Originally established as the Edinburgh School of Cookery in 1875, Queen Margaret University found a recipe for success early on! Of all its pivotal moments in an intriguing history, the one that arguably stands out the most occurred during the Second World War. In 1944, final year students and one teacher were sent to London to run a hotel for bomb repair workers. Their hard work ensured that previously poor living conditions for the building workers were transformed into a pleasant environment, meaning the men could carry on repairing on bomb-damaged properties.
The school was created in an attempt to provide educational opportunities for women, and improve the diets of predominantly working-class families. The founders, Christian Gutherie Wright and Louisa Stevenson, were part of the country’s Victorian Women’s Movement, which called for better education and career opportunities for females.
Lectures began in the Royal Museum and attracted large crowds, with teachers using mobile gas and paraffin cooking equipment to deliver demonstrations to what was mostly gatherings of women who were keen to learn.
The school moved to Atholl Crescent in 1891, and over the next five decades was gradually expanded. Authorities turned down requests for cookery classes to be added to the public day school curriculum, only for medical studies in the early 20th century to establish that thousands of children were dangerously unhealthy and undernourished. From 1908, school children were regularly medically inspected, and both cookery classes and physical education became compulsory 12 months later.
After the Second World War, the school continued to grow in popularity, gaining a global reputation for the industry-leading training of domestic science teachers. An overhaul came in the 1960s in response to the changing social and educational climate. A new campus was built in west Edinburgh in 1968 and was ready for occupation two years down the line.
During Claudine Morgan’s tenure as Principal between 1971 and 1985, it became a higher education institution, with the aim of staying true to its aim of meeting female students’ requirements, while attracting more males at the same time. The Queen Margaret name was chosen in 1972, as it was determined that the 11th century queen was aligned with its key values of serving the community. The institution became known as Queen Margaret College.
Rapid growth led to the college awarding its own taught degrees in 1992 and, seven years later, it was given the green light to change the name to Queen Margaret University College, before shedding the ‘college’ part of the title in 2007 and relocating to a new, purpose-built campus.
In the Guardian rankings of universities for 2018, Queen Margaret University was awarded 100th place, while it came 101st in the Times/Sunday Times table for the same year. In 2012, the university’s researchers in food and drink won two prestigious awards for innovation and partnership, having collaborated with Advanced Microwave Technologies to explore the use of microwave products in the food and drink sector.
Alumni include a number of famous faces from the world of media, such as Edith Bowman, who shot to fame on Radio 1, and Matt Baker, a lead presenter on The One Show and previously Blue Peter. They are joined by the likes of Grammy-nominated singer Susan Boyle, who got her big break on Britain’s Got Talent, Extras and Ugly Betty star Ashley Jensen, and rugby union player Jamie Wilson.