Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Saturday, 31 July 2021

The Oldest UK Universities

Edinburgh university founded 1583

My younger son was working down near Cambridge as an engineer, when a colleague asked him what kind of degree did he have from a mickey mouse university like Aberdeen anyway? (The cheek and ignorance!)  My English brother-in-law also used to talk of how England subsidized Scotland and that Scots were merely scroungers. I am tired of the English talking Scotland down! Why are we in such negative competition, rather than co-operating? Once Scots were leaders. 

I have visited Aberdeen campus several times and was highly impressed with the historic buildings, it was obvious Aberdeen was one of the worlds oldest universities, established 1495. So I thought I’d look at the UK’s oldest universities. 

What happened to those brave Scots who were leaders in the Empire 1700s, traders, explorers, inventers, innovators, educators, ship builders – when once we were partners? But no more. That all stopped over a century ago. When the British empire was established in the 1700s, they depended on the educated Scots as their bookkeepers, explorers, surveyors, scientists, philosophers, scholars, poets, engineers,. At this time Scotland boasted four leading universities and its population was 1m compared to England at 4m.  

Aberdeen University Kings college founded 1495

My belief is we must look at our Scots history,  which has been rigorously suppressed. Look up the oldest universities UK – (Oxford and Cambridge were initially centres of clerical teachings late 1090s); in the 1400s it was Scottish universities which were 4 leading centres of learning – St Andrews 1410, Glasgow 1451, Aberdeen 1495, Edinburgh 1583. 

It wasn’t until 400 years later, in the 1800s that England set up universities. Manchester 1824, London 1826, Durham 1832.

Surgeons Hall Edinburgh founded 1726
Edinburgh also has one of the world’s leading medical schools. In 2011 I was honoured to attend Edinburgh’s Surgeons hall where my son graduated, and was amazed to discover, not only its long history, but that the Edinburgh medical school is one of the oldest in the world (and the UK) and was established in 1726 during the Scottish enlightenment. Graduates of the medical school have founded medical schools and universities all over the world including 5 out of the 7 Ivy League medical schools Pennsylvania, Yale, Columbia and Harvard. The Scottish Enlightenment was part of a wider European movement, reaching its height in this country between 1750-1800 

Over the past decade I have been researching Scotia’s past and realised ‘Auld Scotia’ led the world with education, reform, philosophy and enlightened though. The great French philosopher and historian Voltaire (1694-1778) said 'We look to Scotland for all our ideas of civilisation'. At this time European thinkers challenged old ideas about almost every aspect of life. They argued that the way forward was to use “reason” when seeking answers to questions. 

Scots founded Americas top universities. I heard Tom Devine discuss the profound influence of Scots on Americans universities. Scots scholars went over to America and founded several centres of learning. Scots Americans were crucially involved in setting up centres of learning and universities there and were some of American’s Founding Fathers. They were profoundly important to the American constitution – such as the Scottish Enlightenment figures and the influence of Scottish Moral Philosophy. Notably Scot John Witherspoon founded Princeton and educated future president James Madison, 28 senators, 49 congressmen and 39 judges.

*Meanwhile in Scotland, (1) St Andrews was the first university founded 1410, Ever to excel.  
 (2) University of Glasgow, founded 1451 as an addition to the city’s cathedral. It boasts numerous notable alumni - economist Adam Smith, inventor, engineer James Watt, actor Gerard Butler, author John Niven, and Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.  

 (3) University of Aberdeen (1495) reaches back more than 500 years: Originally founded in 1495 as King’s College, and thus the 5th-oldest university in the UK, it merged in 1860 with Marischal College. Today, the University of Aberdeen regularly ranks among the top 200 universities in the world. Notable alumni include actor Iain Glen (Game of Thrones) and author Ali Smith.  

 (4) University of Edinburgh founded in 1583 – famous scientists studied here: theory of evolution Charles Darwin, statistician Thomas Bayes, famous physicist James Clerk Maxwell.

It wasn’t until 400 years later in the 1800s that England developed their universities (5) University of Manchester founded 1824:   (6) University College London founded 1826 a collegiate federal university that now includes almost 20 colleges. Alumni roster Francis Crick (co-discoverer of the DNA), Ricky Gervais (actor), Coldplay, and Mahatma Gandhi.  (7) Durham University founded(1832)

***The Universities of Oxford and Cambridge had both been founded 1096 as a centres of Theology and training for clerics. University of Oxford 1096 and the University of Cambridge was founded in 1209. This changed with new colleges around the 1400s.

"Americans built their world around the principles of Adam Smith and Thomas Reid of individual interest governed by common sense and a limited need for government.'   Historian Arthur L Herman

Glasgow University founded 1451

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Burning the Books

Burning the Books: A history of knowledge under attack by Richard Ovenden 


Ovenden writes of the importance of knowledge and creative thought. 


The Benedictine monks of Canterbury preserved the writing of the Greek philosophers such as Aristotle, Ovid, Soppho – “most were destroyed by that fat oaf Henry VIII – the manuscripts were sold off to local grocers to wrap their wares.”


“But all too often civilization, with its many book and competing ideas, has presented a feeble self-doubt in the face of marching fanaticism. A reading culture is multiple, full of competing viewpoints. The fanatic surveys the world with a monochrome simplicity, and before advancing to burning people, always begins with books, statures and memory.”


