Abertay University

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Abertay University
Abertay University Logo.svg
Motto Latin: Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam.
Motto in English
"Blessed is the one who finds wisdom."
Type Public
Established 1994 - granted University Status
1888 - Dundee Institute of Technology
Chancellor Lord Cullen of Whitekirk
Principal Nigel Seaton
Chair of Court Eddie Frizzell
Academic staff
218 [1]
Administrative staff
96 [1]
Students 4,005 (2015/16)[2]
Undergraduates 3,690 (2015/16)[2]
Postgraduates 320 (2015/16)[2]
Location Dundee, Scotland
56°27′48″N 2°58′25″W / 56.46333°N 2.97361°W / 56.46333; -2.97361Coordinates: 56°27′48″N 2°58′25″W / 56.46333°N 2.97361°W / 56.46333; -2.97361
Blue, Red, Gold and Green
Affiliations Million+[3]
Universities Scotland[5]
Website www.abertay.ac.uk
Abertay University logo.png

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.[6][7]

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 'Dare to be Digital' an international competition for computer games students. Abertay was also the first to offer a degree in Ethical Hacking, starting in 2006. According to the results of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) published on 18 December 2014,[8] Abertay was the highest ranked modern university in Scotland for 'research intensity'.[9] According to the Princeton Review 2015, Abertay ranked 12th place in the top 25 schools in the world to study video game design.[10] In 2017 the Princeton Review ranked Abertay top in Europe for undergraduate computer games courses and 9th in the world at postgraduate level.


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'.[11] Where additional sources have been used, post 1988, these have been cited accordingly.

The Baxter bequest (1872)[edit]

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.

In 1901 the Dundee Technical Institute enrolled 723 part-time students and was one of the first education hubs to be recognised as a 'central institution' by the Scotch Education Department. In 1906 a new site in Bell Street, Dundee was purchased to build a larger complex to accommodate a growing student population. In 1911 the completed complex was formally opened as the Dundee Technical College & School of Art. The portfolio had by now expanded again to include marine engineering and navigation.

The First World War retarded enrolments and growth but the vocational nature of the institute meant that its classes were highly relevant to the war effort. Records show that the first women students enrolled in 1914. After the war, the institute continued to expand adding a new school of pharmacy, and more specialist classes in engineering and building. Commercial classes in finance, economics and accounting were added to support trade at home and abroad.

The Duncan of Jordanstone bequest (1909)[edit]

In 1909 James Duncan of Jordanstone left £60,000 (4,993,263 adjusting for inflation) to establish an art college in Dundee. It was only after a lengthy legal battle surrounding this bequest and the right of the existing college to spend the money, that a new scheme was entered into in 1933 permitting the establishment of the Dundee Institute of Art and Technology. The scheme allowed for separate technical and art colleges under a single governance framework. Plans for a new art college were drawn up in 1937. However, owing to the outbreak of the Second World War, plans were delayed and construction did not begin until 1953. The college of art became a formally separate institution, known as the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, in 1975, remaining independent until 1994 when it became part of the University of Dundee.

First degrees (1951)[edit]

After the Second World War enrolments and the scope of delivery continued to expand, as did the reputation of the Institute. By 1951 the Institute was teaching courses that led to examinations for the external degrees of the University of London in pharmacy, mechanical, civil, and electrical engineering. In 1955 the National Council for Technological Awards was established and validated diplomas in technology which were equivalent in standard if not in name to honours degrees. In 1963 the Robbins Committee on Higher Education set out the principle that higher education should be available to all who wanted it and were suitably well qualified. The Committee recommended that the government should expand higher education in the UK, particularly in science and technology.

University status (1994)[edit]

Abertay University was created in 1994, under government legislation granting the title "University of Abertay Dundee" to the Dundee Institute of Technology. Since 2014 the University has promoted itself as Abertay University.[12] Abertay was the first university in the world to offer a "computer games" degree in 1997.[13] Abertay was the UK's first University to be recognised as a Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education, and is associated with a business support programme for computer game startups.[14][15]


Kydd Building
The Bernard King library

Abertay University is situated in the centre of Dundee. The campus buildings include the historic Old College buildings of Dundee Business School, the Bernard King Library, scenes of crime teaching facilities, specialist Ethical Hacking labs designed for research into computer hacking and misuse, and modern computer games labs in the UK Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education.

