University Constituency - Scotland, England, Ireland, Great Britain, United Kingdom

Scotland, England, Ireland, Great Britain, United Kingdom

King James VI of Scotland, on ascending the English throne, brought to the English Parliament a practice which had been used in the Scottish Parliament of allowing the universities to elect members. The King believed that the universities were often affected by the decisions of Parliament and ought therefore to have representation in it. After the Union the Scottish universities lost their representatives in the new Parliament of Great Britain at Westminster.

The University of Cambridge and the University of Oxford were therefore given two seats each from 1603. The voters were the graduates of the university, whether they were resident or not, who had the vote for their University in addition to any other vote that they might have. After the Act of Union 1800 with Ireland, the University of Dublin (Trinity College), which had elected two MPs to the Parliament of Ireland since 1613, was allowed one member from 1801 and two from 1832.

The University of London was enfranchised with one member in 1868, along with the four ancient Scottish universities - Glasgow and Aberdeen electing one member, and St. Andrews and Edinburgh electing another. The list of universities represented in Parliament was further enlarged in 1918, including the Queen's University of Belfast and the National University of Ireland. These both, as well the University of Dublin, also received four seats in the devolved Stormont Parliament and the Southern Ireland Parliament respectively that were established in 1920 and elected in 1921. Also in 1918, the Scottish universities switched to all electing three members jointly (see Combined Scottish Universities).

In 1918, all the other English universities (i.e. except for Cambridge, Oxford and London) were enfranchised with two seats, as Combined English Universities. They were Birmingham, Bristol, Durham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Reading (from August 1928), and Sheffield.

The University of Wales also received one seat in 1918.

1918 also saw the introduction of the Single Transferable Vote for university constituencies.

The Labour government in 1930 attempted to abolish the university constituencies but was defeated in the House of Commons. Although the members for the university Constituencies were usually Conservatives, in the later years, Independent candidates began to win many of the seats. In 1948, the Labour government abolished the university constituencies, with effect from the dissolution of Parliament in 1950, along with all other examples of plural voting.

The Members for the university constituencies include many notable statesmen: William Pitt the Younger and Lord Palmerston both served as MPs for Cambridge University, and Robert Peel and William Ewart Gladstone each served as MP for Oxford University for portions of their careers. In his last years Ramsay MacDonald was MP for Combined Scottish Universities after losing his seat in the 1935 general election. Many criticised this as he had previously sought to abolish the seats when Labour Prime Minister, and many now felt the seats were being used to provide a failed politician with a seat he could not find elsewhere.

The Queen's University, Belfast survived in the Northern Ireland Parliament until it was abolished in 1968 (with effect from the dissolution of Parliament in 1969) by the Electoral Law Act (Northern Ireland) 1968 (1968 c. 20, Act of the Stormont Parliament). This was part of a series of measures by the then Northern Ireland Prime Minister Terence O'Neill to reform elements of the election franchise and deal with many long-standing civil-rights grievances.

Read more about this topic:  University Constituency

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