Edinburgh College of Art’s vision is to be internationally acclaimed for our open and participative teaching and research environment. We want to be known globally for excellence in our subject areas and the opportunities we give our students to collaborate and innovate across them, and with the wider University of Edinburgh community, of which we are proud to be a part.

ECA has always been a place of experimentation and collaboration, celebrated for enabling students from different disciplines to work alongside and with each other, and for creating strong linkages with other institutions.

We trace our history back to the Trustees’ Academy founded in the 1760s which, over the course of the next century, operated from some of the most iconic buildings in the city, including the University’s Old College and what is now the Royal Scottish Academy.

The first Professorship in an ECA subject area was created for Music in 1839 in the name of John Reid, with the Watson Gordon Chair of Fine Art founded some forty years later, the first of its kind in the British Isles and a turning point in the teaching of the History of Art.

Following the establishment of the Reid Concert series in 1841, which continues to this day, the Reid Concert Hall was built in 1859.

We’ve been known as Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) since 1906, following a major reorganisation of higher art education in Scotland. At the time, we were governed by the city Council and divided into four Schools: Drawing and Painting, Design and Crafts, Architecture, and Sculpture.

We moved into what is still our Main Building in 1909, when the first of our annual Revel parties took place and, by 1913, our Cast Collection had been installed in the Sculpture Court.

Photo of a party at E C A in the 2010s
Edinburgh College of Art / EIFF
Closing party for the 2014 Edinburgh International Film Festival at ECA

"Our top priorities are our people and their environment, both on-campus and online. We celebrate diversity and creativity which makes our College a very inclusive and distinctive place to work and study."

The war years of the twentieth century saw fluctuating staff and student numbers, but progress too with the establishment of The Andrew Grant Bequest, allowing students to travel abroad and supporting the creation of new public art and artefacts through a Fellowship scheme.

Our Fine Art degree was established jointly with the University in 1946, as a unique combination of art practice and art history, and continues to recruit strongly. It was followed two years later by a similar degree in Architecture, wherein a new post - the Forbes Chair of Architecture - also served to strengthen links between the two institutions.

In 1960, ECA became independent of the city Council and, the following year, appointed the painter William Gillies as Principal, the first time that a former student of the College held this position.

Our next quarter century saw the development of the estate around the Main Building, as well as increased collaboration with industry and Heriot-Watt University.

An arts centre opened in the Old College Quad in 1970, which later became the Talbot Rice Gallery, named after the visionary art historian David Talbot Rice. The Wee Red Bar, an Edinburgh institution at the heart of the Lauriston Campus, opened the following decade.

In 2009, sixty years after Raymond Gordon Brown first took up the Forbes Chair, the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture (ESALA) was formed by the coming together of these disciplines across ECA and the University.

Photo of a student playing the piano
Image courtesy of Joseph Wilson
Alumnus, Svetoslav Todorov, playing in the Reid Concert Hall
Photo of an exhibition at Talbot Rice Gallery
Image courtesy of Chris Park
'Between poles and tides' at Talbot Rice Gallery

In 2011, ECA formally merged with the University of Edinburgh, bringing together all five subject areas: architecture and landscape architecture; art; history of art; design; and music.

The merger also saw the establishment of the University of Edinburgh Art Collection, some 2,500 works of art drawn from the University’s original, 400-year old art collection, and the College’s collection of prints, drawings, paintings and sculpture.

As we move ahead, our top priorities for ECA are our people and their environment, both on-campus and online. In May 2017, ECA was awarded an Athena SWAN Bronze Award, following on from ESALA's Bronze Award of 2014.

We will continue to celebrate diversity and creativity, which makes our College a very inclusive and distinctive place to work and study.