Your academic experience at St Andrews might well be different from previous education systems you’ve experienced. It’s worth exploring how the system works here in St Andrews.
Student representation is very important at the University of St Andrews. Class representatives and School Presidents work together with academic staff, the Deans and the Proctor to ensure that student feedback on teaching is carefully considered at all levels.
Class representatives relay feedback on the curriculum and teaching within specific modules to staff members within their School. This could be anything from the format of assessments and the timing of deadlines to the content of lectures. The class representatives work closely with School Presidents whose role is to represent all students within their School. School Presidents chair student-staff consultative committees, and can forward unresolved feedback to the Director of Representation, the Proctor, the Rector and the Deans.
There are six student sabbatical officers whose role is to optimise your student experience. These are the Association President, the Athletic Union President, the Director of Education, Director of Wellbeing, the Director of Student Development and Activities, and the Director of Events and Services.
Studying abroad is an exciting opportunity to experience another academic and social culture, and study modules that are not on offer at the University of St Andrews. It is also a useful way to enhance your employability and enrich your CV through demonstrating independence and adaptability.
The University offers opportunities to study abroad internationally through two study abroad programmes: St Andrews Abroad and School Abroad.
St Andrews Abroad is open to students studying a variety of subjects who wish to spend a semester or year in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Singapore or the USA.
School Abroad programmes offer school or department-specific opportunities to study abroad in a wider range of countries. Although many of these opportunities are for students studying in the School of Modern Languages, some universities also offer modules taught in English to study abroad students from a wider range of disciplines.
Due to the popularity of study abroad programmes, having a strong academic record, evidence of maturity and responsibility, and strong motivations to study abroad are prerequisites for applying.
You can find out more about the opportunities for undergraduates and postgraduates to study and work abroad, as well as details of the application process, on the study abroad website.
Independent learning week
Independent learning week is a week in the middle of Semester 1 during which you have no lectures or compulsory course components such as labs and tutorials. This week is not a holiday, and tutors’ office hours will run as normal. You are expected to remain in St Andrews and complete a typical 40 hours of studying.
Independent learning week gives you a chance to consolidate your learning, complete assignments and prepare for the second half of the semester. It is an ideal time to begin thinking about your December exams. You should use it productively to maximise your success.
The academic environment of university is very different to that of school. Whilst you may be accustomed to having structured lessons throughout the day, many university courses have fewer contact hours and require a higher degree of independent learning than school. You are expected to conduct independent reading and research to complement lectures This gives you more freedom to explore areas of your subject that interest you and helps you develop strong independent research skills. However, it can be difficult to know how much work is expected. Learning to balance your academic work with other commitments such as part-time jobs and societies takes time.
Throughout your time at university you will interact with a diverse variety of people, from fellow students to academics and other staff. This is one of the benefits of the university experience, enabling you to communicate and work with many different people.
However, it can be a difficult environment to navigate when you are unfamiliar with it. Some students are initially reluctant to approach their lecturers and tutors due to uncertainty about how to initiate a conversation.
Treating others with respect is a principle that underpins life at St Andrews, and one that should be reflected in the way you interact with members of the community, both staff and students. It is important to realise that the University fosters a supportive environment, and lecturers and tutors want you to succeed. Most will be happy to help with any concerns, provided you have made an attempt to resolve the problem independently. The best way to begin a conversation with a tutor or lecturer is to email the person in question at the email address provided on your academic School’s webpage. If it is your first time emailing them, you should address them formally as ‘Professor/Dr/Mr/Mrs’. Some may choose to respond in an informal tone, which you can then adopt in any subsequent replies. However some prefer a more formal tone of communication, so it is important that you take this approach from the outset.
There are 19 academic Schools within the University, each belonging to either the Faculty of Arts, the Faculty of Divinity, the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Medicine.
Each School has a Head of School, a director of teaching, and a director of research. Supported by secretarial and administrative staff who are involved in areas like public outreach and media relations, they ensure that teaching and research run effectively within the school.
