Edinburgh University have entered into a new pact with the National Galleries of Scotland which will allow students to have more access to the national collections of art, sculpture and drawings.

Today sees the formal signing of a new pact between the two institutions which will, they say, seem them work "together on academic endeavours and take advantage of their shared objectives and distinguished histories."

The agreement will lead to joint research projects, collaborative exhibitions and "the pooling of resources" for the study of Scottish art, the two bodies said.

The agreement also aims to encourage more use of the National Galleries of Scotland's (NGS) collections by the University's students, which total over 30,000 post- and undergraduates.

A Memorandum of Understanding officially noting the agreement has been signed in a ceremony at the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.

The signatories of the formal document are Professor Sir Timothy O'Shea, principal and vice chancellor and Professor Mary Bownes, vice principal of the University of Edinburgh, and Ben Thomson and Sir John Leighton, chairman and director general of the National Galleries of Scotland respectively.

Several alumni from the university are in the collections of the NGS, including Charles Darwin, physicist James Clerk Maxwell and political economist Adam Smith.

Other notable portraits of former students of the university include the founders of geology and sociology, James Hutton and Adam Ferguson, the historians and philosophers Thomas Carlyle and David Hume and novelists Robert Louis Stevenson and Sir James Matthew Barrie.

University of Edinburgh alumni of more recent times to feature in the galleries include author Ian Rankin, actor Robbie Coltrane and athlete Sir Chris Hoy.

Leighton said: "We are thrilled to formalise our long-standing and fruitful association with the University of Edinburgh, further strengthening our ties with one of Scotland's most distinguished educational institutions.

"The National Galleries looks forward to sharing, with the public, the prosperous results such an official affiliation will bring."

Sir Timothy O'Shea, said: "We are looking forward to developing a deeper working partnership with the National Galleries of Scotland.

"Recent projects between the two institutions have helped to illuminate the Galleries' fantastic collections and added a valuable dimension to the University's insight and learning.

"I look forward to greater collaboration, which will produce significant benefits for our students, staff and the wider public in years to come."