I’m currently 17, meaning that the time has come for me to seriously start looking at, and visiting, universities. Because I haven’t found any personal articles written about any universities, no blog posts or videos or anything, I figure I might as well be the first. So I hope this is useful.
EDIT: I live in London and have done my whole life, so everything regarding university is written from that perspective. The course I wish to study is Anthropology, ideally a combined course with Philosophy.
From London to Leuchars station, 10 minutes by taxi from St. Andrew’s, took about 5.5 hours by train. As I travelled with three friends this wasn’t such an awful amount of time, but alone it would be tedious to say the least. On the way back home it took longer, about 6.5 hours, which really was a long time.
St. Andrew’s town itself is, predictably, small, with a population of 20’000, of which 8’000 are university students. This size means that, as we were frequently told, the students ‘make their own fun’ as there isn’t exactly a mutlitude of clubs or pubs or the sort of social things that usually come with the idea of university.
This problem appears to be solved by the fact that students seem to visit Edinburgh, about an hour away by train, and Dundee, about half an hour away, when they choose to properly go out. Obviously, this would be an expensive night out as the cost of train tickets, admission, drinks etc. would be rather a lot, particularly for an in-debted university student (something I will come to speak about a little further on).
Despite my previous paragraph of social woe, St. Andrew’s isn’t without a night-life; the student union bar is an apparent social hub, and because the university takes over the whole town there are many places to hang out and enjoy being a student. There are also the university halls of accomodation, all with common areas and decently sized rooms with all the utilities one could require. There isn’t really a need to visit either Edinburgh or Dundee unless you want shopping malls and clubs, and the hours journey to Edinburgh isn’t actually much longer than travelling from A to B in London.
Meeting people would be easy; of course the size of the university means that the student body forms a close-knit community, and the fact that you can walk from one end of town to the other in 25 minutes means that you’re always in close proximity to friends, and other people full-stop.
According to Which? University, St. Andrew’s has the overall student satisfaction rate of 89%, nearly matching those of Russel Group Universities such as Cambridge (90%), Oxford (91%), and Durham (90%). This means that the whole small-town thing clearly isn’t a problem.
Perhaps now would be the time to talk about the aformentioned small-town; St. Andrew’s is located on the East Coast of Scotland, with beautiful architecture and beaches, the biggest of which being West Sands Beach, a huge stretch of flat sand with rock pools and shells and all the charm of a picturesque, if chilly, coastline.
The beach is an area of town that most everyone mentioned at some point, as was the ruined castle, the rich history, and the abundent traditions.
The main street, Market Street, is just a normal long, cobblestoned road with all the shops you would need; New Look, Phase Eight and H&M to fulfill high-street fashion needs, Superdrug and Boots, Subway, Nandos and lots of little coffee shops and independent restaurants, the ones we tried having served delicious meals with lovely staff.
Parallel with Market Street is North Street, where the admission ‘block’ of the university can be found. Just like Market Street, North is cobbled and lined with beautifully designed buildings, a theme that runs throughout the town.
Now, I think the time has come to discuss the debt issue; as St. Andrew’s is a Scottish university 1/3 of the student body is made up of Scottish students who don’t have to pay to attend. EU students also have discounted fees, I think, so together that’s a substantial percentage of the students who have no or less debt than those from England and Wales. This means that they would have extra spending money compared to, certainly, me and people in my position. This would also explain how they would manage to go into Edinburgh and Dundee for a night out. I can’t pretend that this financial issue doesn’t worry me slightly, but I don’t think it would be as noticeable as I think I’m making it out to be.
Courses-wise, St. Andrew’s manages to strike a middle ground between the English university system, where students pick a course or a joint course meaning that at most they can study two subjects, and the American college system, where breadth is valued more so students study a range of subjects. St. Andrew’s is much like the American system for the first two years of one’s course in that students study three or four subjects and then cut it down to two in-depth ones in the last two years, like the English system does from the start. Personally, I like this method of teaching as it would mean that I could study Anthropology, Philosophy and Film all at once for the first two years, and so even if I didn’t get a degree in it I would have some kind of a background in film, the industry I wish to go into.
The students and professors that we met were lovely – very welcoming and easy to talk to, as well as happy to discuss their worries before attending the university.
All in all, I found St. Andrew’s to be an absolutely lovely university and town, and highly expect to be applying there later this year. My only real worry is that, for me, it’s a very long way from home and, since I’ve only ever known London, my entire life is here. Of course, the finance side of things worries me too, but there are plenty of scholarships and bursaries to apply for and really money-worries will crop up with all universities, as is the nature of higher education.
I hope this little post has been educational and helpful, and if you wish to know any more about my visit to the university feel more than welcome to drop me a comment.