University of St Andrews

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"St. Andrew's University" redirects here. For the American university, see St. Andrews University (North Carolina).
University of St Andrews
University of St Andrews shield
University of St Andrews shield
Latin: Universitas Sancti Andreae apud Scotos
Motto in English
Ever to Excel
Ever To Be The Best
Established 1410–1413[2]
Type Public research university / Ancient university
Endowment £50.1 million (2014)[3]
Chancellor Sir Menzies Campbell
Rector Catherine Stihler MEP
Principal Louise Richardson
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Students 7,775[5]
Undergraduates 6,169[5]
Postgraduates 1,606[5]
Location St Andrews, Fife, Scotland
Campus Urban / small town

University of St Andrews


St Mary's College


School of Medicine


St Leonard's College

Sports University of St Andrews Athletic Union
Affiliations Universities Scotland
Universities UK
Wallace Group

The University of St Andrews (informally known as St Andrews University or simply St Andrews; abbreviated as St And, from the Latin Sancti Andreae, in post-nominals) is a public research university in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. It is the oldest of the four ancient universities of Scotland and the third oldest university in the English-speaking world (following Oxford and Cambridge). St Andrews was founded between 1410 and 1413, when the Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII issued a papal bull to a small founding group of Augustinian clergy.

St Andrews is made up from a variety of institutions, including three constituent colleges (United College, St Mary's College, and St Leonard's College) and 18 academic schools organised into four faculties.[6] The university occupies historic and modern buildings located throughout the town. The academic year is divided into two terms, Martinmas and Candlemas. In term time, over one-third of the town's population is either a staff member or student of the university.[7] The student body is notably diverse: over 45% of its intake come from over 100 countries outside of the UK, with about one-eighth of the students from the rest of the EU and the remaining third from overseas - 15% from North America alone.[8] The university's sport teams compete in BUCS competitions,[9] and the student body is known for preserving ancient traditions such as Raisin Weekend, May Dip, and the wearing of distinctive academic dress.[10]

It is ranked as the third[11][12] best university in the United Kingdom, behind Oxbridge. The Guardian ranks first in the United Kingdom the Schools of Physics and Astronomy, International Relations, Computer Science, Geography and Mathematics[11] whilst the Complete University Guide ranks Divinity and Middle Eastern and African Studies first.[13] The Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking names St Andrews among the world’s Top 20 Arts and Humanities universities.[14] St Andrews has the highest student satisfaction (joint first) amongst all multi-faculty universities in the United Kingdom.[15]

St Andrews has many notable alumni and affiliated faculty, including eminent mathematicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, and politicians. Recent alumni include the former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond; Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon; HM British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward; United States Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell; Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy; and royals Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Six Nobel Laureates are amongst St Andrews' alumni and former staff: two in Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine, and one each in Peace and Literature.



College Hall, within the 16th century St Mary's College building

The university was founded in 1410 when a group of Augustinian clergy, driven from the University of Paris by the Avignon schism and from the universities of Oxford and Cambridge by the Anglo-Scottish Wars, formed a society of higher learning in St Andrews, which offered courses of lectures in divinity, logic, philosophy, and law. A charter of privilege was bestowed upon the society of masters and scholars by the Bishop of St Andrews, Henry Wardlaw, on 28 February 1411.[16] Wardlaw then successfully petitioned the Avignon Pope Benedict XIII to grant the school university status by issuing a series of papal bulls, which followed on 28 August 1413.[17] King James V also later lent his support by granting the university a royal charter in 1532.[18][19]

A college of theology and arts called St John's College was founded in 1418[20] by Robert of Montrose and Lawrence of Lindores. St Salvator's College was established in 1450, by Bishop James Kennedy.[21] St Leonard's College was founded in 1511 by Archbishop Alexander Stewart, who intended it to have a far more monastic character than either of the other colleges. St John's College was refounded by Cardinal James Beaton under the name St Mary's College" in 1538 for the study of divinity and law. It was intended to encourage traditional Catholic teachings in opposition to the emerging Scottish Reformation, but once Scotland had formally split with the Papacy in 1560, it became a teaching institution for Protestant clergy.[22] Some university buildings that date from this period are still in use today, such as St Salvator's Chapel, St Leonard's College Chapel and St Mary's College quadrangle. At this time, the majority of the teaching was of a religious nature and was conducted by clerics associated with the cathedral.


During the 17th and 18th centuries the university had mixed fortunes and was often beset by civil and religious disturbances. In a particularly acute depression in 1747, severe financial problems triggered the dissolution of St Leonard's College, whose properties and staff were merged into St Salvator's College to form the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard.[16] Throughout this period student numbers were very low; for instance, when Samuel Johnson visited the university in 1773, the university had fewer than 100 pupils, and was in his opinion in a steady decline. He described it as "pining in decay and struggling for life".[23] The poverty of Scotland during this period also damaged St Andrews, as few were able to patronise the university and its colleges, and with state support being improbable, the income they received was scarce.

