Annual Review 2021

"...a simple snapshot of the progress of Scotland's oldest university during one of the most challenging periods in its long history. " - Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE

Introduction by the Principal

The breadth and depth of life, study, research, and achievement at the University of St Andrews is breath-taking in any year, and only more so in one where we have all experienced immense changes brought about by a global pandemic.

This Annual Review provides a simple snapshot of the progress of Scotland’s oldest university during one of the most challenging periods in its long history.

The Review is anchored by the themes of our current University Strategy 2018-2023 – World-Leading, Diverse, Global, Entrepreneurial, and Socially Responsible – because the strength of strategy carried us through the tests which Covid set St Andrews.

Our staff and students responded to abnormal circumstance quite brilliantly. Students have excelled despite being disrupted and dispersed, each with their own story of personal sacrifice made to ensure our community and town were largely protected from the toll of Covid which has been so readily apparent elsewhere.

St Andrews staff made very similar sacrifices, but continued to provide a sector-leading teaching experience, globally important research, and an environment in which we all aimed to make each other’s health and safety our guiding priority.

2021 was also the year we began to see hopeful new horizons. In-person graduations returned, foam flew again in the Quad, our classrooms and labs reopened and, for the first time ever, St Andrews unseated Oxbridge to come top of a major university league table.

It has been a privilege to lead this remarkable community of people over the past year. I do not for a minute underestimate how challenging 2021 was for many, but our resilience owes much to a shared sense of pragmatism, and balance, and the knowledge that this university does best when we value and respect one another. 

As we look ahead to new possibilities, new challenges, and the development of a new University Strategy, rarely has our motto seemed more apt. Ever to Excel.

Professor Sally Mapstone FRSE
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

St Andrews at a glance


• 10,426 students
• 8,261 undergraduates
• 2,165 postgraduates
• 137 countries
• 94.5% of students enter employment or further study after graduation


• 3,100 staff
• 4 faculties
• 21 schools
• 29 units
• Median pay gap reduced from 16.6% to 15.1%

Income up 11% to £290.4m

• Funding grants up £9.4m to £48.2m 
• Donations and endowments up £1.3m to £6.5m
• Research income up 9.1% to £43.7m
• Investment (for scholarships, bursaries and widening access) up 2.9% to £3.9m

Members of the Estates Team who were shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award in 2021


Timeline 2021

  • 8 January 2021

    Mainland Scotland in lockdown. Scottish Government announces university students will be taught online throughout January and February.

  • 26 April 2021

    Cafes, pubs, restaurants and accommodation can reopen.

  • 26 May 2021

    The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge plant the first tree in St Salvator’s Quadrangle as part of the St Andrews Forest initiative.

  • 26 June 2021

    The Wardlaw Museum reopens following a £2.1 million overhaul and more than a year’s delay due to the pandemic.

  • 9 August 2021

    Legal requirement for physical distancing and limits on gatherings removed.

  • 6 September 2021

    The Pier Walk returns for the first time since 2019, just before the start of Martinmas semester.

  • 17 September 2021

    St Andrews ranked number one in the UK in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

  • 20 September 2021

    Scottish Government launches booster vaccination programme.

  • 18 October 2021

    Around 1,000 students take part in first Raisin Monday foam fight since 2019.

  • 11 November 2021

    The University’s hydrogen train project showcased to guests from around the world at COP26 in Glasgow.

  • 29 November 2021

    First cases of Omicron variant identified in Scotland.

  • 30 November to 1 December 2021

    More than 600 students graduate in-person for the first time since 2019 at winter graduations.

  • 26 December 2021

    Nightclubs close. One-metre physical distancing returns to indoor hospitality and leisure settings.