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Single sign-on (SSO)

Single sign-on (SSO) is a specialised form of authentication that allows a user to authenticate once and gain access to the resources of multiple, independent software systems and electronic resources. A user logs in once and gains access to all the enabled systems without being prompted to log in again to each of them.

We are moving towards web-based single sign-on, in particular to access academic resources online; we have now been successfully using Shibboleth since 2007 (and since 2008 as a replacement for Athens wherever possible).


The most obvious advantage for users is the ability to access a (potentially wider) range of online resources, such as e-journals, by using their St Andrews usernames and passwords, removing the need for separate Athens credentials.

In 2007, the University of St Andrews joined a federation of other institutions, whose members created a so-called 'circle of trust': the members may make certain resources available to one another, and must guarantee reliable authentication of their own users' identities.


There are two particular privacy aspects to single sign-on:

  • Unless a service provider needs to know who you are - or you tell them after having authenticated - all they are told is that you are allowed access to a resource.

  • However, because of the nature of single sign-on, when you sign out of a resource you will be automatically signed back in if you return to that resource within the same browser session.

    We recommend that you close your browser in order to remove your SSO credentials.

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(01334 46) 3333
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(Mon - Fri, 09:00 - 17:00)

Level 2
University Library
North Street
St Andrews
Fife KY16 9TR

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: 08:30-18:00
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Sat: 10:00-17:00
Sun: 11:00-18:00

The IT Service Desk is closed
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