Modern period[edit]

St Salvator's Chapel in 1843

In the second half of the 19th century pressure was building upon universities to open up higher education to women.[24] In 1876, the University Senate decided to allow women to receive an education at St Andrews at a level roughly equal to the Master of Arts degree that men were able to take at the time. The scheme came to be known as the 'L.L.A. examination' (Lady Literate in Arts). It required women to pass five subjects at an ordinary level and one at honours level, and entitled them to hold a degree from the university.[25] In 1889 the Universities (Scotland) Act[26] made it possible to formally admit women to St Andrews and to receive an education equal to that of male students. Agnes Forbes Blackadder became the first woman to graduate from St Andrews on the same level as men in October 1894, gaining her MA. She entered the university in 1892, making St Andrews the first university in Scotland to admit female undergraduates on the same level as men.[27] In response to the increasing number of female students attending the university, the first women's hall was built in 1896 and was named University Hall.[28]

Up until the start of the 20th century, St Andrews offered a traditional education based on classical languages, divinity and philosophical studies, and was slow to embrace more practical fields such as science and medicine that were becoming more popular at other universities. In response to the need for modernisation and in order to increase student numbers and alleviate financial problems, the university merged with University College, Dundee in 1897, which had a focus on scientific and professional subjects.

The "Gateway" building, built in 2000 and now used for the university's management department

After the incorporation of University College Dundee, St Andrews' various problems generally receded. Of note is that up until 1967 many students who obtained a degree from the University of St Andrews had in fact spent most, and sometimes all, of their undergraduate career based in Dundee.

As the 20th century progressed, it became increasingly popular among the Scottish upper classes to send their children to the country's oldest higher learning institution, and the university's student population rose sharply. This revival has been maintained to the present day.

Despite this, there have been some notable changes. In 1967 the union with University College Dundee ended, when that College became an independent institution under the name of the University of Dundee. As a result of this, St Andrews lost its capacity to provide degrees in many areas such as Law, Accountancy, Dentistry and Engineering, while it also lost the right to confer the undergraduate medical degree MBChB. However, the university has prospered in other ways. In 1972 the College of St Leonard was reconstituted as a postgraduate institute.[29]

Links with the United States[edit]

Benjamin Franklin Drawing Electricity from the Sky c. 1816 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, by Benjamin West

St Andrews' historical links with the United States predate the country's independence. Three signatories of the Declaration of Independence attended or received degrees from St Andrews, including: James Wilson, one of six original justices appointed by George Washington to the Supreme Court of the United States and founder of the University of Pennsylvania Law School; John Witherspoon, President of the College of New Jersey (later known as Princeton University); and Benjamin Franklin, world-renowned polymath and founder of the University of Pennsylvania. Other prominent American figures associated with St Andrews include Scottish American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, who was elected Rector in 1901 and whose name is given to the prestigious Carnegie Scholarship, and Edward Harkness, an American philanthropist who in 1930 provided for the construction of St Salvator's Hall. American Bobby Jones, co-founder of the Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters Tournament, was named a Freeman of the City of St Andrews in 1958, becoming only the second American to be so honored, the other being Benjamin Franklin in 1759.[30] Today a highly competitive scholarship exchange, The Robert T. Jones Scholarship, exists between St Andrews and Emory University in Atlanta.

Links with the United States have been maintained into the present day and continue to grow. In 2009, Louise Richardson, an Irish-American political scientist specialized in the study of terrorism, was drawn from Harvard to serve as the first female Principal and Vice Chancellor of St Andrews.[31]

The university now has the highest proportion and absolute number of American students amongst all British universities.[32][33] At present there are students from almost every state in the United States and province in Canada, representing around 15 per cent of the student population with around 1000 students from the USA and 150 students from Canada in 2015.[8][34] Media reports indicate growing numbers of American students are attracted to the university's academics, traditions, prestige, internationalism, and comparatively low tuition fees.[35][36][37][38] St Andrews has developed a sizable alumni presence in the United States, with over 8000 alumni spread across all 50 states.[39] Most major cities host alumni clubs, the largest of which is in New York.[40] St Andrews has also established relationships with other university alumni clubs and private membership clubs in the United States to provide alumni with social and networking opportunities. For example, alumni are eligible for membership at the Princeton Club of New York and the Algonquin Club in Boston.[41][42]

In 2013, Hillary Rodham Clinton, former United States Secretary of State, took part in the academic celebration marking the 600th anniversary of the founding of the University of St Andrews.[43] Clinton received an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws and provided the graduation address, in which she said, "I do take comfort from knowing there is a long tradition of Americans being warmly welcomed here at St Andrews. Every year I learn you educate more than one thousand American students, exposing them to new ideas and perspectives as well as according them with a first class education. I’ve been proud and fortunate to hire a few St Andrews alumni over the years and I thank you for training them so well."[44]

Governance and administration[edit]

Courtyard of the United College

As with the other ancient universities of Scotland, the governance of the university is determined by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858. This Act created three bodies: the General Council, University Court and Academic Senate (Senatus Academicus).

