Universities (Scotland) Act 1932

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The Universities (Scotland) Act 1932 led to the merger of the United Free Church College and Edinburgh University's Faculty of Divinity, a process completed in 1935.

A schism in the Church of Scotland, known as the Disruption, had led to the creation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843. Almost a third of the clergy of the Church of Scotland and perhaps half its membership left the established Kirk in protest against what they perceived as state efforts to undermine its spiritual independence and integrity. The Free Church of Scotland was formed under the leadership of Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847) and David Welsh (1793-1845). Both were members of the Faculty of Divinity of Edinburgh University and demitted their posts on 5 June 1843. New College was subsequently founded in 1846 to train ministers for the Free Church, with Chalmers as Principal and Professor of Divinity and Welsh Professor of Divinity and Church History, the roles that they had previously held at Edinburgh University.

In 1900, the Free Church merged with United Presbyterian Church of Scotland to form the United Free Church. New College was henceforth officially known as the United Free Church College. Negotiations between the Established Church and the United Free Church, protracted by the First World War, eventually led to the reunion of the two bodies in 1929. Negotiations had included plans to unite the theological colleges of the two churches. The results of these negotiations were embodied and ratified in the Universities (Scotland) Act 1932. The Act authorized the addition of the professorial staff of the United Free Church College to the Faculty of Divinity, which would now include eight instead of four professors. After the passing of the act, the reunited Church of Scotland entered into separate agreements with each of Scotland's four universities which were approved by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1933. A final step was to secure various ordinances establishing Church Chairs within in Edinburgh University leading to the full and formal merger of the United Free Church College and the Faculty of Divinity in 1935. In 1937 New College became the official seat of the new Faculty.

A further significant measure of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1932 was the abolition of the statutory test restricting chairs in the Faculty of Divinity to ministers of the Church of Scotland. Henceforth posts in the Faculty of Divinity would be open to scholars of all denominations.

Related Events

Other University Events in 1932


  • Robert D. Anderson, 'The Construction of a Modern University', in Robert D. Anderson, Michael Lynch, and Nicholas Phillipson, The University of Edinburgh: An Illustrated History (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003), pp. 103-207.
  • William Alexander Curtis, 'The Faculty of Divinity', in History of the University of Edinburgh 1883-1933, ed. A. Logan Turner (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1933), pp. 56-83.
  • Hugh Watt, New College Edinburgh: A Centenary History (Edinburgh: Oliver and Boyd, 1946)