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At the celebrations in February for the 600th anniversary of the University of St Andrews, Prince William said, “It is the greatest university on earth.” He might be biased, given that it is his alma mater and where he met his soon-to-be wife, Kate, but it is exactly this kind of sentiment that St Andrews inspires in people.
The setting has to be seen to be believed: from the remains of a 13th century cathedral, to the castle, the golf courses, the “Chariots of Fire” beach, St. Salvator’s Chapel, the university flows in and around these historic and magnificent sites. The town has 18 000 permanent residents but tolerates an influx of 7 700 students during term time, one third of whom are from outside Scotland or the European Union. I had the impression that it boasts a small-town feeling, but that there are cosmopolitan and sophisticated leanings. And not a fast-food place in sight, though the town has permitted a Starbucks to set up shop.
As for the university, over 97% of students who enter as undergraduates complete a four year degree, earning either a Master of Arts (though it does not equate to graduate level work) or a Bachelor of Science. Students take 3 subjects in first year and typically drop 1 or 2 of those subjects for second year. They declare a major at the end of second year and focus their students on their intended major for the last two “honours” years.
While visiting the university, I had the chance to hear from faculty members from the departments of modern languages, chemistry, and sustainable development and I would be happy to give you more details about those areas if you are interested. The Vice-Chancellor (the equivalent of the university president in North American terms) said that St Andrews has the ethos of a small, liberal arts college and yet it is, as one faculty member put it, “punching well above its weight” in terms of research quality and output. Certainly, the new science and medicine facilities are home to latest and greatest advances in laboratory and classroom resources.
Perhaps a SMUS student will be one of the inaugural holders of the scholarship that St. Andrews has offered as a wedding present to Kate and William? It will be offered next year and will be open to all students, regardless of nationality, and valued at £70 000 over four years. There are two other scholarships of significant value that are open to non-EU students, including one specifically for Canadian students (the McEuen Scholarship). The university is clear in their mandate to maintain a strong cohort of highly qualified international students in each class.
Beyond the classroom, it is home to the oldest debating society in the UK, but also possesses a radio station called “The Star”, a student website “The Sinner”, a weekly “pier walk” in red gowns, and a cheerleading team. Rugby, soccer, field hockey, volleyball, and basketball teams all compete and there is a rowing training centre about 45 minutes away from campus. There are no classes held on Wednesday afternoon to enable students to fit in one (or more!) of the many extra-curricular possibilities on campus and in town. Personally, I would be inclined to use part of those Wednesday afternoons to make a serious comparative study of sticky toffee pudding offerings if I were a student there. I’m sure there is a club there for that, too.