General Council[edit]

The General Council is a standing advisory body of all the graduates, academics and former academics of the university. It meets twice a year and appoints a business committee to manage business between these meetings. Its most important functions are to appoint two assessors to the University Court and elect the university's chancellor.

University Court[edit]

School of English

The University Court is the body responsible for administrative and financial matters, and is in effect the governing body of the university. It is chaired by the rector, who is elected by the matriculated students of the University. Members are appointed by the General Council, Academic Senate and Fife Council. The President of the Students' Representative Council and Director of Representation are ex officio members of the Court. Several lay members are also co-opted and must include a fixed number of alumni of the University.

Senatus Academicus[edit]

The Academic Senate (Latin Senatus Academicus) is the supreme academic body for the university. Its members include all the professors of the university, certain senior readers, a number of senior lecturers and lecturers and three elected student senate representatives – one from the arts and divinity faculty, one from the science and medicine faculty and one postgraduate student. It is responsible for authorising degree programmes and issuing all degrees to graduates, and for managing student discipline. The President of the Senate is the University Principal.

Office of the Principal[edit]

The Principal is the chief executive of the university and is assisted in that role by several key officers, including the Deputy Principal, Master of the United College and Quaestor. The principal has responsibility for the overall running of the university and presides over the University Senate.[45]


John Cleese as rector of the university in 1970

In Scotland, the position of rector exists at the four ancient universities (St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh) – as well as the University of Dundee. The post was made an integral part of these universities by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889. The Rector of the University of St Andrews chairs meetings of the University Court, the governing body of the university; and is elected by the matriculated student body to ensure that their needs are adequately considered by the university's leadership. Through St Andrews' history a number of notable people have been elected to the post, including the actor John Cleese, industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, author and poet Rudyard Kipling and the British Prime Minister Archibald Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery.[46]


The university encompasses three colleges, although their purpose is mainly ceremonial as students are housed in separate residential halls or private accommodations. United College has responsibility for all students in the faculties of arts, sciences and medicine, and is based around St Salvator's Quadrangle;[47] St Mary's College has responsibility for all students studying in the Faculty of Divinity, and has its own dedicated site in St Mary's Quadrangle;[48] and St Leonard's College, in its current incarnation, has responsibility for all postgraduate students.[49]

The three colleges are:

St Leonard's College heraldic shield St Leonard's College St Mary's College coat of arms St Mary's College United College heraldic shield United College

Faculties and schools[edit]

The four academic faculties collectively encompass 18 schools. A dean is appointed by the Master of the United College to oversee the day-to-day running of each faculty. Students apply to become members of a particular faculty, as opposed to the school within which teaching is based. The faculties and their affiliated schools are:

Faculty of Arts: art history, classics, economics, English, film studies, history, international relations, management, modern languages, philosophy.[50]

Faculty of Divinity: divinity.[51]

Faculty of Medicine: medicine.[52]

Faculty of Science: biology, chemistry, computer science, geography and geosciences, mathematics, physics and astronomy, psychology and neuroscience.[53]



The academic year at St Andrews is divided into two semesters, Martinmas and Candlemas, named after two of the four Scottish Term and Quarter Days. Martinmas, on 11 November, was originally the feast of Saint Martin of Tours, a 4th-century bishop and hermit. Candlemas originally fell on 2 February, the day of the feast of the Purification, or the Presentation of Christ. Martinmas semester runs from early September until mid-December, with examinations taking place just before the Christmas break. There follows an inter-semester period when Martinmas semester business is concluded and preparations are made for the new Candlemas semester, which starts in January and concludes with examinations at the end of May. Graduation is celebrated at the end of June.[54]

Rankings and reputation[edit]

(2015, national)
(2015, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2015/16, national)
(2015/16, world)
(2016, national)
The Guardian[61]
(2016, national)
Times/Sunday Times[62]
(2015, national)
View across St Salvator's Quad

The independent IpsosMORI National Student Surveys in 2006–2008 commissioned by HEFCE placed it joint third among the UK universities.[13][63]

The latest national Research Assessment Exercise (RAE 2008) sponsored by the UK government, The Times, The Guardian and The Independent ranked St Andrews as 16th by grade point average and quality index across the units of assessment it submitted.[64] St Andrews was ranked 9th overall in the The Sunday Times 10-year (1998–2007) average ranking of British universities based on consistent league table performance,[65] and is a member of the 'Sutton 13' of top ranked Universities in the UK.[66] In a ranking conducted by The Guardian, St Andrews is placed 5th in the UK for national reputation behind Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial & LSE.[67] The 2014 CWTS Leiden rankings, which ranks universities by volume and citation impact of academic journals, placed St Andrews 39th in the world, ranking it 5th domestically.[68]

Nearly 86% of its graduates obtain a First Class or an Upper Second Class Honours degree.[69] The ancient Scottish universities award Master of Arts degrees (except for science students who are awarded a Bachelor of Science degree) which are classified upon graduation, in contrast to Oxbridge where one becomes a Master of Arts after a certain number of years, and the rest of the UK, where graduates are awarded BAs. These can be awarded with honours; the majority of students graduate with honours.

