Feature

Jun 2007

Life Begins at 40

- May 2007 Alex Salmond was elected as First Minister

The history of education in Scotland is one of far-sighted ambition linked inextricably to key developments in this country's parliamentarian and social evolution. Just as teaching today reflects the challenges of life in the twenty-first century, so from the very beginning of formal education in Scotland, the relationship between the schoolroom and the preoccupations of the age has been a dynamic one.

Dramatic benefits

The first High School of Dundee was founded in 1289, when the Church led in establishing educational opportunities for children throughout Europe. By end of the 15th century however, the Scottish state had realised the dramatic benefits gained by formally teaching its young people, legislating to educate the eldest sons of noblemen as early as 1496. But it was 16th century Scotland's dramatic religious reformation that brought about the most radical changes in ideas of education, and many argue that the effects can still be seen today in Scotland's unique educational heritage.

As the reformers emphasised the principles of individual conscience and the importance of scripture, wider literacy became a key ambition, inspiring new schools and universities throughout the country. The education acts of this time ushered in a perceived 'Golden Age' of literacy by the end of the 17th and beginning of the 18th centuries, with tax-subsidised state-regulated education for even the poorest children. These advances put Scotland at the very forefront of European educational standards, and fuelled rapid innovation. Scotland's focus on education heralded both the Scottish Enlightenment and the industrial revolution, and the quality of Scottish education was recognised worldwide as Scots travelled to the New World to make new futures for themselves and their families. The success of both Dundee and Stirling's modern universities has grown from this unique heritage to maintain a tradition of excellence that, 40 years on, keeps them among the best in the world.

University of Stirling

The University of Stirling opened its doors on September 18th, 1967 to 164 undergraduate and 31 postgraduate students. Around 45,000 students have graduated since then, many of whom will be joining the anniversary celebrations and sharing nostalgic memories of student life at Stirling over the years. The university's website already hosts a touching and at times hilarious selection of staff and student memories, revealing the depth of affection that alumni still feel as they recall their time at Stirling.

The 9000 students currently studying at Stirling enjoy the 310 acres of the university's campus in beautiful Scottish countryside on the former estate of the 18th-century Airthrey Castle. As newspaper pointed out to its readers in 2003

"Where else can you study on the shores of a loch, by an 18th century castle, beneath rolling hills?"

Thriving students

With the best of both worlds, the university is also closely linked to the thriving hub of Stirling city centre, only 10 minutes travel from the campus base. In 2006 this led to Stirling University being in the top 10 in Britain for Student Experience (winning a Times Higher Education Supplement award), and reflects the high graduate employment rate of 96.7% as well as the outstanding range of courses and facilities. One of the more unusual is the university's focus on Sports Education, and the world-class sports facilities on campus are helping to produce the next generation of top class sportsmen and women. Only last year, Richard Ramsey, a Sports Studies student at Stirling, won the US Amateur Golf Championship after benefiting from the university's Golf Scholarship programme. Ramsey joins other famous sporting names who are also Stirling alumni, including fellow golfers Colin Dalgleish, Catriona Mathew and Gordon Sherry, as well as swimmer Nick Nettles and badminton stars Bruce Flockhart and Susan Hughes. Sport is not the only field in which alumni excel, however, as the university boasts many illustrious past students in other spheres of life, not least politics former Home Secretary John Reid, former MSP Tommy Sheridan, and former First Minister Jack McConnell; literature Iain M Banks; and the media, with journalists Mark Cousins and Rhona McLeod.

The future looks bright

As current students and new graduates will undoubtedly go on to add to this illustrious roster, the future for Stirling looks bright. The area is a major centre of growth, regeneration and new development, with the city centre about to double in the size, and a new Sports Village capitalising on the success of the city's young sportspeople and encouraging more to follow them. The university feeds the energetic attitude in the city, which claims high levels of both business start-ups and young business survival. With over 140m currently being invested in the city's rejuvenation, the youthful outlook is taken seriously with Student representatives sitting on Stirling Council's Children's Committee to shape decision-making. Perhaps because of this, 21-44 year olds recently voted the quality of life in Stirling to be 11th out of 189 UK towns and cities polled.

A similar emphasis on new business and regeneration can be seen in Dundee, where the university also forms a key component of the city's expansion. Dundee has two world-class universities, as well as a major further education college, and the celebrated Al-Maktoum Institute postgraduate institution.

At the forefront

Dundee had a growing reputation as a leading light in the worlds of both medical science and new technologies. This reputation is more than deserved, and was cemented this year as Dundee was named as one of the top seven intelligent communities in a world-wide list compiled by the Intelligent Community Forum, reflecting the city's dynamic approach to global competition. Dundee's place at the forefront of these fields is seen in the city's Dare to be Digital competition to challenge new computer game development. The shortlist for the BAFTA awards' 'One To Watch' category is now made up entirely of winning teams from Dare, while the initiative has attracted expert mentors and substantial government support since its modest inception in 1999.

Leading life science research

The University of Dundee's standing as a leading life science research institution is firmly based on the achievements of the research centre, which has attracted scientists such as the renowned winner of the Paul Erlich Award, Professor Sir David Lane, whom insiders also tip as a future Nobel Prize winner thanks to his discovery of the tumour suppressing anti-cancer gene p53. The centre is also home to Cyclacel Ltd, a cancer treatment company that's leading the way in cutting edge developments to beat the disease. Networking group Bio-Dundee is crucial in supporting the ever-increasing number of biotechnology companies in the city, as the radical research feeds the buoyant local economy and provides great opportunities for new graduates who have a fantastic incentive to stay in the area.

Talented and diligent researchers

Also part of the world-beating team at the University of Dundee is eminent surgeon Dr Alfred Cuschieri. A trail-blazer in Keyhole Surgery techniques, author of over 400 original publications and research articles, and recipient of countless honours for his groundbreaking work, including the Presidents Medal from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, and the Gold Medal awarded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Dr Cuschieri was made a Knight Bachelor in 1998 and is currently Director of the Institute of Medical Science and Technology at Dundee. His presence together with that of other talented and diligent researchers and clinicians such as Prof. Alan Fairlamb, and Dr Mike Whitham reaffirms the university's position at the pinnacle of global innovation in the field. The results of the university's research will help millions the world over thanks to discoveries in the treatments of diseases like African Sleeping Sickness, Chagas disease and leishmaniasis some of the most neglected in tropical medicine despite their devastating effects on the lives of millions of the world's poorest people.

Breaking new ground

As Dundee city centre expands and prospers under the new Central Waterfront scheme, the city is constantly breaking new ground with millions of pounds of investment attracted by its dynamic new reputation. Her Majesty the Queen visited the University of Dundee this year to open a new 15m education and teaching block and take part in the 40th anniversary celebrations. Marking the occasion, university principal, Sir Alan Langlands made an historic and important speech that reflects the importance of education in building a future for Scotland.

Stirling and Dundee are fantastic examples of the wealth that learning brings to a country's opportunities, economy, and quality of life. The reputation of the Scottish Education system has always been world-class. Today we can see how that reputation continues to build an exciting and dynamic future, reminding us that our strength for tomorrow depends of what we can learn today.

Intelligent Community

Locate Dundee

University of Stirling Anniversary

Education in Scotland - Wikipedia