University of St Andrews

University of St Andrews. Top 5 university in United Kingdom.

University of St Andrews Details

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The University of St Andrews (informally known as St Andrews University or simply St Andrews; abbreviated as St And, from the Latin Sancti Andreae, in post-nominals) is a British public research university in St Andrews, Fife, Scotland. It is the oldest of the fourancient universities of Scotland and the third oldest university in the English-speaking world (following Oxford and Cambridge). St Andrews was founded between 1410 and 1413, when the Avignon Antipope Benedict XIII issued a papal bull to a small founding group of Augustinian clergy.

St Andrews is made up from a variety of institutions, including three constituent colleges (United College, St Mary’s College, and St Leonard’s College) and 18 academic schools organised into four faculties. The university occupies historic and modern buildings located throughout the town. The academic year is divided into two terms, Martinmas and Candlemas. In term time, over one-third of the town’s population is either a staff member or student of the university. The student body is notably diverse: over 120 nationalities are represented with over 45% of its intake from countries outside the UK; about one-eighth of the students are from the rest of the EU and the remaining third are from overseas — 15% from North America alone. The university’s sport teams compete in BUCS competitions, and the student body is known for preserving ancient traditions such as Raisin Weekend, May Dip, and the wearing of distinctive academic dress.

It is ranked as the third best university in the United Kingdom in national league tables, behind Oxbridge. The Guardian ranks first in the United Kingdom the Schools of Physics and Astronomy, International Relations, Computer Science, Geography, and Mathematics, whilst the Complete University Guide ranks Divinity and Middle Eastern and African Studies first. The Times Higher Education World Universities Ranking names St Andrews among the world’s Top 50 universities for Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities. St Andrews has the highest student satisfaction (joint first) amongst all multi-faculty universities in the United Kingdom.

St Andrews has many notable alumni and affiliated faculty, including eminent mathematicians, scientists, theologians, philosophers, and politicians. Recent alumni include the former First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond; Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon; HM British Ambassador to China Barbara Woodward; United States Ambassador to Hungary Colleen Bell; Olympic cycling gold medalist Chris Hoy; and royals Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. Six Nobel Laureates are amongst St Andrews’ alumni and former staff: two in Chemistry and Physiology or Medicine, and one each in Peace and Literature.

St Andrews is a unique and captivating place, and the University is a key part of its charm. Seven centuries of history link the students with the town, leading to the ancient and yet modern institution apparent today. For those interested in visiting or moving to St Andrews we recommend taking a look at the town information, which describes the facilities and opportunities open to the local community. You can also find information about the University’s governance, history, and strategy for the future in the sections below.

Over the last 600 years, the University of St Andrews has established a reputation as one of the world’s leading research and teaching centres. Today, we offer a flexible degree structure based on your choice of subject specialism or research, creating an environment which nurtures inquisitive minds and a culture of shared learning.


Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

  • Art History
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Classics
    • Ancient History
    • Classical Studies
    • Greek
    • Latin
  • Computer Science
  • Divinity
    • Biblical Studies
    • New Testament
    • Theological Studies
  • Economics & Finance
  • English
  • English Language Teaching
  • Film Studies (see Philosophical, Anthropological & Film Studies)
  • Geography & Geosciences
    • Earth & Environmental Sciences
    • Geography
    • Sustainable Development
  • History
  • International Relations
  • Management
  • Mathematics & Statistics
  • Medicine
  • Modern Languages
    • Arabic department
    • French
    • German
    • Italian
    • Persian department
    • Russian
    • Spanish
    • Comparative literature department
  • Philosophical, Anthropological & Film Studies
    • Film Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Social Anthropology
    • Music
  • Physics & Astronomy (inc. Astrophysics and Theoretical Physics)
  • Psychology & Neuroscience
  • Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS)
  • Social Anthropology (see Philosophical, Anthropological & Film Studies)
  • Theology (see Divinity)


Scottish students in the middle ages were forced abroad to pursue their studies, with no national university to develop their academic abilities. By 1410 most had been driven to Paris from Oxford and Cambridge by the Wars of Scottish Independence with England. So when the Catholic church was divided by two rival popes — with Pope Boniface IX supported by the French cardinals while Scotland remained faithful to Pope Benedict XIII — Scottish students found themselves in a difficult position. The time had come to establish a seat of learning, of international standing, back home in Scotland.