An independent report conducted by Swedish investment firm, Skandia found that St Andrews is, despite its small undergraduate body, the joint-5th best university in the UK for producing millionaires.[70] A study by High Fliers confirmed this by reporting that the university also features in the top 5 of UK universities for producing self-made millionaires.[71] According to a study by the Institute of Employment Research, St Andrews has produced more directors of FTSE 100 companies in proportion to its size than any other educational institution in Britain.[72]

In the 2016 Complete University Guide, 23 out of the 25 subjects offered by St Andrews rank within the top 10 nationally meaning St Andrews was one of only four multi-faculty universities (along with Cambridge, Oxford and Durham) in the UK to have over 90% of their subjects in the top 10.[73] The Guardian University Guide 2016 ranked Computer Science, Geography, International Relations and Divinity first in the UK. Chemistry, History, Philosophy, History of Art, Physics, English and Earth and Marine Science were ranked within the top three whilst Management, Classics and Mathematics placed within the top five.[74] The Philosophy department was ranked 12th worldwide and 3rd in Europe in the 2013 QS World University Rankings[75] whilst the graduate programme was ranked 17th worldwide and 2nd in the UK by the 2009 Philosophical Gourmet's biennial report on Philosophy programs in the English-speaking world.[76]


The university receives applications mainly through UCAS and the Common Application with the latest figures showing that there are generally 12 applications per undergraduate place available with some schools - 'International Relations' and 'Economics and Finance' - seeing 30 applicants per place.[3][77][78] The university is one of the most competitive universities in the UK, with 2012-13 having an acceptance rate of 7.87% and offer rate of 18.4% for Scottish/EU applicants where places are capped by the Scottish Government.[79][80] The standard offer of a place tends to require five best Highers equivalent to AAAAB, three best A-levels equivalent to AAA or a score of at least 38 points on the International Baccalaureate.[81] Successful entrants have, on average, 521 UCAS points (the equivalent of A*A*AA at A Level) ranking it as the 5th highest amongst higher education institutions in the UK for the 2014 admissions cycle[82] with The Telegraph naming it as the hardest university to gain admission into in Scotland.[83]

The university has one of the smallest percentages of students (13%) from lower income backgrounds, out of all higher education institutions in the UK.[84][85] Around 40% of the student body is from independent schools[86] and the university hosts the highest proportion of financially independent students (58%) in the UK.[87] The university participates in widening access schemes such as the Sutton Trust Summer School, First Chances Programme, REACH & SWAP Scotland, and Access for Rural Communities (ARC) in order to promote a more widespread uptake of those traditionally under represented at university.[88] In the seven-year period between 2008 and 2015, the number of pupils engaged with annual outreach programmes at the university has increased by about tenfold whilst the number of students arriving at St Andrews from the most deprived backgrounds has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past year of 2015.[89] The university has a slightly higher proportion of female than male students with a male to female ratio of 44:56 in the undergraduate population.[90]

Lecture series[edit]

The University of St Andrews Classics Building, Swallowgate

To commemorate the university's 600th anniversary the 600th Lecture Series was commissioned in 2011, which brought diverse speakers such as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, naturalist David Attenborough and linguist Noam Chomsky to St Andrews.[91]

As part of the celebration of the 400th establishment of the King James Library, the King James Library lectures were initiated in 2009 on the subject of 'The Meaning of the Library'.[92]

The Andrew Lang Lecture series was initiated in 1927, and named for alumnus and poet Andrew Lang. The most famous lecture in this series is that given by J. R. R. Tolkien in March 1939, entitled 'Fairy Stories', but published subsequently as 'On Fairy-Stories'.[93]

The computing Distinguished Lecture Series was initiated in 1969 by Jack Cole.[94]

Exchange programmes[edit]

St Andrews has developed student exchange partnerships with universities around the globe, though offerings are largely concentrated in North America, Europe, and Asia. Exchange opportunities vary by School and eligibility requirements are specific to each exchange program.[95]

In North America, the highly competitive Bachelor of Arts International Honours program, run in conjunction with The College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, allows students studying International Relations, English, History, or Economics to spend two years at each institution and earn a joint degree from both.[96] The Robert T. Jones Memorial Trust funds the Robert T. Jones Jr. Scholarship, which allows select St Andrews students to study, fully funded, for a year at Emory University in Atlanta, and Western University and Queen's University in Canada.[97] The Robert Lincoln McNeil Scholarship allows students to study at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the largest North American exchanges is with the University of California System, in which students can study at Berkeley, Los Angeles (UCLA), Santa Cruz (UCSC) and San Diego (UCSD). Other North American partners offering multiple exchanges include the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Washington and Lee University, and the University of Toronto.[95] Some exchanges are offered within specific research institutes at St Andrews, rather than across entire Schools. For example, the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence, within the School of International Relations, offers student exchanges in partnership with the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.[98]

St Andrews participates in the Erasmus Programme and has direct exchanges with universities across Europe.[95] For example, in France exchanges are offered at the Sorbonne, Sciences Po, and University of Paris VI. In the Netherlands students can study at Leiden University and Utrecht University. Narrower exchanges include those with the University of Copenhagen, the University of Oslo, and Trinity College Dublin. Exchanges are also available for postgraduate research students, such as the opportunity for social scientists to study at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.

