The University of St Andrews

The University of St Andrews -rankings

The University of St Andrews is ranked Number 1. in the UK (The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023), outstripping both Oxford and Cambridge. St Andrews has topped the National Student Survey for student satisfaction in 13 out of the last 15 years and is consistently featured in the world’s Top 100 universities according to QS rankings. Moreover, St Andrews has an outstanding record for graduate employment, one of the lowest dropout rates in the UK, and is synonymous with academic rigour and high-quality research output.

The Teaching Excellence Framework has rated teaching at St Andrews as Gold. This is reflected in the five Nobel Prize  winners who have either studied or taught at the university and its alumni. These include John Knox, John Cleese of Monty Python fame, Jean-Paul Marat, John Napier, and Olivier Sarkozy. And do not forget the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The University of St Andrews – an overview

St Andrews University is the third-oldest university in the English-speaking world. A group of Augustinian clergy established the university in 1413 having had to leave the University of Paris during the political upheavals of the era of two Popes. Originally, St Andrews taught divinity, logic, philosophy, and law. Subsequently, over the centuries it expanded the curriculum to the point where it now has 18 schools and four faculties and teaches students from 145 different countries.

St Andrews’ academic reputation

When you break down the courses taught at St Andrews, the following subjects all rank in the UK Top Ten:

  • Business and Management Studies
  • Chemistry
  • Classic and Ancient History
  • English
  • French
  • Geography and Enviromental Science
  • Geology
  • German
  • History
  • History of Art, Architecture and Design
  • Iberian Languages
  • Italian
  • Mathematics
  • Middle Eastern and African Studies
  • Philosophy
  • Physics and Astronomy
  • Politics
  • Psychology
  • Russian and East European Languages
  • Theology and Religious Studies

St Andrews- student numbers and acceptance rate

St Andrews currently has approximately 8,200 undergraduate students, and just over 2,000 postgraduates. Nevertheless, it is not an easy university to get into and has one of the lowest acceptance rates in the UK, with 8.36 percent of applicants being offered a place and expects an IB score of 38 and above. It is particularly oversubscribed for International Relations, Physics, Chemistry, and Medicine, areas in which its research is strong.

In addition, St Andrews is 1st in the UK for biosciences, physics, psychology, computer science, and International Relations while its philosophy course takes sixth place, globally.

In short, academic standards, of teaching and learning, are extremely high at St Andrews. This is why it is considered a prestigious university, and getting a degree here opens employers’ doors. The majority of undergraduates end up gaining a First or a 2:1 in their subject which is due to the small classes, as well as the extensive use of tutorials and outstanding support and resources.

The university has a long and close relationship with the US, and one in six students are from the United States. St Andrews alumni are eligible to join NYC’s Princeton Club, as well as the Penn Club, and to take joint degrees at the College of William and Mary in Virginia. St Andrews offers many studies abroad programs and options, spanning Qatar and Iceland, Uruguay, and Germany depending on the subjects you are taking. For further information, take a look at this link Study Abroad – University of St Andrews, and marvel at the number of options open to you. 

St Andrews’ partners include the University of Melbourne, Renmin University, China, Sciences Po, and the Sorbonne. The University also organizes many exchanges with Californian universities, based on scholarships (for example, the Robert T Jones Scholarship, which covers all the expenses of St Andrews students who spend a year at Emory University, Atlanta). St Andrews has a reputation for inviting leading international speakers to address the student body,including guest lecturers like Maxine Grossman, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls, leading neuroscientists who give the annual Jeeves lecture, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Noam Chomsky, Katie Barclay, and Tolkien.

City of St Andrews

Situated some 30 miles north of Edinburgh, on the coast of Scotland, this rural seaside town with a blue flag beach has a small population of 19,000, a third of whom are employed or in some way connected with the university. St Andrews is an attractive and peaceful town, best known for its world-famous golf course, the ruins of its ancient castle and its cathedral. In the Middle Ages, it was an important site of pilgrimage, with people from all over Europe coming to pray to the purported relics of St Andrew, in the hope of gaining blessings or cures for their illnesses. The climate is temperate maritime, and its geographical location also makes it one of the driest and sunniest places in Scotland, with summer temperatures regularly reaching 26 degrees Celsius.

The town is an appealing mixture of the ancient and the modern, and has retained two of its original gates which date back to the time when it was enclosed behind thick walls. You can also see traces of the old leper hospital, and monuments to the martyrdom of four Protestant Reformers, put to death in the sixteenth century.

