History of Glasgow Caledonia University

Glasgow Caledonian University logo

History of Glasgow Caledonia University

Glasgow Caledonian University (informally GCU or Caledonian) is a public university in Glasgow, Scotland. It was formed in 1993 by the merger of The Queen’s College, Glasgow (founded in 1875) and Glasgow Polytechnic (founded in 1971). As of 2015 it is one of Scotland’s largest universities with nearly 20,000 students.It is regularly ranked among the UK’s top 10 modern universities.

Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus was installed Chancellor of the University in 2012, as the first non-British international figure to hold the office of University Chancellor in Scottish history.Pamela Gillies is the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University, appointed in 2006.

Independent research carried out in 2015 revealed that the University contributes over £480m to Scotland’s economy each year with the quantifiable lifetime premium of a one-year class of graduates estimated at around £400m, bringing the University’s total annual economic impact to around £880m in Scotland alone.

The University traces its origin from The Queen’s College, Glasgow (founded 1875) and the Glasgow Polytechnic (founded 1971). The Queen’s College, which specialised in providing training in domestic science, received the Royal accolade of being named after Queen Elizabeth II in its centenary celebrations in 1975. Queen Elizabeth II was, herself, Patron of the College since 1944. Glasgow Polytechnic, which was one of the largest central institutions in Scotland, offered externally validated degrees and diplomas in engineering, science, and the humanities: the first of which was a BA in Optics, followed by degrees in Social Sciences (1973) and Nursing (1977).

On 1 April 1993, the two institutions amalgamated to form Glasgow Caledonian University. The new university took its name from Caledonia, the poetic Latin name for present-day Scotland. The main campus of the university is built on the site of the former Buchanan Street Station, built by the Caledonian Railway.

Coat of arms and motto

The University’s coat of arms is the work of university academic and artist Malcolm Lochhead and draws on four elements from the coat of arms of the University’s predecessor institutions. The Caledonian Oak Tree (of St. Mungo’s infamous legend) and the Book of Knowledge were borrowed from the arms of Glasgow Polytechnic while the Saltire Ermine and the Crossed Keys (intended to represent the “unlocking” of the Book of Knowledge) were taken from the arms of The Queen’s College. A visual feature was added to the new arms with the illuminated capital letters in the Book’s paragraphs reading: G C U (the three-letter abbreviation of the University’s name). The Coat of Arms was matriculated by the Lord Lyon King of Arms and is inscribed into university degree parchments. The University’s motto: “for the common weal“, which has been adopted since 1975, features in the full design of the arms.

GCU’s main campus is in Glasgow city-centre. A second campus in London is home to the British School of Fashion. In September 2013 the university launched a campus in New York; the first UK university to do so. The Wooster Street campus in the city’s SoHo district is modelled on its London campus.