More recently, St Andrews has developed exchanges with partners in Asia.[95] Notable partners include the University of Hong Kong and Renmin University of China, National University of Singapore, and the University of Melbourne in Australia.

Buildings, collections and facilities[edit]

The University of St Andrews is situated in the small town of St Andrews in rural Fife, Scotland. The University has teaching facilities, libraries, student housing and other buildings spread throughout the town. Generally, university departments and buildings are concentrated on North Street, South Street, The Scores, and the North Haugh. The university has two major sites within the town. The first is the United College, St Andrews (also known as the Quad or St Salvator's) on North Street, which functions both as a teaching space and venue for student events, incorporating the Departments of Social Anthropology and Modern Languages. The second is St Mary's College, St Andrews, based on South Street, which houses the Schools of Divinity, Psychology and Neuroscience, as well as the King James Library. Several schools are located on The Scores including Classics, English, History, Philosophy, the School of Economics and Finance, and International Relations, as well as the Admissions department, the Museum of the University of St Andrews, and the Principal's residence, University House. North Street is also the site of several departments including, the Principal's Office, The Younger Hall, Department of Film Studies, and the University Library. The North Haugh is principally home to the Natural Sciences such as Chemistry, Physics, Biology, as well as Mathematics, Computer Science, Medicine and the School of Management.

Libraries and museums[edit]

St Andrews University library building

The University of St Andrews maintains one of the most extensive university library collections in the United Kingdom, which includes significant holdings of books, manuscripts, muniments and photographs. The library collection contains over a million volumes and over two hundred thousand rare and antique books.[99]

The university library was founded by King James VI in 1612, with the donation of 350 works from the royal collection, at the urging of George Gledstanes, the then chancellor of St Andrews, although the libraries of the colleges of St Leonard's College, St Salvator's College and St Mary's College had existed prior to this.[100][101] From 1710 to 1837 the library functioned as a legal deposit library, and as a result has an extensive collection of 18th century literature.[102]

The library's main building is located on North Street, and houses over 1,000,000 books.[103] The library was designed by the leading firm of architects Faulkner-Brown Hendy Watkinson Stonor led by Harry Faulkner-Brown and based in the North East England at Killingworth.[104] Faulkner-Brown specialised in libraries and leisure facilities and also designed the National Library of Canada in Ottawa and the Robinson Library at Newcastle University [105][106] In 2011 the main library building underwent a £7 million re-development.[107] The historic King James library, built in 1643, houses the university's Divinity and Medieval history collections.[108]

In 2012 the University purchased the vacant Martyrs' Church on North Street, with the purpose of providing reading rooms for the Special Collections department and University research students and staff.[109]

University of St Andrews library from above with West Sands in the background

The University maintains several museums and galleries, open for free to the public.[110] The Museum of the University of St Andrews (MUSA) opened in 2008 and displays some highlights of the university's extensive collection of over 100,000 artefacts.[111] It displays objects relating both to the history of the university, such as its collection of 15th century maces,[112] and also unrelated objects, such as paintings by John Opie, Alberto Morrocco and Charles Sims.[113] Several of the university's collections have been recognised as being of 'national significance for Scotland' by Museums Galleries Scotland.[114]

The Bell Pettigrew Museum houses the University's natural history collections. Founded in 1912, it is housed in the old Bute Medical School Building in St. Mary's Quad. Among its collections are the remains of several extinct species such as the dodo and Tasmanian tiger as well as fossilised fish from the nearby Dura Den, Fife, which when found in 1859 stimulated the debate on evolution.[115]


The Wardlaw Wing of University Hall

The University has two collegiate chapels. The chapel of St Salvator's (or "Sallies" as it is affectionately known) was founded in 1450 by Bishop James Kennedy, and today it is a centre of university life.[116] St Salvator's has a full peal of six bells, and is therefore the only university chapel in Scotland suitable for change ringing.[117] The Chapel of St Leonard's is located in the grounds of the nearby St Leonards School. It is the university's oldest building, some parts dating from 1144[118] and is the smaller of the two chapels. St Salvator's and St Leonard's both have their own choirs, whose members are drawn from the student body.

