The small coastal town of St Andrews, located to the northeast of Edinburgh on Scotland’s east coast, is dominated by its university — perhaps more than any other location in the UK. A fundraising appeal for its 600th anniversary in 2013, led by the Prince of Wales, an alumnus, successfully raised £100 million to improve the university’s physical facilities.
A recent development, the £12.5 million Laidlaw Music Centre, opened in spring 2022 and is named after one of its philanthropic donors, Lord Laidlaw. The first building to be dedicated to music in the long history of St Andrews, its first-rate facilities include an oak-lined recital room and a chamber hall with moveable floor, along with rehearsal and practice rooms, a recording suite and a library.
Construction began in early 2022 on one of the first new colleges for three centuries at the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world. Bringing together the schools of International Relations, Management, and Economics and Finance, the new hub for Social Sciences aims to create space for expanding student and research numbers and to encourage interdisciplinary work. Building on the university’s strength in the student learning experience, the university has begun offering all academic staff engaged in teaching the opportunity to boost their skills by taking a postgraduate certificate in academic practice.
St Andrews is in high demand. More than 21,400 students applied to the university in 2021 for a little over 1,800 places. Since 2011 applications have soared by more than 75 per cent. The curriculum gained Chinese studies degrees in 2021, taken in combination with a wide variety of other subjects as part of a joint honours programme. The course encompasses the language as well as an understanding of global issues in a Chinese context.
When the Prince of Wales met his future wife, Kate Middleton, at St Andrews at the start of the century it helped to put St Andrews on the global map. Today it has one of the most international student populations of any British university. Nearly half of the student population comes from abroad, with 16 per cent recruited from Scotland (a number capped by the government) and the remainder from the rest of the UK. They all benefit from exchange and study opportunities in Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada and the US. Another of Queen Elizabeth II’s grandchildren, Lady Louise Windsor, begins her studies at the university in 2022-23.
More than 88 per cent of the work submitted by St Andrews to the latest Research Assessment Framework (REF 2021) was assessed as world-leading or internationally excellent. Other universities did even better, however, hence St Andrews drops from 11th to 25th place in our research quality index. The university is also renowned for its marine research, pioneering medical work at the Sir James Mackenzie Institute for Early Diagnosis, and the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence.
After a £14 million redevelopment and extension of the sports centre at Hepburn Gardens, a ten-minute walk from the historic town centre, there is now a 120-station gym, technical climbing wall, strength and conditioning suite for performance athletes, indoor sports arena with space for 400 spectators and 13 grass pitches. Sports fans can take part in everything from football and rugby to shinty, ultimate frisbee and lacrosse.
Six halls of residence encircle University Park, where all first-years are guaranteed a place if they apply by the end of June. Students live out in the small coastal town in their later years of study, blurring the lines where town ends and the university begins.
Unlike some other Scottish universities, St Andrews does not discount tuition fees to mirror three-year courses south of the border for UK students who are not from Scotland. This means the standard four-year undergraduate course costs £37,000 at present. However, there is an extensive bursary and scholarship programme, funded by more than £1 million each year, that makes awards worth £1,500 to £4,000 a year to UK-domiciled students with household incomes of up to £40,000.
Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, principal and vice-chancellor of St Andrews, led the Scotland-wide work on contextual admissions, which proposed that applicants from disadvantaged areas should be given offers at no more than the minimum grades needed to complete their chosen course. Now Scottish government policy, the scheme has been embraced by St Andrews, allowing offers up to two A-level grades lower than standard.
The university moves off the foot of our Scottish social inclusion ranking for the second time in 2022. Its intake is more ethnically diverse than any other university in Scotland. After a spate of sexual misconduct allegations, many of them made against members of an American-style fraternity operating at the university in 2020, St Andrews is one of very few to require all students to undertake compulsory training in sexual consent, equality, diversity and inclusion.
Pubs and societies are to the fore of St Andrews’ social scene.