The university, Scotland's third oldest and the UK's fifth oldest university, was founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland. Bishop Elphinstone established King's College to train doctors, teachers and clergy for service in northern Scotland, and lawyers and administrators to serve the Scottish Crown.
The university opened with 36 staff and students and soon (1497) had the first chair of medicine in the English-speaking world. The modern University of Aberdeen was formed when in 1860 King's College merged with Marischal College (founded in Aberdeen in 1593). In 1894 the first matriculated females began their studies at the university and by 1899 women made up a quarter of the faculty.
As rich in history as the University of Aberdeen is, it continues to be a world-class institution of learning with, among other innovations, an Institute of Medical Sciences completed in 2002 providing state-of-the-art facilities for medical researchers and students. Today the university has over 13,000 students and more than 3,000 staff. The student body represents 120 nationalities and teaching is split into three colleges, The College of Medicine and Life Sciences, The College of Physical Sciences, and The College of Arts and Social Sciences.
Some of the distinguished Gifford lecturers at the University of Aberdeen include the following: Etienne Gilson, Karl Barth, Gabriel Marcel, Michael Polanyi, Paul Tillich, Ian Barbour, Jaroslav Pelikan, Alexander Broadie, and Russell Stannard.