Student halls[edit]

St Andrews is characterised amongst Scottish universities as having a significant number of students who live in university-maintained accommodation. As of 2012, 52% of the student population live in university halls.[119] The halls vary widely in age and character, the oldest, Deans Court dates from the 12th century, and the newest, David Russell Apartments, was built in 2004.[120] They are built in styles from gothic revival to brutalist. All are now co-educational and non-smoking, and several are catered.[121] The University guarantees every first year student a place of accommodation, and many students return to halls in their second, third and final years at St Andrews.[122] From September 2015 onwards, students will have the option of living in alcohol-free flats in David Russell Apartments on the grounds of medical conditions that do not allow drinking or for religious reasons.[123]

Halls of residence include:

Renewable energy projects[edit]

Since 2013, the university's endowment has been invested under the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment (UNPRI) initiative with a sustainable ethical policy enforced since 2007.[124] The university has the target of being the UK's first carbon neutral university and has invested in creating two new macro-scale renewable energy sites.

The Guardbridge Biomass Energy Centre will generate power using locally sourced wood-fuelled biomass, hot water will be transported to the university through underground pipes to heat and cool laboratories and student residences.[125] The £25 million project is expected to save 10,000 tonnes of carbon annually and the university aims to establish the site as a knowledge exchange hub which would provide “missing link” facilities to allow research and discoveries made in university labs to be translated to working prototypes. Work began onsite in 2014 and the centre is expected to be operational by December 2015.[126]

In October 2013, the university received permission to build six medium-sized turbines at Kenly Wind Farm, near Boarhills. The wind farms are expected to be operational by 2017 and will bring an estimated £22 million boost to the local and national economy with 19,000 tonnes of carbon saved annually.[127]

Student life[edit]

St Salvator's Chapel viewed from North Street.

Students' association[edit]

The University of St Andrews Students' Association is the organisation which represents the student body of the University of St Andrews.[128] It was founded in 1885 and comprises the Students' Representative Council (SRC)[129] and the Students' Union Council. The Students' Association has 9 subcommittees: The Entertainments "Ents" Committee, Societies Committee, Charities Campaign, Union Debating Society, STAR (St Andrews Radio), Mermaids Productions, LGBT, Design Team, SVS (Student Voluntary Service). Every matriculated student is automatically a member of each subcommittee.

The Students' Association Building (informally known as the Union) is located on St Mary's Place, St Andrews. Union facilities include a Blackwells bookshop, several bars and the University's Student Support Services. In 2013 the Students' Association Building is scheduled to undergo a £12 million refurbishment.[130] The Students' Association is affiliated to, and a founding member of, the Coalition of Higher Education Students in Scotland but unlike many other students' unions in the UK is not a member of the National Union of Students, having most recently rejected membership in a referendum in November 2012.


Music Centre, Younger Hall

St Andrews is home to over 140 student societies which cover a wide range of interests.[131] In 2015, the university ranked top in Scotland and 3rd in the UK for Clubs & Societies by university review platform, StudentCrowd.[132]

All matriculated students are members of the "Union Debating Society", a student debating society that holds weekly public debates in Lower Parliament Hall, often hosts notable speakers, and participates in competitive debating in both national and international competitions. Founded in 1794, it claims to be the oldest continuously-run student debating society in the world.[133]

There is a strong tradition of student media at St Andrews. The university's two newspapers are The Saint, a fortnightly publication that holds a rare financial and editorial independence from both the Students' association and the University itself,[134] and The Stand, an online publication founded in 2011.[135] There is also the Foreign Affairs Review ran by the Foreign Affairs Society.[136] There are also a number of smaller student publications including The Tribe, a student-run magazine[137] and The Regulus, a student magazine focusing on politics and current affairs.[138] In addition to this there are several student-led academic journals, most notably, Stereoscope Magazine which is focused on student photography and raising awareness of the university's historic photographic collection,[139] Ha@sta, an annual journal for those interested in art history,[140] Aporia, the journal of the Philosophy Society,[141] and the Postgraduate Journal of Art History and Museum Studies.[142] The University's radio station is STAR radio, an online station that broadcasts 24/7 during term time.[143] The Sinner is an independent website and discussion forum set up by students of the university.[144]

Quadrangle of St Mary's College

The university's Music Society comprises many student-run musical groups, including the university's flagship symphony orchestra, wind band, and chorus. One of the oldest choirs in the university is the St Andrews University Madrigal Group which performs a concert each term and has an annual summer tour. The A Cappella Society represents all four a cappella groups at St Andrews: The Other Guys, The Alleycats, The Accidentals and The Hummingbirds. From 2009–2011, all four of these groups participated in The Voice Festival UK(VF-UK) competition, and The Other Guys, The Accidentals and The Alleycats all reached the London final.[145] In 2011, The Other Guys released a music video onto YouTube, entitled Royal Romance, a tribute to the wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton, which earned them significant recognition in both Scottish and international media.

