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Scotland's first university

Founded in the early 15th century, St Andrews is Scotland’s first university and the third oldest in the English speaking world.

Teaching began in the community of St Andrews in 1410 and the University was formally constituted by the issue of a papal bull in 1413.

University motto

The University's motto is 'Ever to Excel', which is taken from a speech in Homer's Iliad

The University shield

The different elements of the University shield are representative of the insignia of the founders of the University.

The crescent moon represents Peter de Luna, the given name of Pope Benedict XIII who issued the bulls of foundation of the University in 1413.

The lion rampant is taken from the royal arms of Scotland and represents the royal authority of King James I (1406–1437) who was associated with the foundation.

The gold diamonds (mascles or) are taken from the personal arms of Henry Wardlaw, Bishop of St Andrews 1404–1440 who issued the original charter which incorporated the Studium Generale in 1411 or 1412.

The open book with the red page edges represents learning.

The blue and silver cross represents the saltire of Scotland.

Student numbers

For the first semester of the academic year 2019 to 2020, we had 9,224 students:

  • 7,442 undergraduates
  • 1,782 postgraduates

Internationally Scottish

We are the most international of Scotland's universities and one of the most international in the UK.

For 2019 entry we received applications from 183 different countries.  

Our students have the chance to participate in exciting exchanges or study abroad opportunities in Europe, North America, China, Singapore, Hong Kong, the Middle East, Uruguay and Australia. 


St Andrews has approximately 50,000 living graduates.

Among them former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond and the novelist Fay Weldon.


The University of St Andrews is home to many unique traditions.

The curse of Patrick Hamilton

The PH initials set into cobblestones outside the Sallies Quad mark the spot where Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake in 1582. According to tradition, any student who steps on the PH will be cursed to fail their degree.

May Dip

The only cure for Patrick Hamilton’s curse is to participate in the annual May Dip. At sunrise on May Day students make their way down to East Sands and collectively run into the North Sea.

Academic families

A spontaneous tradition where third and fourth year students can adopt first year students as their “children” to act as mentors and introduce them to student life.

Raisin Monday

Every year hundreds of first year students, dressed in fancy dress by their academic parents, gather in St Salvator’s Quad for the annual Raisin Monday foam fight.

Extra-curricular activities

There are over 180 student societies ranging from artistic and musical through to religious and cultural.

Sport is a valued aspect of university life - there are over 50 sports clubs and 100 competitive sports teams to choose from.

High student satisfaction

The University of St Andrews is top in the UK for student academic experience with a 95% satisfaction rate, according to the results of the National Student Survey 2019.

According to the Complete University Guide 2020, students at the University of St Andrews are the most satisfied in the UK. Based on the quality of teaching, St Andrews scored 4.26 out of a maximum score of 5.00. 

Student retention

The University has one of the best first-year retention rates in Scotland for 2016-2017 entrants: around 97% of our students continue in their studies at St Andrews; less than 1% transfer to other universities, and less than 2% drop out of higher education altogether. 

Teaching quality

The University of St Andrews secured a Gold Award in the most recent Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) based on the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience. 

The TEF panel judged that St Andrews, "delivers consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for its students. It is of the highest quality found in the UK." 

The University was named UK University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020. It was also rated first in Scotland and second in the UK by the Guardian University Guide 2021.

Research excellence

The most recent Research Excellence Framework (REF) in 2014 ranked the University of St Andrews top in Scotland and 14th in the UK for the quality of research publications across Science, the Arts, Divinity and Medicine.

100% of our research is internationally recognised, while 80% is world-leading or internationally excellent. 


According to the most recent Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education survey (2016-2017), 95.2% of our undergraduate first-degree level graduates were in either full-time employment or further study.