St Andrews: student societies and traditions

St Andrews is a hotbed of activities, with over 200 societies you can join, newspapers and magazines, a radio station, weekly debates, and multiple music groups, including its renowned symphony orchestra and choir. Whatever your passions, you will find others who share them, whether you love fine dining, gin, management, or computer sciences – there is a society out there, waiting for you!

The Opening Ball and May Ball are the highlights of the university social calendar, and the Kate Kennedy spring procession sees everyone dressing up as a figure from St Andrews’ past and trooping through the streets.

Fashion shows are put on every few months and the May Day Dip sees students running into the freezing North Sea, to cleanse their “sins”. The word sins are used extremely loosely and often refers to stepping on a cobblestone that commemorates the life and death of the sixteenth-century religious reformer, Patrick Hamilton – a forbidden act.

The Raisin Weekend

This is an important traditional event in St Andrews’ social calendar, which needs a little explaining. Firstly, when you become an undergraduate at St Andrews, you have to choose a “mum” and “dad”, and create an academic family. Raisin weekend sees these “families” gathering and having a tea party. This often consists of alcoholic drinks and playing games, with the children moving on from their mother to their father, and offering them the 21st-century century version of raisins – a bottle of wine. 

Secondly, on Monday, the children collect a receipt from their parents, which they then have to keep on them until midnight. The receipts were often written on parchment and in Latin. If someone noticed a grammatical mistake in your receipt, you were obliged to sing The Gaudie. This is a song that commemorates the heroic actions of a St Andrews student, John Honey, back in 1800, when a ship ran aground near the university. Some mothers dress their children in embarrassing clothes, others give them the receipt on a huge wooden plank or a similarly heavy and bulky item. Lastly, armed with their receipt, and dressed in the costumes chosen for them, the children march to St Salvator’s Quad located on North Street, where the students take part in an enthusiastic shaving foam fight.

St Andrews’ rules on how to wear your academic gown

Once you have graduated the bright red gown is exchanged for a black gown, which must never be closed to the top, since this brings bad luck.

Gowns are worn on all formal occasions, at hall dinners, meetings, ceremonies, and chapel.


You are called a Bejant or Bejantine and have to wear your red gown on your shoulders.

Second Year      

You become a Semi and wear the gown off your shoulder.

Third Year

You are a Tertian, and your gown has to be worn on your left shoulder if you are studying the arts, and the right shoulder if you are studying sciences.

Fourth Year

You are a Magistrand, and your gown is worn down to the elbows.

St Andrews: accommodation and costs

The university’s campus facilities are highly praised by the students, as is the calm and natural beauty of its setting. There are approximately 4,000 spaces available in halls of residence and first-year undergraduates are guaranteed a place if they apply by 30 June. There is a range of options, for instance, single to shared rooms, catered or self-catering accommodation. Additionally, there is a choice between en suite bathrooms or shared bathrooms, etc, and prices reflect these differences. Once you have been offered a place at St Andrew’s, you must wait for 48 hours before you can go online and apply for halls. The University accepts the applications from 15 March for undergraduates and 1 March for postgraduates. 

A general guide to costs :

Tuition Fees   £25,000+

Room and board   £9,300

Books and resources £1,200

Personal expenses £3,300

Master’s fees depend on the subject but average out at around £25,000.

General information

Transport: Buses link St Andrews to Dundee, Edinburgh, and Stirling and run very frequently. Dundee is 30 minutes away by bus from St Andrews, Edinburgh 50 minutes, and Glasgow 90 minutes.

The closest train station to the university is Leuchars, and the campus is just under six miles away. There are taxis available.

You have a choice of four airports when flying to St Andrew’s:

Edinburgh (50 miles away) – international

Aberdeen (80 miles)- mainly European destinations

Glasgow (90 miles)- international

Dundee (15 miles) -small local airport with links to London-City and Belfast-City airports- international

The campus has been certified Cycle Friendly and also has an e-car hub and car-sharing schemes. It is perfectly walkable if you like to exercise.

St Andrews University -is it for me?

The students of St Andrews have not only been taught for over 500 years but also lived and studied in an extremely prestigious, highly-ranked, traditional university. Similarly to Oxford and Cambridge, its close rivals, St Andrews expects academic commitment and hard work. Above all, it offers outstanding lecturers and professors, and small classes, as well as all the support you need to excel and gain a degree that will open doors in the job market.If you are interested in applying to Scotland’s jewel in the crown, call Elab and let us guide you in choosing exactly the right course.  We will also help you throughout the process to maximize your chances of being offered a place at the brilliant St Andrews University.

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