The Bernard King Library (named after Abertay's first vice-chancellor following the gaining of university title) in Bell Street opened to learners in February 1998 and was formally opened by Queen Elizabeth II on 30 June 1998. The library was voted best new building in Scotland in the 1998 Scottish Design Awards competition.[16] The building has a stone rectangular 'spine' and a curved glass front mimicking an open book. The Library houses an English Language learning centre, a specialist Law library, and an EU funded IT suite. The library was designed with the digital age very much in mind, and although the traditional books still feature, the emphasis was and is very much on providing access to digital information through online subscriptions.

The Student Centre building in Bell Street opened in 2005 providing a home to the Students' Association as well as a trading centre with an art gallery (Hannah McLure Centre), cinema, student bars, food, and retail trading outlets.

Academic reputation[edit]

Logo of Abertay University on the side of the Bernard King Library
(2018, national)
The Guardian[18]
(2018, national)
Times/Sunday Times[19]
(2018, national)
Teaching Excellence Framework[20] Silver

Abertay is a small university that receives the majority of its funding for teaching rather than research. Nevertheless, according to the results of the Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF2014) published on 18 December 2014,[8] Abertay was the highest ranked modern university in Scotland for 'research intensity'.[9] The University submitted an increased proportion of staff in REF2014 compared to RAE2008 and achieved an average score of 2.15 - which in REF terms means 'quality that is recognised internationally in terms of originality, significance, and rigour'. This was an improvement from the average score of 1.83, 'national recognition', achieved in RAE2008.

Submissions were made in:

  • Unit 4 Psychology, Psychiatry and Neurosciences
  • Unit 5 Biological Sciences
  • Unit 7 Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences
  • Unit 15 General Engineering
  • Unit 20 Law
  • Unit 23 Sociology
  • Unit 26 Sport and Exercise Sciences, Leisure and Tourism

Abertay submitted 30% more staff in REF 2014 than in RAE 2008, in seven Units of Assessment (UoAs) compared to six in 2008. Abertay submitted to three Units of Assessment for the first time: Sports Science, Sociology, and Biological Sciences. Abertay scored a proportion of research as 4* in six of the seven UoAs in 2014, compared to only two out of the six units submitted in 2008. Abertay submitted 36% of its academic staff to the REF.

The Complete University Guide 2017 provides league tables for teaching. Overall, Abertay ranked 86 of 127 institutions. Abertay is included in the following subject tables

  • Accounting and Finance - ranked 91 of 103
  • Business and management - ranked 75 of 119
  • Civil Engineering - ranked 29 of 55
  • Computer Science - ranked 59 of 105
  • Law - ranked 38 of 100
  • Nursing - ranked 71 of 71
  • Psychology - ranked 42 of 116
  • Sociology - ranked 47 of 97
  • Sports Science - ranked 53 of 84

Abertay was the first university in the world to offer a "computer games" degree in 1997.[21] In 2009 it established the UK's first Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education, and a business support programme.[14][22] Abertay runs five of the 25 interactive and games degree courses accredited in the UK by Creative Skillset, the industry skills body for the creative sector, more than any other institution.[23] According to the Princetown Review 2015, Abertay ranked in the top 25 places in the world to study video game design.[10]

Academic organisation[edit]

Dundee Business School

The academic structure is based around four teaching Schools and one graduate school. The four teaching Schools are:

  • School of Arts, Media and Computer Games
  • Dundee Business School
  • School of Science, Engineering and Technology
  • School of Social & Health Sciences

The Graduate School provides dedicated support including study and social spaces for postgraduate students. The School provides training targeted towards the postgraduate community, seeking to enhance professional and research careers.

External accreditation[edit]

Abertay is externally peer reviewed under the Enhancement-led Institutional Review (ELIR) method by the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, Scotland (QAAS), on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). All provision is benchmarked to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF).

In addition, Modules and Programmes offered at Abertay currently have been accredited by the following professional bodies:

Association of Chartered Certified Accountants; Association of International Accountants; British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy; British Computer Society; British Council; British Psychological Society; Chartered Institute of Management Accountants; Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development; Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management; Counselling and Psychotherapy Scotland; Faculty of Advocates; Forensic Science Society; Health Professions Council; Higher Education Academy; Institute of Biomedical Science; Joint Audio Media Education Services; Joint Board of Moderators; Law Society of Scotland; Nursing and Midwifery Council; Royal Society of Chemistry; Skillset

Research organisation[edit]

Research themes[edit]

Research at the University is organised into four main themes.

