). The coat of arms of the university is inset into the head of the mace, along with golden symbols taken from it - the castle representing the city of Aberdeen, flaming torch, coin, and mechanical cog. The shaft of the mace is inlaid in gold with the university's motto, Omni Nunc Arte Magistra.


File:Robert Gordon Uni tartan.png
The Robert Gordon University's official tartan

Like most Scottish universities, RGU has its own tartan; it mirrors the university's official colours of Royal Blue, Red and Gold which appear on the coat of arms (although purple is now used more frequently day-to-day). The tartan was designed by Michael King in 1997.[43] Some students on their graduation day choose to wear a tartan kilt.

Student life

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Making the most of the sun in the quadrangle at Gray's School of Art, Garthdee campus
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The RGU Student Union offices are located in the RGU Sport building
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Copies of Radar, RGU's student magazine.

In 2010 there were 15,756 students studying over 145 full-time and part-time courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Of these, 9692 were undergraduates, 5788 were taught postgraduates (e.g. MSc) and 276 doctoral students on PhD programmes.[44] Over 1000 from all levels are international students.

As well as full-time and part-time on-campus study, the University provides a range of distance learning facilities over the internet via its virtual learning environment, CampusMoodle. In 2010, approximately 31% of registered students were studying off-campus or required to attend campus only infrequently.[44] The majority of these study part-time (e.g. combining study with employment).[44]

Student Association

File:RGUnion shop - - 853114.jpg
Entrance to the former RGU Student Union at Schoolhill in the city centre, which closed in July 2014.

As the forerunner of today's Student Association, a Student Representative Council was first organised at Robert Gordon's Technical College in 1931, with activities such as sports clubs and societies following in the 1940s. A Student Union building opening in 1952 at Rubislaw Terrace in the city's West End. In 1969, the shop and bakery next to Gray's School of Art (now the Administration Building) on the Schoolhill came on the market and were purchased by Robert Gordon's Institute of Technology; the former Student Union opened there in 1974 and remained until its closure in 2014.[9]

Today, the university's Student Association is directed by an Executive Board, comprising student officers who are elected every March.[45] One purpose of the Student Association is to campaign for the interests of students at all levels of the university's governance, as well as other campaigns designed to achieve specific aims identified by the elected student officers. The Student Association also manages a range of services and promotes opportunities for RGU students, including managing the sports clubs and other societies which are affiliated with it. In 2011-12 there were over 40 student societies at RGU[46] and 32 student sports clubs.[47] The RGU Student Association is affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS) and as a result RGU students are eligible to apply for discount schemes operated by the NUS such as the NUS Extra card. The Student Association has its main offices at the RGU Sport building at the Garthdee campus.

Student Media

While there is currently no campus newspaper, the Student Union operates a student media program. A full-colour magazine called Radar is published every two months by the Union with all articles written by students and covering campus events, student life, music news and reviews, health, fashion, careers and sports.[48] Paper copies are distributed free around campus. A student radio station called RGU Radio also broadcasts live online at from a studio on campus.[49] In addition, RGU:TV produces videos about campus events and topical issues, and distributes them online via a YouTube channel.


The university's Accommodation Services department arranges for students to be placed in one of nine halls of residence across the city, with over 1500 beds available.[50]

By far the largest of the halls of residence are the Woolmanhill Flats at St. Andrew Street, close to the university's former St. Andrew Street building which was in use when they were constructed. The Woolmanhill flats have over 700 one-person bedrooms, arranged in self-catering flats of up to eight. All have shared kitchen and lounge facilities, and 600 rooms have shared bathrooms while 136 rooms are ensuite.[51] The Woolmanhill Flats development was constructed in stages the late 1980s and early 1990s by the university working in collaboration with a private developer.[52] The newest hall of residence is the Crathie Student Village on Holburn Street, completed in September 2012 and housing approximately 100 students.

Other halls of residence include two buildings on the Garthdee Campus; the Square Tower and the Round Tower. These distinctive pink buildings were constructed in the early 1990s and inspired by traditional Scottish tower houses.[53] They have received architectural acclaim by critics and are included in Prospect magazine's list of the 100 best Scottish modern buildings. When the list was published in 2005, the Round and Square Towers were the only buildings in Aberdeen to be included. A number of other halls of residence across the city are used, some operated in-house by RGU and others by private companies. These include Rosemount Halls, St. Peter's Halls and Linksfield Halls which were constructed by the University of Aberdeen and then privatised in the early 2000s. Students also have access to the private halls of residence in Aberdeen which are operated on a commercial basis by specialist companies, such as those owned and operated by the Unite Group.


File:Winter garden at RGU SPORT, at the Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen.JPG
Interior of RGU SPORT where "University Street" passes through the winter garden.

RGU SPORT at the Garthdee campus provides a wide range of sport and fitness facilities to the university community as well as to the general public. Facilities include a 25m pool, various gyms with extensive facilities for cardiovascular training and resistance training (including free weights), a large sports hall (also used for exams), climbing wall, numerous fitness classes, physiotherapy, podiatry and sports massage.[54] Students, staff and graduates of the university receive a discount on use of these facilities.

