In 1617 Michael Wilson of Eastbourne, a University graduate, founded two bursaries (later reduced to one) for a student in Philosophy. The right to present the bursaries was awarded to Sir William Alexander of Menstrie and James Carmichael of Westraw and their heirs, in recognition of their endeavours to recover the money for the University from England. One of those heirs, John Carmichael, was created Earl of Hyndford in 1701 and the bursary became known as the Hyndford Bursary.
In 1659, Captain William Ross of Rosseyle founded the Ross Bursary for a student in Languages and Philosophy.
The value of the two bursaries had become small by the late 19th century and so in 1895 they were combined to create the Hyndford and Ross Bursary, for a student in Arts or Pure Science.