Founded in 1413, St Andrews is known as Scotland’s ‘first university’. It is the oldest ‘ancient’ university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world.
It is ranked as the third best university in the United Kingdom in national league tables, behind Oxbridge. The Guardian ranks show that St Andrews is first in the United Kingdom for its Schools of Physics and Astronomy, International Relations, Computer Science, Geography, and Mathematics, whilst The Times and Sunday Times rank the Schools of English, Management, Philosophy, Anatomy and Physiology and Middle Eastern and African Studies first and the Complete University Guide ranks Management, 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 U
We asked one of its students, Vienna Kim (4th Year student studying History of Art at St Andrews) a few questions to get an honest account of what this fabulous university is really like. Here’s what she told us:
1. What would you say is the main appeal of studying at St Andrews?
Definitely the quality of teaching. I can only speak for my department, which is Art History, so I think it’s really important for all prospective students to research which institutions have the best teaching and faculty in their department of interest. At St Andrews the Art History department is amazing – it’s always ranked top 3 in the UK, so I think this speaks for itself. The town is also ridiculously beautiful. It may be a small town, but I don’t think I’ve ever been fed up of living here, and I rarely go to the nearby big cities of Dundee and Edinburgh, unless there’s a departmental trip there. So, I have to say St Andrews has everything.
2. What are the Halls of Residence (student accommodation) like? Which halls would you recommend?
The halls really vary. I spent one year in St. Salvator’s Hall, which I really enjoyed! People have mixed opinions about some of the other halls, but they are generally quite happy with them. I would, of course recommend my hall (Sallies, as it’s known here) – but then again, I’m biased. I’ve heard that McIntosh and University Hall are quite good too.
3. Accommodation is only guaranteed for first year students. How easy is it to find lodgings outside of university accommodation?
Yes, this has been a problem with the university for a while, and the Student Union has been doing a lot to make this process more accessible to students of varying economic backgrounds. The problem is that there are a lot of students in a small town, and much of the accommodation (especially centrally) is too expensive. But I’ve been able to find reasonably priced houses and flats in all of my years here, so it’s definitely possible.
4. Is living in St Andrews expensive?
Not too bad … at least if you’re comparing it to London living expenses. It’s probably more expensive that some other larger towns and cities though.
5. If I want a part-time job, how easy is it to find one?
Difficult question. Again, you have the same problem here – 6 000 students living in a tiny town, many of whom are looking for jobs – this makes competition for jobs very high. In my first year, I couldn’t get any work, but in the second semester of my second year I managed to get a part-time job in Pret-a-manger, and since then I’ve managed to find something. Coming to St Andrews a few days before the start of the semester (when everyone flocks back to uni) helps.
6. If you had to choose all over again, would you choose a city university instead of St Andrews?
NO! I think St Andrews is a great place to be. It’s small, but very quaint and relaxing at the same time. We study for four years here, unlike three years in English universities, and I think that’s just enough time to enjoy the beautiful surroundings and nature that is unique to St Andrews.
7. How would you rate the level of education at St Andrews?
Absolutely amazing! But again, I can only really speak for my own department, which is constantly rated as one of the best in the UK.
University League Tables 2017 from The Guardian:
8. How would you rate the teaching staff? Are they helpful? Do they get involved?
Again, this depends on the department to a large extent, but the Faculty in the Department of Art History are of the absolute highest calibre. All are extremely friendly and accommodating of students’ concerns. Some get more involved than others – of course, it’s an individual thing, but I think I can speak across the board, that St Andrews has excellent and supportive staff. How would they get the fantastic results otherwise?
9. How about student societies or clubs? Are they very active? Can you describe a club or activity you are involved in? How would you rate it?
The St Andrews Student Union is one of the most organised, active student unions I think I’ve ever come across/heard of. We’re really unique in that respect. People really care about society culture here? (Sometimes maybe a bit too much, haha!). I’ve been involved with a few things which have interested me and all of them are really well run and supported. In many cases, the clubs or activities are so good, they can really help you to gain valuable experience – increasing your employability later on. At St. Andrews I was involved in an inter-faith forum, where I was selected as one of the representatives of our university to sign the Declaration on a Shared Humanity, an inter-faith document signed by world religious and political leaders and students from St. Andrews. I would never have had this experience without St. Andrews!
10. Are there any things you would change about St Andrews if you could?
Not that I can think of – I’ve really enjoyed all aspects of my four years here. I’ll be really sorry to graduate next year. Everything about it is spectacular really. And I’ll definitely miss that absolutely stunning scenery and picturesque location!
11. Is it difficult to get into St Andrews? What grades do you usually need?
I found getting to St Andrews actually really quite easy, because I’m classified as an international student. Scottish universities don’t charge tuition fees to their UK or EU students, so they rely quite heavily on the fees from their international student intake. I think that’s one of the reasons why we have such a wide and diverse range of people here.
12. What is the grading system like? Is it difficult to graduate with a top mark?
St Andrews has an interesting 20 point scale system – quite similar to the French style of grading. I think it’s a generally very reasonable method of marking. It is challenging, but fair, given the quality of our institution, to graduate with top marks.
If you’re interested in finding out more information about St. Andrews University, you can look at their website. Just follow the link here:
Accommodation information can be found here:
Credits: Stunning photography by the very talented Alex Shaw (click to see her website with more awesome pics of St Andrews) / Interview by Vienna Kim