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The Choice of Stirling

This week has been mostly spent getting to grips with some of the university’s own archives. Over the years material has been transferred to the library from various departments and offices, with additional material being donated by graduates and former members of staff following an appeal made during the university’s 40th anniversary celebrations in 2007-08.

The planning documents, committee minutes and fundraising campaign publications produced in the mid to late 1960s provide a fascinating picture of the new university taking shape. The university opened its doors for the first time in September 1967. It was a brand new university, unlike many of its contemporaries it did not develop from an existing college or parent institution. Those involved in the planning of the university therefore had a blank sheet of paper on which to plan the new university (and also the untouched green fields of Airthrey Estate on which to build the physical campus).

Airthrey Castle before the arrival of the university in 1967.

So how did Stirling come to be chosen as the location for a new university? Well… in January 1964 the government announced that a new university should be set up in Scotland and the University Grants Committee was tasked with selecting its location. Campaigns were set up to lobby for this new institution in a number of towns across Scotland. In Stirling the Council submitted a proposal offering the Airthrey Estate as a suitable site. In April and May 1964 the UGC’s New Universities Sub-Committee visited the seven locations from which they had received serious submissions: Dumfries, Ayr, Cumbernauld, Falkirk, Inverness, Perth and Stirling.

The visits further strengthened the committee in its view that for reasons of geography and population the most suitable locations were those in Central Scotland (Cumbernauld, Falkirk and Stirling). The committee had been impressed with the possibilities offered by the Airthrey Estate (and the potential use of Stirling Castle for official ceremonies). The site, combined with Stirling’s excellent transport links, plentiful accommodation for staff and students and close proximity to industry led to Stirling becoming the unanimous choice of the committee – much to the surprise of the press who had considered Inverness and Falkirk the favourites to be chosen.