Abertay University History
Abertay University, operating name for the University of Abertay Dundee since 2014, is one of two public universities in the city of Dundee, Scotland. The other is the University of Dundee. In 1872, Sir David Baxter, 1st Baronet of Kilmaron, left a bequest for the establishment of a mechanics’ institute in Dundee. As early as 1902 it was recognised by the Scottish Education Department as an educational hub, and was one of the first to be designated a central institution, akin to an ‘industrial university’. It continues to have a vocational focus and is associated with Dundee’s rise as a centre for computer games.
Abertay was the first University in the world to offer a computer games degree, and the first in the UK to be recognized as a Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education. In 1999 it developed and continues to host ‘Dare to be Digital’ the international competition for computer games students. Abertay was also the first to offer a degree in Ethical Hacking and Countermeasures, starting in 2006. According to the results of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) published on 18 December 2014, Abertay was the highest ranked modern university in Scotland for ‘research intensity’. According to the Princeton Review 2015, Abertay ranked 12th place in the top 25 schools in the world to study video game design.
The following history to 1988 provides a summary account that relies primarily on the book published by Dundee Institute of Technology in 1989, ‘The First Hundred Years: 1888-1988’. Where additional sources have been used, post 1988, these have been cited accordingly.
The Baxter bequest (1872)
In 1872 Sir David Baxter, 1st Baronet of Kilmaron, died and bequeathed £20,000 (£1,581,200 adjusting for inflation) for the establishment of a mechanics’ institute in Dundee. The Baxter bequest was intended to create an educational establishment permitting young (male) working mechanics and other craftsmen to better themselves. After some years of delay the trustees finalised a scheme and met the conditions of the bequest and the Dundee Technical Institute opened on 15 October 1888 in grounds, purchased from University College, Dundee, adjacent to Small’s Wynd, Dundee. Initially 238 students enrolled and classes were conducted based on the syllabus of the Government Science and Art Department of South Kensington and the City & Guilds of London Institute. Subjects were primarily scientific and technical although applied art was also taught, and jute spinning and textile design were soon added to the portfolio.