Foundation of Faculty of Arts, 1708

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The abolition of the regenting system in 1708 led to the creation of the Faculty of Arts.

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 an new first-year (or ‘Bajan’) class. In an effort to remodel Edinburgh University along European lines, Principal William Carstares (1649-1715) 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.

These five new Chairs were united with the existing Chair of Mathematics, founded in 1674 and held by James Gregory (1666-1742), to form the Faculty of Arts.

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)