The existence of Colleges within the wider University goes back to the earliest days of the institution in the 15th century. The early group of scholars based in St Andrews from 1410 were loosely affiliated but largely independent.
St Salvator's College, or 'the auld college', was founded by Bishop James Kennedy on 27 August 1450.
St Leonard's College was founded in 1512 by Archbishop Alexander Stewart and Prior John Hepburn within the precincts of the Augustinian Priory of St Andrews.
St Salvator's and St Leonard's were united by Act of Parliament in 1747 to form the United College, which is based on the North Street site of St Salvator's. After 1579 these colleges no longer taught Divinity.
In 1419 the College of St John had been established through a gift of land on South Street by Robert of Montrose. However there are no surviving records of this College. The Pedagogy of the Faculty of Arts was based next to the site of St John's College and the whole area later became St Mary's College. The 'New College', as St Mary's was known until the 19th century, was founded in 1538 by Archbishop James Beaton. Since 1579 it has been the place where the teaching of Divinity or Theology is based and is now also home to the School of Psychology and Neuroscience.
University College, Dundee was established by Mary Ann Baxter in 1881 and close links with St Andrews led to full affiliation after 1897. It was formed as Queen’s College Dundee in 1953 and the University of Dundee achieved its independence by royal charter in 1967.
The establishment of a college allowed its founder to provide a structure and rules and regulations, as well as endowment through land and finances, to ensure that the college endured and was secure.
The Colleges no longer exist as independent administrative units since they were absorbed by the University Court under the Education (Scotland) Act of 1889. The surviving records are held separately.