Edinburgh College of Art

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Edinburgh College of Art
Type Art school
Established1760;264 years ago (1760)
Parent institution
University of Edinburgh (2004–present)
Heriot-Watt University (1966–2004)
Heriot-Watt College (1885–1966)
Watt Institution and School of Arts (1852–1885)
Chancellor HRH The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University [1]
Principal Professor Juan Cruz [2]
Academic staff
447 (203 FTE) (Sep 2021) [3]
Administrative staff
158 (133 FTE) [3]
Students3,365 (2020–21) [4]
Undergraduates 2,210
Postgraduates 885 (taught postgraduates)
Website www.eca.ed.ac.uk

Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) is one of eleven schools in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Edinburgh. [5] Tracing its history back to 1760, it provides higher education in art and design, architecture, history of art, and music disciplines for over three thousand students and is at the forefront of research and research-led teaching in the creative arts, humanities, and creative technologies. ECA comprises five subject areas: School of Art, Reid School of Music, School of Design, School of History of Art, and Edinburgh School of Architecture & Landscape Architecture (ESALA). [6] ECA is mainly located in the Old Town of Edinburgh, overlooking the Grassmarket; the Lauriston Place campus is located in the University of Edinburgh's Central Area Campus, not far from George Square.


The college was founded in 1760, and gained its present name and site in 1907. [7] Formerly associated with Heriot-Watt University, its degrees have been issued by the University of Edinburgh since 2004. [8] The college formally merged with the university on 1 August 2011, combining with the School of Arts, Culture and Environment and continues to exist with the name Edinburgh College of Art as an enlarged school in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. [9]


Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) can trace its history back to 1760, when the Trustees Drawing Academy of Edinburgh was established by the Board of Trustees for Fisheries, Manufactures and Improvements in Scotland. [10] This board had been set up by Act of Parliament in 1727 to "encourage and promote the fisheries or such other manufactures and improvements in Scotland as may most conduce to the general good of the United Kingdom". The aim of the academy was to train designers for the manufacturing industries. Drawing and the design of patterns for the textile industries were taught at the Academy's rooms at Picardy Place. [11]

The board was responsible for the construction of the Royal Institution (named for the Royal Institution for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts in Scotland), now the Royal Scottish Academy building, on The Mound and also commissioned the Scottish National Portrait Gallery on Queen Street. [11] [12] From 1826, classes were held at the Royal Institution building. The master of the school was always a fine artist, the first being French painter William Delacour. Subsequent masters included Alexander Runciman and David Allan. The academy's focus gradually shifted from applied arts to encompass fine art, and the school gained a reputation for excellence in both painting and design. Scottish artists who were trained at the Academy include John Brown, Alexander Nasmyth and Andrew Wilson.

In 1858, the academy was affiliated to the Science and Art Department in London, known as the "South Kensington system", under which it became the Government School of Art for the city of Edinburgh. A School of Applied Art was also established under this system. [13] The Drawing School became part of a system of schools managed on similar lines, and distinctive teaching practices were lost. In 1903 it amalgamated with the School of Applied Art. In 1907, the Scottish Education Department took over responsibility for the school, and it became Edinburgh College of Art. [14]

ECA was officially recognised by the Scottish Government as a Small Specialist Institution for the teaching of art, design and architecture prior to the merger with University of Edinburgh in 2011. From 1968 it was associated with Heriot-Watt University for degree awarding purposes but the validation agreement with Heriot-Watt University was due to end in 2012. [8] In 2004 ECA partnered with the University of Edinburgh for degree awarding purposes, an Academic Federation Agreement to facilitate closer collaboration was put in place between the two institutions in 2007 and they merged in 2011. [15] [16] At the time the merger plan was announced in January 2011, Scottish Government Education Secretary Mike Russell criticised the financial management of ECA. [9]

The joint Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) formed in August 2009 as a joint venture between ECA and the University of Edinburgh. [8]

The first professorship in an ECA subject area was the Reid Professor of Music, which was created in 1839, with the first holder being Scottish composer John Thomson who conducted the first Reid concert in 1841. [17] The Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Art founded some forty years later, the first of its kind in the British Isles and a turning point in the teaching of the History of Art.

In 2005, the College joined with Edinburgh Napier University to launch the Screen Academy Scotland, a new centre of excellence in film learning and education. [18]

College buildings

Sculpture Court Sculpture Court in the Edinburgh College of Art.jpg
Sculpture Court

With the creation of Edinburgh College of Art in 1907, the institution moved to new premises on Lady Lawson Street. Formerly a cattle market, the site lies above the Grassmarket and opposite Edinburgh Castle. [19] The red sandstone main building was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by John Wilson while working for John More Dick Peddie and George Washington Browne, and was completed in 1909. [20] The main building was listed Category A in 1970. Inside, the Sculpture Court displays casts of the Elgin Marbles and other antique statuary, alongside changing displays of contemporary student's work. [21]

The Architecture Building was added to the east end of the college in 1961, designed by architect Ralph Cowan, who was a Professor of Architecture at the college. [22] In 1977 the Lauriston Campus was expanded with the addition of the Hunter Building. This L-shaped red sandstone block, designed by Anthony Wheeler in 1971, encloses the college courtyard and fronts Lauriston Place to the south. [23] In the 1990s the college took over a separate group of buildings in the Grassmarket, for use as a library and teaching space, and also took over the former Salvation Army building on West Port. These buildings in the Grassmarket and West Port were disposed of after the College purchased Evolution House.

The nine-storey Evolution House on West Port by Reiach and Hall Architects was completed 2003, adjacent to the main College building. Built as speculative offices, it now houses the art and design library, as well as providing design studios and office facilities for the School of Design. While the college remains mainly concentrated on the Lauriston Place Campus, as a result of the merger with the University of Edinburgh in August 2011, the new enlarged ECA incorporated Minto House on Chambers Street (part of ESALA) and Alison House in Nicolson Square (Reid School of Music). In 2017, the Lauriston Campus expanded to include the former Lothian & Borders Fire & Rescue Service Headquarters, formerly housing the'Museum of Fire', Building (arch. Robert Morham, 1897–1901).

The Wee Red Bar serves as the student union bar, and acts as a year-round venue for gigs and theatre shows, and also acts a venue during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Notable alumni and academics

See also Category:Alumni of the Edinburgh College of Art








See also

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Further reading

55°56′42.68″N3°11′53.52″W / 55.9451889°N 3.1982000°W / 55.9451889; -3.1982000