The University of St Andrews celebrates its 600th Anniversary in 2013!

600 years 1413 - 2013

St Andrews is one of the world’s greatest small universities. Founded in 1413, it’s the third-oldest in the English-speaking world (preceded only by Oxford and Cambridge) and enjoys an international reputation for the quality of its teaching and research.

To gain a sense of the University’s antiquity, visitors are normally welcome to enter the beautiful quadrangles of two of the original colleges – St Mary’s on South Street (endowed in 1538) and St Salvator’s on North Street (1450). In the peaceful enclave of St Mary’s, a thorn tree allegedly planted by Mary Queen of Scots in 1565 still survives.

The University’s buildings are spread across the whole town and the institution is steeped in tradition. The annual Kate Kennedy Procession attracts large crowds to St Andrews’ medieval streets in April, and another long-standing custom is undertaken weekly after Sunday chapel, as red-gowned students embark on their traditional walk along St Andrews’ pier. Raisin Weekend is a boisterous event held each autumn.

  • St Salvator's Chapel dates from the 15th Century
© Gerry Priest (www.

However, the University has many more recent claims to fame; it was the first Scottish university to admit women undergraduates (1892) and began the first designated students’ union in Britain (1888). St Andrews alumni include such luminaries as John Wilson (inventor of logarithms), James Wilson (one of the fathers of the American Constitution), James Black (Nobel Prize winner), Fay Weldon (novelist), Alex Salmond (politician), Chris Hoy (cyclist) and, in the early years of the 21st Century, Prince William and Catherine Middleton – now  the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge.

The University of St Andrews balances its traditions and medieval origins with its reputation as a modern, cosmopolitan seat of learning.  Whilst it has changed – and grown – over the last six centuries, one thing that has remained constant is the way in which it is integrated into the local community. Its ancient and modern buildings make a substantial contribution to the attractiveness of St Andrews, and, during term-time, its 7,000 students (one-third of whom come from overseas) add liveliness and vigour to the town’s shops, restaurants and pubs.

In short, the University remains a vital ingredient of the unique blend that is modern-day St Andrews.