  • Creative Industries
  • Environment
  • Security
  • Society

Each theme is associated with areas of expertise.

The creative industries research theme focuses on: games research; digital cultures; and digital living. The environment research theme focuses on: environmental science and engineering; food science and innovation; environmental and systems biology; and sustainable technology. The security theme on: cyber security; forensic psychobiology; forensic sciences; and law. The society theme on: business, economics and management; the law of employment; media and culture; mental health and wellbeing; psychology; sociology; and sport performance and exercise.

Research centres[edit]

The following research centres link to the environment theme.

  • FIA - Food Innovation @ Abertay
  • SAVE - Sustainability Assessment, Visualisation and Enhancement
  • SIMBIOS - Scottish Informatics Mathematics Biology and Statistics
  • UWTC - Urban Water Technology Centre


The University was established by a statutory instrument The University of Abertay Dundee (Scotland) Order of Council 1994.[24] The Order sets out the objects of the University and the general functions of the University Court to 'conduct the affairs of the University and carry out and promote its objects'. The Order requires that the University Court makes arrangements for a Principal to be appointed to 'discharge the functions of the University Court (other than those delegated to Senate by virtue of article 36(3) of the Order) relating to the organisation and management of the University and to the discipline therein'. The Order requires that the University Court appoints and maintains a Senate, delegating to it 'the functions of the University Court relating to the overall planning, co-ordination, development and supervision of the academic work of the University; and such other functions of the University Court as may be assigned to the Senate by the University Court'.

Notable features[edit]

Computer games education[edit]

Abertay was the UK's first University to be recognised as a Centre for Excellence in Computer Games Education.

The Centre for Excellence is accredited by Skillset[25][26] and has strong links with industrial partners from across the broadcast, interactive and wider digital media sectors. These partners include BBC Scotland, BBC Vision, BSkyB, Channel 4, Electronic Arts, Codemasters, Blitz Games Studios, Rare,Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, Microsoft and Disney Interactive.

Dare to be digital[edit]

The University developed the international game design competition Dare to be Digital in 1999 and has hosted the competition each year subsequently. The competition attracts interest from all over the world, with teams of students travelling to Scotland for nine weeks to develop a new computer game. Working with industry mentors, the teams experience the same studio environment as they would working with a major company. The games are put on show to the public at the annual Dare ProtoPlay games festival in August. The winning teams are the sole nominees for a unique BAFTA Ones to Watch Award, which is announced at the British Academy Video Games Awards each year. The School of Arts, Media and Computer Games hosts the competition.

The competition has attracted support from Scottish Enterprise Tayside, Dundee City Council, NCR Corporation and game developers such as Rare, Blitz Games Studios, Electronic Arts and Rockstar North.

Dundee Academy of Sport[edit]

Dundee Academy of Sport is a joint venture between the University and the Dundee and Angus College. The Academy offers school leavers with the opportunity to study up to doctoral level and beyond; offers training and development opportunities to school teachers; and seeks to further the wider access mission of the University through the provision of summer schools for local pupils making links between sport and the wider curricula.[27]

Electives for the 21st century[edit]

An electives scheme provides opportunities, from 2015/16, for all early years students to broaden their intellectual horizon beyond the standard single or joint Honours degree combinations on offer.


Coat of arms[edit]

Prior to 1953 no coat of arms were registered in the name of the College. The original Ensigns Armorial were recorded in the Public Register of All Arms and Bearings in Scotland on 25 July 1953, in the name of Dundee Technical College. They were subsequently transferred to Dundee College of Technology in 1977 then to Dundee Institute of Technology in 1988 and, finally, to the University of Abertay Dundee on 25 April 1994.

The Ensign Armorial are described as:

“Parted perfess, in chief tierced. 1st Ermine, a chevron engrailed between three mullets Gules; 2nd Azure, three chevronels Or; 3rd Argent, a spray of oak Proper fructed. Or between three pheons Azure, in base Azure, a pot of three flowering lilies Argent between two flanches Or each charged with a book Gules.”

The top left sector is taken from the Arms of Sir David Baxter of Kilmaron, who bequeathed a significant sum of money in order to establish the original Dundee Technical Institute in 1888. The top right sector is taken from the Arms of Sir William Dalgleish, who was the senior trustee of what by then was known as Dundee Technical College and School of Art, and who opened the first building – Old College – on Abertay’s present campus on Bell Street in 1911. The top sector of three chevrons is the heraldic symbol for “technical”. The lower central sector, the pot of lilies, is taken from the Arms of the City of Dundee, with the books on either side representing education.


