It is an ancient university founded in 1495 when William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen, petitioned Pope Alexander VI on behalf of James IV, King of Scots to create King’s College. This makes it Scotland’s third-oldest university (after the University of St. Andrews and the University of Glasgow) and fifth-oldest in the English-speaking world. The university as it is today was formed in 1860 by a merger between King’s College (which had always referred to itself as the University of Aberdeen) and Marischal College, a second university founded in 1593 in Aberdeen city centre as a Protestant alternative to King’s College. Today, the University of Aberdeen is one of two universities in Aberdeen (the other is The Robert Gordon University).
The university’s iconic buildings act as symbols of the City of Aberdeen, particularly Marischal College in the city centre and the spire of King’s College in Old Aberdeen. There are two campuses; the main King’s College campus is at Old Aberdeen approximately two miles north of the city centre, around the original site of King’s College, although most campus buildings were constructed in the 20th century during a period of expansion. The university’s Foresterhill campus is located next to Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and houses the School of Medicine and Dentistry and School of Medical Sciences.
The University has approximately 13,500 students from undergraduate to doctoral level, including many international students. There are also large numbers of Masters and PhD students. In addition, the university’s Centre for Lifelong Learning acts as an extension college, offering higher education courses to the local community even for those without the usual qualifications for admission to degree-level study. A full range of disciplines are offered and in 2012 the university offered over 650 undergraduate degree programmes.