The University of Stirling occupies a 300 acre parkland campus three miles north of the City of Stirling and just to the east of Bridge of Allan. It has often been described as having one of the most beautiful locations of any university in the world. The Ochil Hills rise immediately to the north, while the university shares its campus with a large loch and with Airthrey Castle, designed by Robert Adam.
The original vision for the university was to provide higher education for people from all walks of life, encouraging them to fulfil their academic potential. The legacy of this approach to education continues today, with over 92% of undergraduates entering from state schools or further education. Since its establishment in 1967, Stirling has offered modular degree programmes allowing greater flexibility and choice than normally available. There are now some 260 courses (including combination courses) at the undergraduate degree level and a wide variety of courses are also available at the postgraduate level. The university has also established itself as one of the UK's leading universities for research in the fields of health and wellbeing, the environment, culture and society, enterprise and economics.
The university also has a leading role in the development of sport. It has a comprehensive range of sports facilities including a 9 hole golf course and driving range; the Gannochy National Tennis Centre; an 50 metre swimming pool completed in 2002; badminton and squash courts; and other facilities. It has also been selected as the headquarters for the Scottish Institute of Sport; the Commonwealth Games Council for Scotland; Scottish Swimming; and as the site for the Scottish National Swimming Academy. A football academy and centre for sporting excellence are also planned.
Stirling was the first UK university to introduce the system of two semesters rather than three terms. The first semester lasts from mid-September to Christmas and the second from mid-February to the end of May. Programmes are also offered in the evening and during the summer through the Summer Academic Programme.
The students of the University are represented by Stirling University Students' Association which was named "Best Students' Union in Scotland" in 2003. The Association is based on-campus in the Robbins Centre Students' Union. It is primarily responsible for providing entertainment, welfare and information services to students. SUSA also supports some 40 sports clubs. Around a third of the students live in halls of residence on the campus.
The University of Stirling was established in 1967, the winner of a competition for a completely new university that also included bids from Dumfries, Inverness, Ayr, Falkirk, Perth and Cumbernauld. The campus was originally designed by the Scottish architectural practice, Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall (RMJM), in a low-rise, highly functional style that fitted well into the contours of the surrounding landscape.
In 1968 the Pathfoot Building was completed, providing accommodation for many of the university's administrative and teaching facilities. Work began on the Cottrell Building in the early 1970, and this now houses numerous lecture theatres, departmental offices, classrooms and computer labs. The University Library and Andrew Miller Building were completed in 1971. The Library holds over 500,000 books and over 9,000 journals.
Other buildings followed, including the MacRobert Arts Centre, and the Robbins' Centre Students Union. The R.G. Bomont Building, completed in 1998, is home to the Department of Nursing and Midwifery; the Iris Murdoch building opened in 2002 to house the Dementia Services Development Centre; and the Colin Bell Building was completed in 2003 for the Department of Applied Social Science. Since 1993 the university's science park, "Innovation Park" has steadily grown on an adjacent site, now being home to 40 companies undertaking research and development in a number of different areas.