Blessed is the one who finds wisdom. (Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam.)


Aaron McCauley, a graduate of Abertay, designed and registered the Abertay tartan in 2003. The tartan is based on Abertay's promotional colours of dark blue, red, gold and green from its coat of arms.[28]

Student life[edit]


  • Lyon Street
  • Meadowside Hall
  • Parker House - iQ Student Accommodation
  • Victoria Chambers

Students' centre[edit]

The student centre building was constructed in 2005 at a cost of £6 million. It provides a focal point for student entertainment and recreation and contains numerous outlets including Aroma coffee bar, Bar One, the Sports Bar, the Common Room E-Bar and Campus Shop.[29]

The Abertay Students' Association (Abertay SA) is based in the second floor of the Kydd building. AbertaySA co-ordinates all societies and acts as the voice and representation of all of Abertay's students. The President for 2016-17 is Connor Marshall and the Vice-President is Gerard McCullough.[30]

On the top floor of the building is the Hannah Maclure Centre (HMC), a cafe and art gallery. It also hosts university events and has a cinema which regularly has free film screenings, open to the public.

Student experience[edit]

The Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey 2016 ranked Abertay 51= out of 160 UK HE institutions.[31]

Notable alumni and staff[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Annual Report and Financial Statements for the year ended 31 July 2014" (PDF). Abertay University. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  2. ^ a b c "2015/16 Students by HE provider, level, mode and domicile" (XLSX). Higher Education Statistics Agency. Retrieved 17 February 2017. 
  3. ^ http://www.millionplus.ac.uk/who-we-are/our-affiliates/
  4. ^ http://www.guildhe.ac.uk/members/
  5. ^ "Member Universities - Universities Scotland". 
  6. ^ Jones, Peter (2014-10-09). "How Dundee became a computer games centre". BBC News. Retrieved 2014-12-13. 
  7. ^ Jones, Peter (8 December 2009). "Home of Grand Theft Auto gets £10 million boost for aspiring developers". The Times. News UK. (subscription required)
  8. ^ a b "Results & submissions : REF 2014". Retrieved 22 December 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Jump, Paul (1 January 2015). "REF 2014 rerun: who are the 'game players'?". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 14 February 2015. 
  10. ^ a b "Top 25 Game Design: Grad - The Princeton Review". www.princetonreview.com. 
  11. ^ Dundee Institute of Technology (1989). The First Hundred Years: 1888-1988. 
  12. ^ Laurie Taylor (3 June 2014). "You make me feel brand new". Times Higher Education. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  13. ^ "How Dundee became a computer games centre". BBC News. BBC. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  14. ^ a b "Abertay University £3 million funding for computer excellence". www.computescotland.com. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  15. ^ "Money for computer games centre". BBC News. BBC. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  16. ^ Hunter, Philip (19 December 1998). "Down your way: University of Abertay Dundee library". ARIADNE magazine. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  17. ^ "University League Table 2018". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  18. ^ "University league tables 2018". The Guardian. 16 May 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  19. ^ "The Times and Sunday Times University Good University Guide 2018". Times Newspapers. Retrieved 24 September 2017. 
  20. ^ "Teaching Excellence Framework outcomes". Higher Education Funding Council for England. Retrieved 22 June 2017. 
  21. ^ "How Dundee became a computer games centre". BBC News. BBC. 9 October 2014. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  22. ^ "Money for computer games centre". BBC News. BBC. 10 February 2009. Retrieved 13 December 2014. 
  23. ^ "Accredited Games and Interactive courses". Creative Skillset. Retrieved 4 February 2015. .
  24. ^ "University of Abertay Dundee (Scotland) Order of Council 1994". Retrieved 4 February 2015. 
  25. ^ "Computer Games Industry Accredited Courses". London: Creative Skillset. 
  26. ^ "Accredited Computer Games courses: University of Abertay Dundee". London: Creative Skillset. 
  27. ^ "home". www.dundeeacademyofsport.com. Retrieved 5 April 2015. 
  28. ^ "Abertay checks in". Times Higher Education. 2004-01-30. Retrieved 2015-02-08. 
  29. ^ "Campus: Student Centre". University of Abertay Dundee Students' Association. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  30. ^ "The UADSA Executive". December 2014. 
  31. ^ https://www.timeshighereducation.com/student/news/national-student-survey-2016-overall-satisfaction-results

External links[edit]