Student theatre at the University of St Andrews is funded by the Mermaids Performing Arts fund. There are regular dramatic and comedic performances staged at the Barron theatre.[146] Blind Mirth is the university's improvisational theatre troupe, which performs weekly in the town, and annually takes a production to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.[147]

The Kate Kennedy Club plays a significant role in the life of the university, maintaining university traditions such as the Kate Kennedy Procession, in which students parade through the town dressed as eminent figures from the university's history, and organising social events such as the Opening and May balls. Founded in 1926, the club is composed of around thirty matriculated students, who are selected by the club's members. The club has received criticism from the university's principal, Louise Richardson, and alumna the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton over its previously male-only admission policy.[148][149] In 2012, the club decided to allow female students to join.[150][151]

Sports clubs and the athletic union[edit]

Madras RFC Playing Fields St Andrews

The University of St Andrews Athletic Union is the student representative body for sport. Established in 1901, it is affiliated to BUCS and encompasses around sixty sport clubs,[152] who compete at both a recreational and high-performance level.[153] A notable club is the University of St Andrews Rugby Football Club, which played a pivotal role in shaping the sport and has produced Scottish international players such as J. S. Thomson and Alfred Clunies-Ross.[154] The university is currently undergoing through a £14 million five-phase development of the student sport centre which will include a new 400-seat eight-court sports hall, a new reception area and expanded gym facilities.[155]


Entrance to St Mary's College

Sponsio Academica[edit]

In order to become a student at the university[156] a person must take an oath in Latin at the point of matriculation, called the Sponsio Academica, although this tradition now has been digitised and is agreed to as part of an online matriculation process.

Nos ingenui adolescentes, nomina subscribentes, sancte pollicemur nos preceptoribus obsequium debitum exhibituros in omnibus rebus ad disciplinam et bonos mores pertinentibus, Senatus Academici autoritati obtemperaturos, et hujus Academiae Andreanae emolumentum et commodum, quantum in nobis sit, procuraturos, ad quemcunque vitae statum pervenerimus. Item agnoscimus si quis nostrum indecore turbulenterve se gesserit vel si parum diligentem in studiis suis se praebuerit neque admonitus se in melius correxerit eum licere Senatui Academico vel poena congruenti adficere vel etiam ex Universitate expellere.

In English:

We students who set down our names hereunder in all good faith make a solemn promise that we shall show due deference to our teachers in all matters relating to order and good conduct, that we shall be subject to the authority of the Senatus Academicus and shall, whatever be the position we attain hereafter, promote, so far as lies in our power, the profit and the interest in our University of St Andrews. Further, we recognise that, if any of us conducts ourselves in an unbecoming or disorderly manner or shows insufficient diligence in their studies and, though admonished, does not improve, it is within the power of the Senatus Academicus to inflict on such students a fitting penalty or even expel them from the University.


St Andrews students in undergraduate gowns

One of the most conspicuous traditions at St Andrews is the wearing of academic dress, particularly the distinctive red undergraduate gown of the United College. Undergraduates in Arts and Science subjects can be seen wearing these garments at the installation of a Rector or Chancellor, at chapel services, on 'Pier Walks', at formal hall dinners, at meetings of the Union Debating Society or giving tours to prospective students and visitors as well as on St Andrews day, where recently many students wear their gown throughout the entire day. Divinity students wear a black undergraduate gown and postgraduates, i.e. students of St Leonard College, wear a black gown trimmed with burgundy. (See Academic dress of the University of St Andrews.)


Bejant is a term used to refer to first year male students; females being described as Bejantines. Second-year students are known as a Semis, a student in their third year may be referred to as a Tertian, and in their final year as a Magistrand. These terms are thought to be unique to St Andrews. When wearing their traditional red gowns, students in each year may be identified according to the way they wear their gowns. In the first year, the gown is worn on the shoulders, in the second year it is worn slightly off the shoulders. In the third year arts students wear their gowns off their left shoulders, and science students off their right shoulders. Finally, fourth years wear their gowns right down to their elbows, ready to shed their scarlet gowns for the black graduation gown. The gown is never to be joined at the top as this is considered bad luck.

Academic parents[edit]

The students of the University enjoy an unusual family tradition designed to make new students feel at home and build relationships within the student body. Traditionally, a Bejant or Bejantine acquires academic parents who are at least in their third year as students. These older students act as informal mentors in academic and social matters and it is not uncommon for such academic family ties to stretch well beyond student days. Tradition has it that a Bejant may ask a man to be his Senior Man but must be invited by a woman who is prepared to be his Senior Woman. Similarly, a Bejantine may ask a male to be her Senior Man but there is no overt rule regarding how she acquires a Senior Woman. The establishment of these relationships begins at the very start of the first semester – with the aim of being in place ahead of Raisin Weekend.[157]

Raisin Weekend[edit]

