The University of Glasgow lies in the heart of the west end of Glasgow on a campus that comes complete with more listed buildings than any other Scottish university. It is the second oldest university in Scotland, and the fourth oldest in the UK. Nearly 50% of the students come from west central Scotland, an unusually high proportion of local students. The university is nonetheless an extremely cosmopolitan place, with students from over 120 countries among the other 50%.
Academically, Glasgow University is highly regarded. It is said to offer the most comprehensive range of professional studies of any Scottish university, plus a full selection of academic subjects. Organisationally, it is divided into nine faculties: Arts; Biomedical & Life Sciences; Education; Engineering; Information and Mathematical Sciences; Law, Business & Social Sciences; Medicine (including Dentistry and Nursing); Physical Sciences ; and Veterinary Medicine. The medical school is a particular strength, being regarded as one of the very best in the UK.
The University Library, situated opposite the main building, is regarded as one of the best academic libraries in Europe, with the number of books alone topping two million. Situated over 12 floors, it also houses sections for periodicals, microfilms, special collections and rare materials, some of which are exhibited on the top floor. In addition to the main library, subject libraries also exist for chemistry, dentistry, veterinary medicine, education, and the Faculty of Social Sciences, which are held in separate libraries.
Unlike other universities in Scotland, Glasgow does not have a single students' association. Instead, representation and welfare services are provided by the Students' Representative Council and students may also join one of two students' unions, Glasgow University Union (GUU) and the Queen Margaret Union (QMU), which provide other services. Neither of the University's students' unions are affiliated to the National Union of Students. Some 3,500 students are housed in university halls of residence, and most first year students live in university accommodation.
The founding of the University of Glasgow dates back to a Papal Bull issued by Pope Nicholas V in 1451, in which he gave Bishop William Turnbull permission to create a university alongside Glasgow Cathedral. Behind the scheme was James II's desire to created in Scotland a second university (after St Andrews) to give Scotland parity with England. The original documents associated with the establishment of the university were taken to France for safe keeping during the upheaval of the Scottish Reformation of 1560, and subsequently lost.
The university initially taught its students in the chapterhouse of Glasgow Cathedral, before moving to buildings in the area immediately around the cathedral. In 1563, Mary, Queen of Scots gave the university a 13 acre site on Glasgow's High street that had, until the Reformation, been home to a Dominican (Blackfriars) friary. By the beginning of the 1800s the university had buildings that surrounded two courtyards with a clock tower that featured strongly on the Glasgow skyline, a chapel converted from the friary church of the Blackfriars and a series of walled gardens. What many viewed as one of the finest complexes of Renaissance buildings in Scotland was simply demolished when the University of Glasgow moved to its current less confined greenfield site on Gilmorehill in the city's west end in 1870.
The purpose-built campus was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott in the Gothic revival style. The largest of the original buildings, the Gilbert Scott Building, reflected (albeit on a larger scale) the High Street campus's twin quadrangle layout. Between the two quadrangles, Scott's son Oldrid built an open undercroft, above which is his grand Bute Hall, used for examinations and graduation ceremonies, and the Gothic bell tower. The sandstone cladding and Gothic design of the exterior conceal what were at the time high tech construction methods using iron frames. The result was the second-largest example of Gothic revival architecture in Britain, after the Palace of Westminster.
From these already grand beginnings, the university rapidly spread across the rest of Gilmorehill, acquiring surrounding housing for conversion into teaching facilities when necessary. Meanwhile the medical school developed in a westerly direction where it joined with the neighbouring Western General Infirmary. In 1954 the school of veterinary medicine moved to the edge of the city, while the university's sports facilities moved to Anniesland, two miles west of the main campus. Student halls of residence have been built in both Anniesland and Maryhill.