St Andrews is a unique place to study and live. Nestled on the east coast of Scotland, students may find themselves crossing golf-courses on their way to class, or jogging along the beach after dinner. Not only does the University have a world-class reputation, it also offers a diverse range of social activities – including over 140 student societies and 50 sports clubs. Historic buildings are juxtaposed against the modern facilities, and the many student traditions truly make studying at St Andrews an unforgettable experience.
University of St Andrews, Scotland's first university
St Andrews students are the most satisfied in the country when compared to other mainstream universities, with the National Student Survey 2017 naming St Andrews top in the UK for the ninth time in the past 11 years
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.
Students leave St Andrews with an education that goes far beyond their degree.
The university has 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.
Teaching is supported by the flexible nature of the Scottish system, which allows students to choose to study multiple subjects during the course of their degree. This all helps to explain why University of St Andrews were granted TEF Gold status in 2017, and why the university was crowned UK University of the Year for Teaching Quality in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2017.
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.
St Andrews from Above
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, students can join an academic family: a spontaneous tradition where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and can 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 the 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.
* Source: Complete University Guide 2018