Student experience at St Andrews
The University of St Andrews is top in the UK for student academic experience according to the National Student Survey 2022. More than 89% of St Andrews final year students gave the University top marks for the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
Life here is centred around an internationally renowned teaching system. However, it is the huge range of additional opportunities only St Andrews can provide which creates a unique experience. St Andrews is a small university. Students have the opportunity to interact with staff, integrate with each other, and to feel a sense of belonging. They are active in politics, charity fundraising, volunteering locally, and in playing a governance role in how their services are run.
Our students leave St Andrews with an education that goes far beyond their degree.
We have a centuries-old tradition of bringing the brightest minds around the world to share their ideas. In St Andrews, curious students can meet the best scholars and teachers from around the world. Crucially, they can find the thinking space to question what they are taught.
Our teaching is supported by the flexible nature of the Scottish system. This allows you to choose to study multiple subjects during the course of your degree. The University of St Andrews has been ranked the top university in the United Kingdom, according to Guardian University Guide 2023.
St Andrews has welcomed pilgrims for centuries, and as a result, the hospitality of local people is instinctive and ingrained. Many film stars, celebrities and politicians visit the town each year. One of the attractions of St Andrews is that every visitor is afforded an equal welcome.
Many are drawn to St Andrews as the ‘Home of Golf’. Golfing in St Andrews is the ultimate ambition of many golfers. Playing golf at St Andrews is a dream that comes true for many students each year.
However, the ‘Auld Grey Toun’ is not all about golf. St Andrews is also recognised for its remarkable array of festivals, cultural events, and community participation. The town boasts three beaches, Scotland’s greatest cathedral, and an eclectic mix of independent shops, restaurants and galleries.
The town is usually considered home to around 16,000 people. This is made up of the local community, University students and staff, and visitors. This gives the town an intimate feel with close proximity to all University facilities, buildings and halls of residences.
Another benefit of St Andrews is the number of events which occur each semester. From academic talks and conferences to University events, there's always something going on.
Student events are also hugely popular. Music events range from the student-run Starfields music festival through to a range of a cappella concerts, orchestras and choirs. Fans of theatre and the arts will enjoy On The Rocks, Scotland's largest student-run arts festival.
The town's Byre Theatre hosts a varied and vibrant programme of University performances, events and activities, as well as conferences, exhibitions, social and engagement activities. It also presents professional touring productions of theatre, dance, musicals, music, opera and family performances, and popular local amateur productions.
From your first day in St Andrews, you will be supported by a host of professional staff. Support is available from your academic School, in halls of residence and through the University's Student Services team.
All first-year undergraduate students are guaranteed a place in a University hall in their first year. Students often credit their halls as the place that they find their friendship group for the rest of their degree. Each of our halls is also home to a wardennial system of staff and postgraduate students. This team is available to students who need advice, support or just someone to sit with at dinner. Students who need additional support are directed to the University’s Student Services team.
The Student Services team, which includes trained counsellors, can provide advice and support on a range of issues. This includes disabilities, mental health, academic matters, finances or wellbeing. The University Chaplaincy is also readily available to support students on a range of matters.
You can use the University's personal and professional development service, CEED. CEED can help with study skills and academic support through your studies. International students also have the opportunity to work with our International Education Institute. IE can provide support for non-native speakers of English both before starting your degree or once you're here.
The University of St Andrews is host to an array of traditions. These traditions create a community and result in a truly unique student experience.
Red gown and pier walk
Perhaps the most notable tradition is the red academic gown. Gowns are usually worn at formal occasions and for the pier walk. The pier walk involves students walking along the harbour pier and back along the higher path.
Academic families and Raisin Weekend
Like many alumni before you, you can join an academic family. This is a spontaneous tradition where older students adopt first-year students as ‘children’. 'Parents' then help guide their children in a system of mentoring. This is a fantastic way for you to meet new people. Many of the friendships that begin as part of the academic family tradition continue throughout and after university.
The mentoring provided by your academic family culminates in Raisin Weekend. This is a student-led event where the 'children' are entertained by their 'parents' and encouraged to play pranks and games. On Raisin Monday, hundreds of first-year students, are dressed in fancy dress by their academic parents. They then gather in St Salvator’s Quad for the annual Raisin Monday foam fight.
The curse of Patrick Hamilton
When walking outside Sallies Quad, make sure you watch your step around a certain set of initials set into cobblestones. Lest you fall victim to the curse of Patrick Hamilton. These cobblestones mark the spot where Patrick Hamilton was burnt at the stake in 1528. According to tradition, any student who steps on the PH will be cursed to fail their degree.
May Dip and soakings
Towards the end of the academic year, you may find yourself partaking in the May Dip. A tradition which sees hundreds of students plunging into the North Sea at dawn on the first of May. This spectacular tradition is said to promote good luck in exams.
Once your final undergraduate exam has finished there is one final tradition, soakings. Friends will meet you after your last exam and shower you with cold water. This is a very proud and invigorating moment and provides a great way to end the exam period.
The Students’ Association, or the Union, is the large glass-fronted building located at the end of Market Street. The Union is dedicated to supporting students throughout their lives at University. It focuses on the four core areas of events, student representation, wellbeing and extra-curricular activities. Student sabbatical officers – the 'sabbs' – are well-recognised faces across the University. You'll often find them chairing committees, having a drink in the bars, or attending society events.
The Students’ Association is home to over 190 societies and clubs. They run all kinds of events and cover almost anything you can think of.
Sport is something that we take seriously at St Andrews. Whether you're interested in joining a new team at St Andrews or taking your performance to the next level. Students have access to some of the best sporting facilities in Scotland. This includes indoor and outdoor tennis courts, a climbing wall and 3G and sand-dressed synthetic pitches.
There over 50 student sports clubs and 10 performance sport programmes which receive extra support and investment. Most students have Wednesday afternoon free to allow them to get involved whether on the field, court or water. Saints Sport also runs fitness classes if you're looking to meet individual goals.
St Andrews is an internationally Scottish university with staff and students from over 140 nationalities. Students from all over the world, and from a wide range of backgrounds, come to study with us. Many find St Andrews becomes a second home to them.
We celebrate our student diversity and support many pathways for international students to join us. Whether they are applying through an exchange or study abroad programme or for study through our many different degree routes. St Andrews encourages students from different backgrounds to apply and offers a number of scholarships for international students.
Studying at St Andrews offers a truly unique experience. Living and studying in the intimacy of St Andrews you will be surrounded by peers from all over the world.
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, meet our Admissions staff and current students on a virtual visit.