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Overseas university spotlight: University of Aberdeen (UK)

Set in Scotland's third largest city and founded in 1495, the University of Aberdeen is one of the six ancient universities in the UK.


Whilst walking along the cobbled High Street through the historic part of campus, I could easily imagine that I had stepped back in time.


It's also one of two universities in Aberdeen, which is located in the north of Scotland and closely tied to the shipping and energy industries.


Here are some of the highlights of my trip to campus in February 2023!


University of Aberdeen

Campus


Although the University of Aberdeen has been around for more than 500 years, one of the first things you'll notice is that many of its buildings were built in the 1960s or onwards.


Our group at the University of Aberdeen
The building on the left is the Zoology building, which was featured in the movie Tetris as the headquarters of a Soviet firm
The building on the left is the Zoology building, which was featured in the movie Tetris as the headquarters of a Soviet firm
This building won an architecture award
Lecture hall
Lecture hall

The new university library is really modern and 10 stories tall, sufficiently equipped to accommodate its 15,000 students.


Library
Library
Cool library cafe
Cool library cafe
Inside the new library
Woofie Wednesdays with Therapets
Inside the library
View from the 10th floor
View from the 10th floor
View from the 10th floor
View from the 10th floor

When it comes to student housing, Hillhead Village is the most popular and accommodates about 2,000 residents.


With an on-site grocery store, bar, food facilities, pool tables, study spaces and athletic courts, it truly is both a nice and convenient place to live.


Co-op grocery store near the student housing
Hillhead Village food hall
Hillhead Village pool tables
Hillhead Village sports centre

Students living in the residences can also participate in exercise classes like yoga and Zumba on site, a language cafe, pet therapy, art workshops, cooking classes and more.


Hillhead Village relaxing area
Hillhead Village common kitchen
Hillhead Village common kitchen

There is also separate postgraduate housing as well as alcohol-free dorms.


To get to campus, it's about a 20-minute walk through Seaton Park or a 5-minute bus ride.


Students' Association
Hillhead Student Village
Hillhead Student Village
Shared cooking and common area in the dorms
Shared cooking and common area in the dorms

All students living in the dorms get a free membership to the very impressive Sports Village.


Aberdeen Sports Village
Aberdeen Sports Village Aquatics Centre

There are full-length indoor track and soccer fields and two pools, one specifically for diving.


Track and field facilities
Aberdeen soccer pitch
Diving centre

Back on the King's Campus, students tend to hang out in the Students' Association building and the St. Machar Bar, which is located on High Street (the oldest part of campus).


Students' Union
Student cafe
The St. Machar Bar

Walking along High Street really felt a bit surreal, almost as if I were on a movie set.


High Street in Aberdeen
High Street
MacRobert Memorial Garden
MacRobert Memorial Garden
MacRobert Memorial Garden
Student path
University Road
Campus gates
New King's building, the most recognizable one on campus
New King's building, the most recognizable one on campus
King's building
Cathedral
Scottish unicorn
Inside the King's building
King's Building
Inside the chapel of New King's
Inside the chapel of New King's
The chapel
Arches in the old part of campus
Historical part of campus
Historical part of campus
Historical part of campus

Academics


The University of Aberdeen is ranked 13th in the UK and offers a wide-range of degree programs.


I was fortunate to be able to attend a fascinating lecture by Professor Bill Naphy (who is American) from the School of Divinity.


He gave a talk on the Aberdeenshire witch-hunt of 1597, where 200 of the 400 people tried in the region were executed (20% of whom were actually men).


One point that Professor Naphy really drove home though was the idea that at Aberdeen, students are taught to learn, rather than to memorize.


Academic buildings

Aberdeen also has the oldest psychology department in the UK, dating back to 1896, and it is third in the UK for student satisfaction in this field.


This high student satisfaction may be attributed to the fact that there is a 6-to-1 student to staff ratio for tutorials, so students get a lot of personal attention, along with peer-assisted learning opportunities.


Aberdeen is also known for its professional degrees in the areas of law, medicine and engineering.


Fraser Noble Building (engineering)

The City of Aberdeen


Aberdeen is known as the Silver City and the Granite City, as it was formerly the granite capital of the world.


So many of its buildings were made out of granite that they even sparkle in the sunlight.


Granite City

Yes, the sun does come out in Aberdeen, but due to its location far north, it tends to go down around 3 p.m. in winter and doesn't come up until about 9 a.m.


On the flip side, summer days are LONG!


Greyfriars Church
Greyfriars Church

Comparatively to Glasgow, Aberdeen is much drier, about a third of its size and much more affordable, too.


Crown Street

Aberdeen is home to 200,000 people, 20% of whom were not born in the UK.


View from my hotel

With a condensed city centre, you can really walk anywhere you need to go, including campus, which is about 30 minutes on foot.


You'll also no doubt notice the number of ships around the harbor, as Aberdeen is a logistics hub.


Shipping industries in Aberdeen

And for those looking to get out and about, it's only about a 15-minute walk to the beach and a 20-25 minute drive to the hills/mountains area -- meaning you can ski and surf in the same day!


The coastline near Aberdeen

The University of Aberdeen: Summary


The University of Aberdeen really surprised me.


From the ancient buildings along High Street, to the more brutalist ones from the '60s, to the really modern ones, like the new library, it has quite an interesting mix of architecture on campus.


King's Building

It also has one of the best student villages I've seen in terms of recreational facilities and student programs.


I loved the walkability of Aberdeen, the friendliness of the locals and the unique phrases used by Aberdonians, such as 'fit like,' which means: hello, how are you?


And as one of the more flexible UK universities when it comes to testing and admissions, Aberdeen could be a great option for many U.S. students.


 

Interested in applying for college or grad school abroad?


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G'day! My name is Sara, and I'm the founder of College Apps Abroad and a Certified Educational Planner (CEP), one of only 40 CEP's in California and 300 worldwide. I have more than 10 years of experience working in international recruitment and admissions, and I've studied and lived overseas myself in the UK, Ireland, Australia and Brazil for almost a decade. I've also worked for some of the world's top institutions, including The University of Edinburgh, the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and The University of Western Australia (UWA)!

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