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Overseas university spotlight: University of Glasgow (UK)

The city of Glasgow is everything a city should be; it bristles with history, culture and creativity.


And in the heart of its West End sits the University of Glasgow, one of the six ancient universities and Scotland's second oldest, having been around for nearly 600 years.


Founded in 1451, its mission nowadays is to be the best university not in the world -- but rather, for the world -- and it is proud to be a University of Sanctuary, specifically for being welcoming to forced migrants.


It also ranked in the top 20 in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2022, which assesses universities against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


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


University of Glasgow main building

Glasgow


I first came to visit the city as a backpacker in 2007, and it has definitely developed quite a bit since then.


Notably, in 2008 it was named a UNESCO City of Music, recognized for its music industry, hosting of music festivals, variety of cultural spaces for practicing and listening to music and more.


SEC Armadillo Auditorium
SEC Armadillo Auditorium

I had the chance to check out the live music scene one evening and saw Courtney Marie Andrews play in Saint Luke's, one of many converted churches in the city (it also had an adjoining bar).


Saint Luke's
Saint Luke's
St Luke's music venue / bar

It was super cool, and the most interesting part was that this particular venue and event drew a crowd of all age groups and backgrounds.


St Luke's music venue / bar

Geographically speaking, Glasgow is located in the central belt, and that means it does rain a bit more than it does in Edinburgh even though it's only 40 minutes on the train away...


...Not during my visit though!


George Square
George Square
The world’s biggest terracotta fountain
The world’s biggest terracotta fountain
Glasgow Green, the oldest public park in the city, gifted in the 1400s
Glasgow Green, the oldest public park in the city, gifted in the 1400s
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green
Glasgow Green
McLennan Arch
McLennan Arch

Culturally and ethnically, it is the most diverse city in Scotland, and it is also the fourth cheapest UK city.


Vegans will be pleased to know it's one of the most vegan cities, and it is a fashion hub and home of comedian Billy Connolly.


Billy Connolly mural
Billy Connolly mural

With a population around 1 million, Glasgow is Scotland's largest city and the only one to have a subway system.


Glasgow subway station

Opened in 1896, the 'Clockwork Orange' is the third oldest underground rail system in Europe and was given its nickname for the fact that it is orange and runs in a very simple circle.


For those who are geographically challenged, it's definitely one of the easiest public transport systems to figure out!


Clockwork Orange subway map

Glasgow is also the perfect city for art, architecture and history enthusiasts.


Gallery of Modern Art
Gallery of Modern Art
The Wild Olive Tree, a cafe that donates all its profits to charity and provides free food for the homeless
The Wild Olive Tree, a cafe that donates all its profits to charity and provides free food for the homeless
Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Cathedral
Glasgow Necropolis
Glasgow Necropolis
Glasgow Tollbooth
Glasgow Tollbooth
Glasgow shopping area
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
Beautiful Glasgow architecture

With a number of universities in Glasgow, it's very much a student-friendly city.


But perhaps the most noticeable thing for me is this: everybody talks.


In the elevator, on the street, in the shops; everybody talks to you!

In fact, in 2021, Glasgow was named by 'Timeout' as the friendliest city in the world, and this was absolutely my experience.


People make Glasgow sign

Campus


Although it was founded in medieval times, the University of Glasgow's current campus was built in the 1800s and interestingly, was one of the first parts of the city to have electricity.


University of Glasgow main building

It's one of the larger UK universities with about 35,000 students in total (1,000 Americans), and it has the highest population of Scottish students, too.


As nearly half of the student body is Scottish, Glasgow is considered the 'Most Scottish University' (and all history students study Scottish History in the first year).


University of Glasgow main building

It was also the Times & Sunday Times Scottish Uni of the Year in 2022.


The most famous part of the university is centred around the cloisters, with the very recognizable arches.


University of Glasgow main building
Uni Glasgow main gate
Uni Glasgow main gate
Don't step in the grass; otherwise you could fail your exams!
Don't step in the grass; otherwise you could fail your exams!
Uni Glasgow arches
Inside the University of Glasgow main building
Inside the University of Glasgow main building
Uni Glasgow main building
Uni Glasgow main building on the right
Uni Glasgow main building
Quiet professors' park
Touch the unicorn for good luck!
Touch the unicorn for good luck!
View from the front of campus
This was actually supposed to be the front of the building, but workers set it up in the back!
This was actually supposed to be the front of the building, but workers set it up in the back!
University of Glasgow founding stone

The Adam Smith Business School (with Triple Crown accreditation) is located here, but a brand new business school is actually in the works.


Adam Smith Business School

In fact, there is a lot of campus development going on (£1.7 billion worth!).


The brand new James McCune Smith Learning Hub (on the right below) opened in 2021, named after the first African American to get a degree in medicine and a former Glasgow student.


Wolfson Medical School

On the left (above) is the Wolfson Medical School.


Wolfson Medical School

Just up the road is the 13-floor library, the largest library in Europe.


University of Glasgow library
View from the library
View from the library

There are two student unions on campus as well.


Glasgow Uni Students' Union
Queen Margaret Students' Union

Glasgow students also benefit from having five on-campus museums, including one within Zoology.


Zoology building at Glasgow

Outside of classes, there is an adorable street called Ashton Lane nearby where many students relax and have a pint.


Ashton Lane in Glasgow
Ashton Lane in Glasgow

And for students wanting a more rural student experience, the university also operates a campus in Dumfries (a town of 40,000 people) just 80 miles away.


It is a very close-knit community of only 500 students, but the campus is beautifully set on 85 acres of parklands and is great for the study of environmental sciences.


Academics


The University of Glasgow is a large, comprehensive university with loads of joint honours (double major) degree options.


Because of the Scottish degree structure, most students are able to take classes outside their major in the first two years before settling on their intended course of study.


University of Glasgow buildings

Glasgow is one of the few universities in Europe to offer an AVMA-accredited veterinary program, and it is also known for its programs in medicine, law (both common law and Scottish law), business, politics and much more.


University of Glasgow buildings

Its engineering program is also quite unique and dates back to 1872; Glasgow was actually the first university in the UK to offer it.


Unlike many engineering degrees where students are stuck with a particular type of engineering from day one, however, Glasgow offers a common first year.


This means students could switch into another engineering discipline in that year if they discover they actually prefer a different type of engineering.


About a quarter of the engineering students at Glasgow are female, and students work on quite interesting and relevant projects, such as how to manufacture Covid tests out of cardboard instead of plastic.


Central to the Glasgow academic experience overall, however, is the idea of internationalization.


According to its Student Experience Strategy, Glasgow is aiming for at least half of its students to have some sort of international experience included in their degree by 2025.


University of Glasgow: Summary


Glasgow is one of the most authentic cities in the UK, bursting with culture, arts and friendly people who just can't wait to get to know you.


It's affordable, it's historical, it's lively and it's easy to get around.


Glasgow city skyline

Students are really central to life here, and the University of Glasgow student body makes up a large percentage of this.


At Glasgow, students can expect a research-focused, independent style of teaching and learning but also a flexible enough course structure to obtain both depth and breath of studies.


With beautiful buildings, a long history of success, a strong reputation worldwide and everything else it has to offer, it's no wonder the University of Glasgow is one of the most popular institutions for American students and students in general!


Professor offices

 

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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