The University yard and St Andrews Castle

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The University of St Andrews is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in Great Britain after Oxford and Cambridge. It is considered one of the best universities in the United Kingdom. It is situated on the east coast of Scotland in the town of St Andrews in the region Fife. St Andrews University has a cosmopolitan character of students. 30% of students are from over 100 countries from all over the world.

St Andrews is not a campus University, it has grown and developed with the town and is now comfortably integrated. The modern purpose-built library and many academic Schools are located centrally. The growth in physical and mathematical sciences has been accommodated at the North Haugh on the edge of St Andrews. A modern sports centre with adjacent playing fields and halls of residence are also located in this area.

The University was founded between 1410 when a charter of incorporation was bestowed upon the Augustinian priory of St Andrews Cathedral and 1413 when Papal Bull was issued by Avignon Pope Benedict XIII. The University was granded a royal character in 1532. By the middle of the sixteenth century the University had three colleges - St Salvator's (1450), St Leonard's (1511), and St Mary's (1538), which was a re-foundation of St John’s college (1418 – 1430). From the 17th to 19th centuries, St. Andrews underwent a dramatic decline which at some point even menaced the university's own survival. There were only very few students and most of them did not graduate (due to relative irrelevance of academic degrees). The poverty of Scotland also damaged St. Andrews, as few were able to patronize the university and its colleges. The decadence of St Andrews University came to an end just after the foundation of University College in Dundee in 1897 which became a centre of medical, scientific and legal excellence whereas the university itself offered a traditional education based on classical languages, divinity and philosophical studies. In its more recent history, St Andrews has built strong links with leading institutions in the United States and Canada.

As with the other Ancient universities of Scotland, governance is determined by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858. This Act created three bodies: the General Council, University Court and Academic Senate. The University is divided into four academic faculties (Arts, Divinity, Medicine and Science). Each is governed by a Faculty Council and administered by a Dean.

There are several traditions connected to the university. In order to become a student one must take an oath in Latin called the Sponsio Academica. One of the most conspicuous traditions at St Andrews is the wearing of academic dress. The University owns two college chapels, St Salvator's and St Leonard's, both have their own choirs. Raisin Weekend is considered by many students the highlight of the social calendar at the University. It is held annually over the last weekend of November, when first years are entertained by their academic parents. The cobblestones are situated around the town on the sites where Protestant martyrs were burnt at the stake. To students the most notable of these is the cobblestone initials "PH" (Patrick Hamilton martyred in 1528) located outside the main gate of St Salvator's College. Stepping on the "PH" will cause a student to become cursed. The May Dip is a student tradition held annually at dawn on May Day. Students stay awake until dawn, at which time they collectively run into the North Sea to the sound of madrigals sung by the University Madrigal Group. The annual Kate Kennedy procession is the Kate Kennedy Club's main event. Club members dress up in Period outfits and ride down Market street in horse-drawn carriages.

There have been a lot of famous alumni of the University from different fields – arts and media, philosophers and academia, business and law, politics and public affairs, religion, royalty, sciences and others. To mention just some: Alexander Hume (poet), William Tennant (poet), Robert Balfour (philosopher), Sir John Rose (CEO of Rolls-Royce plc), Henry Balnaves (Scottish politician and religious reformer), John Knox (founder of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland), King James II of Scotland, Prince William – The Duke of Cambridge, John Napier (mathematician, inventor of logarithms).
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