End of Regenting System, 1708

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The abolition of the regenting system was the cornerstone of the programme of reforms introduced by William Carstares (1649-1715) as Principal of Edinburgh University from 1703 to 1715.

The regenting system had been in operation since the opening of the university in 1583. Each 'regent' took the same class through all four years of their degree course, teaching all subjects himself, then recommenced the cycle with a new first-year (or ‘Bajan’) class. In an effort to remodel Edinburgh University along European lines, Carstares persuaded the Town Council of Edinburgh (16 June 1708) to abolish regenting in favour of a professorial system that assigned each of the subjects on the Master of Arts curriculum to a single teacher. The newly created chairs were offered to the existing regents. Thus Laurence Dundas (1662-1734) became Professor of Humanity, William Scott "primus" (1672-1735), Professor of Greek, Colin Drummond (c1685-1753), Professor of Logic and Metaphysics, Robert Stewart (1675–1758), Professor of Natural Philosophy, and William Law (d. 1729), Professor of Moral Philosophy.

The creation of these new Chairs led to the foundation of the Faculty of Arts. The University now consisted of three Faculties:

Other Key Events of Carstares's Principalship


  • Alexander Bower, The History of the University of Edinburgh. 3 vols. Edinburgh, 1817-1830.
  • Sir Alexander Grant, The Story of the University of Edinburgh during its First Three Hundred Years, 2 vols (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1884)