The great library of the ancient world at Alexandria, with thousands of scrolls. Many were lost in a fire during Caesars’ campaign and destroyed by religious extremists – both Christian and early Muslims, who despised other narratives. Legend says the scrolls were used to heat the 4,500 baths of Alexandria’s lasted 6 months. 


Today we have control by tech companies – “the worlds memory has now been outsourced to these companies without society realising the fact or really being able to comprehend the consequences.”

Rather than enforcement, the better way is through education and teaching philosophy. Knowledge is the key. So is freedom of speech. Now we have speech censorship and safe spaces in universities. We must beware censorship, while also hate speech must not be allowed. We must beware the blind and ignorant fanatic. 


I believe change can’t occur on the grand scale – but rather with those small ripples we send out on the small scale. Its about changing the system too and having a government used to working in a consensual way and collaborating – and not as the UK government with its 2 man show used to pushing their weight around. 


As the caliph Omar said, with impeccable logic, “If these books of the Greeks agree with the book of God, they are useless and need not be preserved; if they disagree, they are pernicious and ought to be destroyed.”

There is the awful image of the young German students burning books in Berlins Unter den Linden in 1933, with Goebbels boasting about ‘wanting to commit to the flames the evil spirit of the past.’ We must beware censorship.


Knowledge and philosophy, libraries, bookshops and education are the key to a better future.

Stalin had a philosophy steamer expel all the creative thinkers and artists. Because independent, creative art and thought is a threat to dictators everywhere. Scarily we also have the rise of fierce extremists’ echo chambers and thought police on social media and big Tech platforms. There is so much out there – we must check who are sources actually are.


Ovenden is head librarian at the Bodleian oxford and devoted to the preservation of books – a key tool in the defence of open societies. 


Fanatics burn knowledge 



Friday, 13 January 2017


Blazin Fiddles

Has been a turbulent, insane, divisive and blind year and full of losses too. The words in 2016 were – fake news, post truth, we don’t know – if the news doesn’t know anymore?

Supposedly we voted in 2014 for ‘the security and safety’ of an ‘equal’ partnership with Westminster' and greater Devolution??  Mmm? As MP Mhairi Black writes - 'they ask the Scottish parliament to drive a car with only the use of the indicators. '

And Independence dreams…..
Some fearful unionists supporters put the ‘Daily Star’ on top of the independence supporting ‘National’ newspaper every day! In the vain hope that any independence hopes will simply fade away!. I like to hope in the end truth can prevail and the reality of the false lies (not promises at all) from the false Westminster wake the doubters up. 
Scotland is very defiantly a real country, with very real and very different aspirations to those of England.  In fact Scotland has a long and proud history. I hope doubters can see this and that the best hopes for Scotland’s future lie in independence in Europe. 

Just as well the Westminster elites and those bumbling idiots such as Boris and Davis are "taking back control for us all" - **phew **- I was worried there are a while too? A lot of the 'posh' folks are champagne socialists - one rule for meself, another for the plebs. My motto is - no matter if you are a no or yes, or remain or leave in these FAKE referendums – we need to 'de-centralise the UK governments' (which have been over-centralised ever since the great wars last century). And that would be really taking back control!

7 is one of my lucky numbers so I am hoping for some magic in 2017!. Things can be better if we remember first our shared humanity – and our interconnectedness – that has made us what we are.

I believe we need more Education on Modern studies and Philosophy (rather than out-dated religions that don't run countries anymore, that is why at the time of Union 1707 Scotland kept the Kirk as religions used to run countries) urgently these days to counteract all the nonsense Fake News, Post Truth and online propaganda. We have a new US President elected on sensational Twitter posts and an unelected UK PM steering this strange exit to some unknown destination. What is going on?

That is one big reason I focus on music, art and poetry – for they express what unites us and more – the Arts express our higher callings. This used to be religion. I’m not religious but I do believe in that magic at a top class gig when everyone is singing and everyone is believing. This sustains us and feeds our soul. Some of us have forgotten though….
Chieftians concert for the Easter Rising Celtic Connections 2016

2017 will be a Year of Anniversaries…..

 500 years – Martin Luther Reformation
100 years - Finland’s’ Independence
100 years – Russian Revolution
150 years - Canadian independence

Also ironically the 60 year anniversary of the Treaty of Rome;
And the 70 year anniversary of the Edinburgh International festival.

PS  It is well worth watching this recording of Nicola Sturgeon's speech to Irish Senate (Seanad Eireann) and the Senates questions and responses after. Not sure I saw this mentioned on the BBC news!??


Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 A Year of Resolutions and Turbulence.

A Year of Resolutions and turbulence.
A year of change, destruction and extremes, of questioning and uprising.
The Arab Spring and bloody times. Murder of ignorant dictators.
Did we ever see the like..? 
The Sun and Rupert Murdoch were told to answer for their Code of No Ethics.
The collapse of the Euro.
Japanese Tsunami.
Royal wedding, Global Warming.
Floods. Earthquakes. Hurricanes.
The Internet brought us close, yet kept us apart.

My wishes for 2012 . 
That education is not about 'mediocrity', what is average and multiple choice questions - but about individuality, creativity, questioning and higher standards. That the new religion is harmony, morality and freedom of thought.
More peaceful times.... 

Best on Jools Holland – Pokey Lafarge and the South City Three! and Aloe Blacc
BBC Scotland - Rab Noakes singing Gerry Rafferty’s ‘Get it Right Next Time.’