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 2020. 92.7% 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, but it is the huge range of additional opportunities only St Andrews can provide which creates the unique experience. Because 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. Here, as nowhere else, curious students can meet the best scholars and teachers from around the world, and crucially find the thinking space to question what they are taught.
Our teaching is supported by the flexible nature of the Scottish system, which allows you to choose to study multiple subjects during the course of your degree. This all helps to explain why we were granted TEF Gold status in 2017, and why we were named UK University of the Year in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020.
St Andrews has welcomed pilgrims for centuries, and as a result, the hospitality of local people is instinctive and ingrained. The many film stars, celebrities and politicians who visit say that 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. It is a dream that comes true for many students each year because golf at St Andrews remains true to its Scottish roots as a game for all.
However, the ‘Auld Grey Toun’ is not all about golf. St Andrews was awarded the 2012 Creative Place Award – Scotland’s highest arts accolade – in recognition of its remarkable array of festivals, cultural events, and community participation. The town also 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, which is made up of the local community, University students and staff, and visitors. This gives the town an intimate feel, complemented by the close proximity of all University facilities, buildings and halls of residences.
Another unique benefit of St Andrews is the wealth of events which occur each semester. From academic talks and conferences to University events such as the election of the University Rector or the annual carol services, 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, which occurs each spring, as well as the close proximity of the University's two theatres.
From your first day in St Andrews, you will be supported by a host of professional staff within academic Schools, in halls of residence and through the University's Student Services team.
With all first-year undergraduate students guaranteed a place in a University hall in their first year, it's not surprising that our 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, who are available at evenings and weekends 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, including disabilities, mental health, academic matters, finances or wellbeing. The University Chaplain is also readily available to support students on a range of matters.
You can use the University's personal and professional development service, CEED, which can help with study skills and academic support through your studies. International students also have the opportunity to work with our International Education Institute, who 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 which help create a community feel and result in a truly unique student experience.
Red gown and pier walk
Perhaps the most notable tradition is the red academic gown, which is usually worn at formal occasions and for the pier walk, when students walk along the harbour pier in St Andrews, climbing up the ladder at the end and back along the higher, more precarious, path.
Academic families and Raisin Weekend
Like many alumni before you, you can join an academic family: a spontaneous tradition where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. This is a fantastic way for you to meet new people, and 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, an unsupervised, student-led event where the 'children' are entertained by their academic parents and are encouraged to play pranks and games. On Raisin Monday, 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.
The Curse of Patrick Hamilton
When you're walking about St Andrews, make sure you watch your step around a certain set of initials set into cobblestones outside Sallies Quad, 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 freezing 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, one final tradition is carried out: friends will meet you after your last exam and shower you with cold water. For students, this is a very proud, special and invigorating moment and provides a great way to end the exam period.
The University of St Andrews Students’ Association – or the Union, as it is better known to students – is the large glass-fronted building located at the end of Market Street. It is dedicated to supporting students throughout their lives at University, focusing 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 one of the four bars, or attending an event run by one of the student societies.
The Students’ Association is home to 140 different societies and clubs ranging from broad established groups such as the Mermaids theatrical group to the vegetarian and vegan society.
Whether you're interested in joining a new team at St Andrews or taking your performance to the next level, sport is something that we take seriously. The Sports Centre recently underwent a £14m redevelopment which included the construction of a state-of-the-art indoor tennis court and a climbing wall. This redevelopment project has given our students access to some of the best sporting facilities in Scotland, right on their doorstep.
The Sports Centre offers a range of indoor and outdoor facilities, and is surrounded by some of the best grass pitches in Scotland as well as 3G and sand-dressed synthetic pitches and tennis courts.
With over 50 student sports clubs competing at a range of levels, and 12 performance clubs which receive extra support and investment, you're sure to find the right match. Most undergraduate students have no classes scheduled on Wednesday afternoons to allow them to get out onto the field, track or water, and the Sports Centre 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, and 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: you will live and study in the intimacy of a small town, but be surrounded by peers and teachers from all over the world who will cultivate your cultural awareness.
"I spent a year at the University of St Andrews and my immediate memories are: a charming town, interesting students coming from the four corners of the world, beautiful scenery, unforgettable friendships, lecturers devoted to the teaching of their students, my walk to Anstruther along the Fife Coastal Path. Choosing to go to St Andrews for my exchange year was one of the wisest choices I made and I feel I have gained a lot socially and academically, during my stay in this beautiful part of Scotland."
Youssef - Cairo, Egypt