St Salvator's Quadrangle during the Raisin Weekend foam fight

Raisin Weekend celebrates the relationship between the Bejants/Bejantines (First-Year students) and their respective Academic Parents who, in St. Andrews' tradition, guide and mentor them in their time at the University. It is traditionally said that students went up to study with a sack of oatmeal and a barrel of salt-herring as staple foods to last them a term and that therefore anything more exotic was seen as a luxury. In return for the guidance from academic parents a further tradition sprang up of rewarding these "parents" with a pound of raisins. Since the 19th century the giving of raisins was steadily transformed into the giving of a more modern alternative – such as a bottle of wine. In return for the raisins or equivalent present the parents give their "children" a formal receipt – the Raisin Receipt – composed in Latin. Over time this receipt progressively became more elaborate and often humorous. The receipt can be written on anything and is to be carried everywhere by the Bejant/Bejantine on the morning of Raisin Monday until midday.[158]

Raisin Weekend is held annually over the last weekend of November. Affairs often begin with a tea party (or similar) thrown by the mother(s) and then a pub-crawl or house party led by the father(s). It is fairly common for several academic families to combine in the latter stages of the revels.[159] At midday all the First-Years gather in Quad of St Salvator's College to compare their receipts and also to be open to challenge from older students who may look for errors in the Latin of the receipt (an almost inevitable occurrence). Upon detection of such error(s) the bearer may be required to sing the Gaudie. In recent years the gathering has culminated in a shaving foam fight.[160] Raisin Weekend has also become synonymous with binge drinking and a certain amount of humiliation of "academic children", commonly involving embarrassing costumes or drinking games. The University Students' Association provides a special First Aid hotline for Raisin Weekend.[161]


Situated around the town of St Andrews are cobblestone markings denoting where Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake. To students, the most notable of these is the cobblestone initials "PH" located outside the main gate of St Salvator's College. These cobblestones denote where Patrick Hamilton was martyred in 1528.[162] According to student tradition, stepping on the "PH" will cause a student to become cursed, with the effect that the offender will fail his or her degree and so students are known to jump over the cobblestones when passing.[163] Aside from the May Dip, an older tradition is that the remedy for this is to walk three times round the post at the end of the pier.

May Dip[edit]

St Andrews May Dip 2013

The May Dip is a student tradition held annually at dawn on May Day. Students stay awake until dawn, at which time they collectively run into the North Sea to the sound of madrigals sung by the University Madrigal Group.[164] In 2011 the event was 'officially' moved by the Students' Association to East Sands in response to concerns for health and safety in its former location on Castle Sands.


Notable University of St Andrews alumni include King James II of Scotland; United States Declaration of Independence signatory James Wilson (1761); discoverer of logarithms John Napier (1563); founder of the Church of Scotland and leader of the Protestant Reformation John Knox (1531); journalist during the French Revolution Jean-Paul Marat (1775 MD); inventor of beta-blockers, H2 receptor antagonists and Nobel Prize in Medicine winner James W. Black (1946 MB ChB), pioneer of the smallpox vaccine Edward Jenner (1792 MD); Prince William, Duke of Cambridge (2005) and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (2005).

Other St Andrews graduates include founder of Forbes magazine B. C. Forbes; founders of the Adam Smith Institute, Madsen Pirie and Eamonn Butler; former Deputy Director of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) George Kennedy Young; CEO of Rolls-Royce John Rose; former CEO of Tate & Lyle Iain Ferguson; CEO of BHP Billiton Andrew Mackenzie; former CEO of BP Robert Horton; former CEO of Shell Robert Paul Reid; former CEO of RBS George Mathewson; former CEO and Governor of the Bank of Scotland and Chairman of ITV plc Peter Burt; Banker Olivier Sarkozy; Dean of Harvard Divinity School David Hempton; the first Vice-Chancellor of the Open University Walter Perry; Vice-Chancellor of Sydney University Gavin Brown; provost of Eton College Eric Anderson; Director of Edinburgh Festival Fringe Alistair Moffat; Controller of BBC World News Craig Oliver; Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Malcolm Bruce; former Secretary of State for Scotland and former Deputy Chairman of JP Morgan Michael Forsyth; Primetime Emmy Award winning screenwriter David Butler; Political Editor of BBC Scotland Brian Taylor; BBC News Presenter Louise Minchin; BBC Sport TV Presenter Hazel Irvine; feminist writer Fay Weldon and actor Ian McDiarmid.


Notable University of St Andrews faculty include Nobel Prize in Medicine winner Maurice Wilkins (Lecturer in Physics 1945-46) and discoverer of herring bodies Percy Theodore Herring (Chandos Chair of Medicine and Anatomy 1908-1948).



Business and Management[edit]



Computer Science[edit]




English, Literature, and Poetry[edit]

Languages and Linguistics[edit]


History and Art History[edit]

International Relations and Politics[edit]

Mathematics and Astronomy[edit]

Media and Film Studies[edit]

Medicine and Physiology[edit]

Philosophy and Logic[edit]

Physics and Astronomy[edit]



In popular culture[edit]

The University of St Andrews has appeared in or been referenced by a number of popular media works, in film and literature.



See also[edit]


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  • R.G. Cant The University of St Andrews, A Short History (Oliver and Boyd Ltd. 1946)

External links[edit]