GRAB Lunch: Student Mobility



Last week Archive Services attended a GRAB lunch which looked at student mobility. Of course the lunch focused on the present day and the importance of students being able to study abroad. However the presence of Archive Services allowed attendees to look at the University of Glasgow’s rich history of student mobility and internationalisation.




Whilst studying abroad is often seen as relatively modern opportunity, the idea is as ancient as the concept of university itself. From the University of Glasgow’s conception in 1451 it was common practice for students to study in a variety of different countries. As the language of learning, Latin, was universal it could be argued that it was easier for students to study further afield as they were less constrained by language (although English is rapidly becoming the language of study today). Bishop William Turnbull, the founder of the University of Glasgow, studied at St Andrews, the University of Louvain and the University of Pavia. Indeed the university was established by Papal Bull which used the University of Bologna as a model for Glasgow.

Robert Story

Robert Story


Glasgow has continued to have internationally minded staff, with many rectors, professors and principals having studied abroad. In the sixteenth century Andrew Melville, principal and key figure in the Scottish Reformation, came to Glasgow after years studying and teaching abroad; it is certain that his time abroad gave him an appreciation for humanism. William Elphinstone, one of the first students at the University of Glasgow, went on to be Dean of the Faculty of Arts after studying Canon Law in Paris. More recently Principal Robert Story, whose papers are held by Archive Services, studied at the University of Heidelberg before becoming a minister.


John Scouler


Students over a variety of subjects have travelled for their education. One graduate in Medicine, Richard Prichard, was fortunate enough to study under Freud in Vienna in the late nineteenth century. At the start of the eighteenth century, John Simson, a student of Divinity, went to the Netherlands to continue his theological studies. John Scouler, a man of many talents, started his studies at Glasgow in Botany aged only fourteen and went to Paris aged nineteen. Before graduating with an MA in 1912, Florence Marian McNeill travelled in France and Germany.



Over the years the university has not just seen Scottish students going abroad but has also welcomed students from around the world. One of the first students known to have come from abroad was Jeremias Barbaeus, a French student who graduated in 1589. Interesting examples of this are two Russian students, Desnitsky and Tretyakov, who came to study under Adam Smith during the Enlightenment and became the first Russian students to study in Britain. Although they had a turbulent time at university, their study here allowed them to bring Adam Smith’s ideas to Russia and Desnitsky became ‘the father of Russian Jurisprudence’.

Globalisation may be seen as a modern phenomenon, yet students at the University of Glasgow have been travelling the globe for hundreds of years. As time has gone on many of the challenges earlier international students faced in communication and travel have lessened but the benefits remain remarkably similar. Access to new cultures, ideas and knowledge all remain central to the success of student mobility and university life as a whole.


Categories: Archive Services

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