Visitation of Edinburgh University by Royal Commission, 1826

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In 1826 a Royal Commission visited Edinburgh University and drew up reform plans which recommended taking ultimate control of university affairs away from the Town Council of Edinburgh.

The Royal Commission was largely appointed in response to a dispute between the Senatus Academicus and the Town Council over which body had the power to make regulations for degrees. This had arisen in 1824-25, when in response to a petition from James Hamilton (1767-1839), Professor of Midwifery, the Town Council required that a full course in Midwifery be made a compulsory component of a degree in Medicine. The Senatus argued that arrangements for degrees and graduation were their responsibility alone, but were compelled to conform following a visitation of the University by the Town Council on 10 November 1825. An appeal to the Law Courts failed with the justiciary finding in favour of the Town Council.

Shortly before the Town Council's visitation however, the Senatus Academicus had petitioned the Home Secretary Sir Robert Peel to appoint a commission to settle the respective rights, powers, and privileges of the Senatus and the Town Council. On 25 August 1826, a Royal Commission was announced, partly in answer to the Senatus's petition but with a far wider remit. It was called to frame a code of rules, statutes, and ordinances for each university and college in Scotland. The Royal Commission arrived in Edinburgh on 31 August 1826, finally issuing their codes of regulations for the various Scottish Universities on 28 October 1830. These largely vindicated the Senatus Academicus. The Royal Commmission recommended the creation of a University Court with powers to inquire into and control revenues and expenditure and to originate 'improvements on the internal system of the University'. It was nearly thirty years, however, before the Commission's recommendations came into force. After an unsuccessful attempt to introduce legislation in 1836-37, they were finally embodied in the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858.