Academic staff you are likely to meet throughout your studies include:
- fellows who undertake research within the school
- lecturers and readers who perform research and teach undergraduates
- professors who hold the highest academic position in the University. Some are known as professors emeritus, a title which indicates that the professor has officially retired but continues to participate in the School.
- postgraduate students who play an active role in teaching and conducting tutorials
- laboratory technicians and demonstrators who oversee the running of laboratories and practical classes.
Common reporting scale
Any official coursework you complete at the University of St Andrews, as well as your final module grades, will be reported on a 20-point scale. This allows for comparison between subjects and modules.
Reporting scale Honours classification
|17 to 20||First class|
|14 to 16||Upper second class|
|11 to 13||Lower second class|
|8 to 10||Third class|
|4 to 6||Fail (with right to resit)|
|0 to 3||Fail (with no right to resit)|
You can view the European and North American grade equivalents. For students from Australia, China, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore and mainland Europe, please see the credit and grade conversion webpage.
Leave of absence
You are expected to attend lectures and compulsory elements for all your courses. If you have good reason to miss a compulsory course component, you should submit a Self-Certificate of Absence form via e-Vision on MySaint within three days of the first day of your absence. If you know you will be absent, you should make your tutor aware of this in advance. Find out more about the University policy on absence.
If you are absent for a consecutive three weeks, or experience an ongoing personal, financial or health circumstance which requires extended time off, you should consider taking a leave of absence. This is a temporary hiatus from your studies which typically lasts between one semester (the minimum) and one academic year. Choosing to take a leave of absence is a significant decision, and you should consider the financial and academic implications, as well as how it will affect your funding and visa, if applicable. Find out more about things to consider with a leave of absence.
How you will be taught
How you are taught at university varies depending on subject, and may include a combination of lectures, tutorials, laboratory classes, field-work and computer labs.
Lectures are typically one or two hours long and consist of a lecturer addressing a large audience who take notes. The content and style of your lectures will vary since some lectures prefer to orate their main points, whilst others provide detailed notes or presentations which can be accessed later on MySaint or Moodle. It is important that you attend all your lectures to ensure you have a comprehensive understanding of their content.
Tutorials take place weekly, fortnightly or monthly in small groups led by a postgraduate in your academic school. More interactive than lectures, tutorials are based on readings or problem solving questions you complete in advance and discuss during the tutorial. Tutorials are an excellent opportunity to explore themes that interest you in your lectures and clarify areas you do not understand. Making the most of them requires preparation and a willingness to contribute and exchange ideas with the group.
Laboratory classes give science students an opportunity to gain subject-specific laboratory skills, and access advanced equipment used in their field. For example, in first year you may learn column chromatography in chemistry or protein purification in biology. Similar to laboratory classes, fieldwork (which could take place locally or abroad) allows you to put what you learn in lectures into practice by investigating phenomenon in their real-world context.
Computer labs use advanced audio-visual equipment and computer programmes to enhance learning. Computer-assisted learning is used in a wide variety of subjects including modern languages, statistics, mathematics, and computer science.
The University of St Andrews operates on a modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. The University's modular degree system makes undergraduate study here very flexible, and our module requirements are the same whether you are studying full time or part time.
A module is a self-contained unit of teaching, learning and assessment which is worth a fixed amount of credit. Most modules run for just one semester, and every module passed will gain you a set number of credits which will count towards your degree.
The video clip below contains some current students talking about how they took advantage of the flexible modular system.
New students may be interested in the range of Orientation videos created to introduce them to the University.
Academic experience for postgraduates
Postgraduate degree programmes at St Andrews
St Andrews offers a range of postgraduate degrees, which cover both taught programmes and research programmes. Find out more about these degree programmes on the qualifications explained page.
Postgraduates who teach
Research postgraduates may have the opportunity to tutor or to act as lab demonstrators in their Schools.
The University’s policy for supervisors and students in research postgraduate programmes states that research students who teach must receive formal training from CAPOD, and that in addition "the School must provide a local induction for all new postgraduate teachers, as well as appropriate training and support throughout their time teaching". Please also see the University's policy, