Moray House School of Education and Sport

Part 9: Moray House and the Universities: 1991-1998

The history of the consolidation of colleges and universities, leading to Moray House's eventual merger with the University of Edinburgh.

Heriot Watt University

For many years the government in Scotland had been sceptical of the role that universities could play in initial teacher education. For much of the 20th century the Scottish Education Department had maintained its control over this professional area, the only exception being the teacher training course at Stirling University.

The SED did recognise, however, that the universities had a role to play in supporting the staff development of practising teachers through their original BEd and later MEd courses. Conversely, the colleges of education were prevented from offering their own MEd degrees.

Because of the review of the CNAA Moray House had to find alternative validation arrangements. Following confidential discussions Moray House and Heriot Watt University published a ‘Statement of Intent’ in June 1989, which opened up the possibility of fostering closer academic collaboration and ‘the prospect of a formal institutional linkage’.

Following detailed consultations a legal agreement was drawn up which was approved by the Secretary of State in February 1991. This meant that Moray House students would become matriculated students of Heriot Watt, receiving academic awards of the university’s Senate rather than of the CNAA. However, Moray House retained its separate finding, its Board of Governors and Academic Board. This arrangement was similar to that of Edinburgh Art College, which had been associated with Heriot Watt for a number of years.

In 1991 Moray House College of Education became Moray House Institute of Education and from 1992 onwards its graduating students were awarded degrees of Heriot Watt University.

The consolidation of universities and colleges

In 1993 the Scottish Higher Education Funding Council (SHEFC) was established. This organisation was responsible for the allocation of student places for all Scottish higher education institutions, along with the associated disbursement of grants. The Funding Council indicated that it would support closer institutional links and mergers where appropriate. Whilst the Moray House and Heriot Watt linkage was the first of its type in Scotland, the first full merger between a former college of education and a university was that between Jordanhill College and Strathclyde University both in Glasgow. These moves were the beginning of the major consolidation to follow in Scottish higher education.

More information about the consolidation in Scottish higher Education between 1981 and 2001 can be downloaded here.


This process of consolidation was partly driven by the increasing financial problems of the sector in general and particularly by those of the smaller higher education institutions.

At Moray House this was compounded by the difficulties posed by the poor state of its teaching accommodation. Whilst it possessed extensive properties at Holyrood, Cramond and Newington many of its buildings required major investment to bring them up to an acceptable standard. These issues were highlighted in its 1994 Estates Strategy and in response a rolling programme was planned beginning with the refurbishment of Charteris Land in 1995.

This was followed by the building of a new Library in Dalhousie Land, part funded by an SED grant, and opened in 1996. Finally a major refurbishment of Paterson’s Land was begun in 1996/7. Because of rising maintenance costs the Board of Governors agreed to the closure and sale of Newington Campus in 1997 which had been student hostels since 1916.

Since the 1980s Moray House had endeavoured to support the research aspirations of its staff and with the Heriot Watt linkage the first professorial appointments were made. Moray House achieved a creditable rating in the Education subject in the 1992 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE), a UK - wide process. An improved rating in the 1996 RAE led to funding being awarded by SHEFC of some £0.5 million to support its ongoing research programme.

During the 1990s the quality of the work of higher education in the UK was subject to increased external scrutiny. For Moray House this involved a visitation in 1996 by the Higher Education Quality Council (HEQC). The Council’s report was a positive one: ‘a vibrant staff and well managed institution’ with ‘well developed and robust quality assurance processes and strong links with the professions’.

However, difficulties were beginning to arise with the Moray House/Heriot Watt linkage. In particular, Moray House was of the view that there should be substantial delegation of responsibilities to it for the quality assurance arrangements for its courses.

The University of Edinburgh

Moray House has had a long association with Edinburgh University. When the Normal School was first established it was wholly separate from the University. Simon Laurie, when Secretary to the Church of Scotland’s Education Committee, was particularly concerned that there should be links between these two types of institution. He was of the view that university graduates were superior to the products of the ‘hot house system’ of the Normal Schools. In 1873 the Scotch Education Department agreed that students in training could, alongside their schoolwork, also attend University classes. To be selected such students had to pass at first class grade in the Normal School’s entrance examinations and to have achieved well in Latin, Greek and Mathematics. Moray House students would attend Edinburgh University classes during the winter sessions. Many continued with their studies and went on to obtain a university MA or BSc.

In 1876 the Bell Chair of Education was established at Edinburgh University and Simon Laurie was appointed its first professor. He had long argued for Education to become a recognised University subject: "It is only through a knowledge of psychology and ethics that the schoolmaster can render to himself an account of what he is doing…" (1865). However, at that time the University did not accept any course for its MA degree outside the seven Liberal Arts courses and consequently Education had to remain an optional course, albeit a popular one. Also, neither the teaching colleges nor the churches welcomed the establishment of such chairs: to them the importance of professional experience and the expertise of the college teaching staff was paramount.

In 1903 Professor Alexander Darroch succeeded Professor Laurie as Bell Professor. For a short period he also acted as Director of Studies at Moray House and this marked the beginning of a period of closer links between Moray House and Edinburgh University. In the planning for the new 1913 teaching building Professor Darroch argued for the inclusion of a practical psychology teaching laboratory. He used these facilities for his own teaching on the University’s recently established Diploma Course and later its BEd (which became its MEd) until his untimely death in 1924. Alexander Morgan, Principal at Moray House (1907-1925), noted: "It may be that this movement will spread until the Training Colleges in Scotland become to all intents and purposes parts of the Faculties of Education in the Universities, and play a part similar to the professional schools of the other Faculties." These closer links culminated in the joint appointment in 1925 of Professor Godfrey Thomson as Bell Professor of Education at Edinburgh University and Director of Studies at Moray House.

However, after Professor Sir Godfrey Thomson’s retirement in 1951 these two roles were once again separated. Co-operation was maintained with the development of the joint BEd in 1966 but no formal academic links were retained during the period when CNAA was validating Moray House’s courses.

The merging of Moray House and the University of Edinburgh

The increasing difficulties over the relationship between Moray House and Heriot Watt University came to a head in 1995 and as a consequence an informal approach was made to the University of Edinburgh about the possibility of an institutional merger.

Professor Sir Stewart Sutherland and Professor Gordon Kirk issued a joint statement in October 1996 outlining the principles upon which subsequent discussions should be based. Following extensive local and national consultations the terms of a merger were initially agreed by the two institutions and then formally by the Secretary of State in June 1998.

On 1 August 1998 Moray House Institute of Education became the Faculty of Education of the University of Edinburgh. This coincided with Moray House’s celebration of 150 years of professional training based at Holyrood, Edinburgh.

Today the traditions and expertise of Moray House continue as 'Moray House School of Education and Sport' at the University of Edinburgh.