There are 32 campus sports clubs affiliated with the Student Association, and the university competes in Scottish Student Sport (SSS) and British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) competitions.[55] The university timetabling system usually keeps Wednesday afternoons free of classes to allow students to take part in sporting activities, although there are occasional exceptions.

A number of elite athletes study at RGU, for example swimmer Hannah Miley studied at RGU until 2013 and appeared regularly in publicity for the university.[56] A sport scholar program provides support for the athletic and academic careers of developing and elite athletes, including coaching, access to training facilities and financial assistance, as well as flexibility in fitting training around the academic timetable.[57]

The Robert Gordon University Boat Club contests the annual Aberdeen Universities Boat Race each Spring against the University of Aberdeen. RGU were victorious in 2012[58] 2013,[59] 2014 [60] and 2015.[61]


International partners

The Robert Gordon University has 2 partner schools in Switzerland:

Honorary graduates

Donald Trump controversy

In 2010, RGU gained international attention for awarding an honorary degree to controversial American businessman Donald Trump. This featured in the 2012 documentary film You've Been Trumped[65] which documented the progress of the construction of Trump's golf course near Aberdeen from the point of view of local residents. In the film Dr David Kennedy, former Principal of the University, is shown handing back his own honorary degree in protest at the university's action in awarding the degree to Mr Trump.[66] At the time, Dr. Kennedy described the university's decision as 'an insult to decent people everywhere.'[67]


  1. ^ a b RGU: Statistical Information on Staff
  2. ^ a b "The Times Good University Guide 2012". The Good University Guide (London). Retrieved 26 June 2011. (subscription required)
  3. ^ a b University Guide 2013:
  4. ^ a b The Sunday Times, 11 September 2011 (subscription only)
  5. ^ a b Higher Education Statistics Agency - Press Release 179 - Employment of Leavers Performance Indicators 2010/11
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ a b RAE 2008: Robert Gordon University results
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i Ellington, H. (2002). The Robert Gordon University: A History. Aberdeen: The Robert Gordon University
  10. ^ Ellington, H. (2002). The Robert Gordon University: A History. Aberdeen, UK: The Robert Gordon University.
  11. ^ Historic Scotland - Historic and Listed Buildings
  12. ^
  13. ^ Ellington, H. (2002). The Robert Gordon University: A History. Aberdeen; RGU Press
  14. ^
  15. ^ (p.5 of PDF file)
  16. ^
  17. ^ Ellington, Henry (2002). The Robert Gordon University : a history. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University. ISBN 1-901085-72-4.
  18. ^ Pearce, M. (2001). University Builders. Chichester, UK: Wiley-Academy.
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ Anonymous (2004). 12/04: RGU:SPORT Gets Ready for February Launch. Retrieved October 2012 from
  22. ^ Professor Valerie Maehle: Dean of Faculty of Health and Social Care
  23. ^ Professor John Watson: Dean of Faculty of Design and Technology
  24. ^ Professor Rita Marcella: Dean of Aberdeen Business School
  25. ^ a b Ellington, Henry (2002). The Robert Gordon University : a history. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University. ISBN 1-901085-72-4. 
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^ Research Institutes - Research - Robert Gordon University
  29. ^ League Tables
  30. ^ Times University Guide 2010
  31. ^ [1]
  32. ^ [2]
  33. ^ a b The Guardian University Guide 2009
  34. ^ Sunday Times University Guide 2010
  35. ^ "University ranking based on performance over 10 years" (PDF). The Times (London). 2007. Retrieved 28 April 2008. 
  36. ^ The Independent University League Table 2010
  37. ^ a b "The Independent University League Table". The Independent (London). 24 April 2008. Retrieved 27 May 2010. 
  38. ^ "University league table". The Daily Telegraph (London). 30 July 2007. Retrieved 29 October 2007. 
  39. ^ Daily Telegraph University League Table
  40. ^ The Robert Gordon University (Scotland) Order of Council 1993
  41. ^ RGU Mace
  42. ^ Ellington, H. (2002). "The Robert Gordon University: A History". Aberdeen: RGU
  43. ^ Tartan Details - Scottish Register of Tartans
  44. ^ a b c RGU at a glance - graduate employment and student profile
  45. ^ RGU: How Your Union Works
  46. ^ RGU:Union - Societies
  47. ^ RGU:Union - Sports
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^ RGU Accommodation Guide
  51. ^ About Our Accommodation
  52. ^ Ellington, Henry (2002). The Robert Gordon University : A History. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University. ISBN 1-901085-72-4
  53. ^ Ellington, Henry (2002). The Robert Gordon University : a history. Aberdeen: Robert Gordon University. ISBN 1-901085-72-4
  54. ^ RGU:SPORT Facilities
  55. ^ RGU Sports Clubs|Student Life
  56. ^ Miley inspires fellow students with Olympic-themed challenge
  57. ^ RGU sport scholarships
  58. ^ STV: RGU secure third boat race win
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^
  65. ^
  66. ^,
  67. ^ "Degree returned over Donald Trump's RGU award". BBC News. 28 September 2010. 

External links

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