St Andrews was the obvious choice — the seat of the greatest bishopric in Scotland and location of a monastery noted as a centre for learning. In May 1410 a group of masters, mainly graduates of Paris, initiated a school of higher studies in St Andrews.

Wardlaw’s charter

By February 1411 the school had established itself sufficiently to obtain a charter of incorporation and privileges from the Bishop of St Andrews, Henry Wardlaw. This granted the masters and students recognition as a properly constituted corporation, duly privileged and safeguarded for the pursuit of learning. However, recognised university status and the authority to grant degrees could only be conferred by the Pope or the Emperor as heads of Christendom.

Bishop Wardlaw turned to the exiled Pope Benedict XIII to seek his blessing. King James, despite being a prisoner of the English, added his weight to the petition. In return for Scotland’s loyalty, Pope Benedict readily agreed and on 28 August 1413 full University status was conferred by a series of six papal bulls – one of which survives to this day in the University of St Andrews museum, MUSA.

So it was that the papal bulls began their five month journey, from the Spanish fortress in Peniscola where Pope Benedict was safely cloistered, over land and sea to St Andrews. They arrived in the town in February 1414 — to be welcomed with bells, bonfires, and great celebration.

The six bulls included the bull of foundation and a bull confirming Wardlaw’s charter of 1412. Although the text of all six is known, only the confirmation of Wardlaw’s grant survives in the original and still bears its bulla or lead seal.

The early years of the young university were not without turbulence. In 1426, King James tried to move the university to Perth. In 1470, several masters and students were expelled for attacking the Dean with bows and arrows. In 1544 the University banned beards, the carrying of weapons, gambling and football.

By the middle of the 16th century, St Andrews had grown to encompass three colleges — St  Salvator’s (1450), St Leonard’s (1511) and St Mary’s (1538). The buildings of St Mary’s College and St Salvator’s Chapel date from this period.

From the 1500s to the 1700s the University enjoyed a period of mixed fortunes. During this time St Salvator’s and St Leonard’s Colleges joined to form the United College which still survives today in a greatly enlarged form.

In the 19th century the University made considerable progress in developing teaching and research in the arts, divinity and the biological and physical sciences. In 1897 the University was joined by a new academic centre in nearby Dundee and with it gained notable achievements in medical and applied science. This association ended in 1967 with the foundation of a separate University of Dundee.

In the 1980s, St Andrews embarked on a broad programme of investment to boost its research capabilities, a strategy which has helped establish its reputation today as an international centre of research excellence.

In 2009, St Andrews became the first Scottish ancient to appoint a woman as Principal, recruiting Professor Louise Richardson from the Radcliffe Institute, Harvard, to lead it into its seventh century.

St Andrews recently celebrated 600 years of continuous existence during which time it has made an enduring contribution to the intellectual and cultural life of both Scotland and the wider world.

From mediaeval origins to modern thinking

International scholars have been coming to St Andrews to study, teachers to teach, and students to learn since the foundation in 1413. Through the centuries many great minds have been attracted to St Andrews:

  • William Dunbar, poet (MA, 1479).
  • John Napier, the inventor of logarithms (student, 1563)
  • James Gregory, designer of the Gregorian telescope (Regius professor of Mathematics, 1668).
  • Benjamin Franklin (honorary Doctor of Laws, 1759).
  • Edward Jenner, pioneer of the smallpox vaccine (MD, 1792).
  • John Stuart Mill, philosopher and economist (Rector, 1865).
  • JM Barrie, author (Rector, 1919).
  • Rudyard Kipling, author (Rector, 1922).
  • Sir James Black, Nobel Prize winner in medicine (MB ChB, 1946).

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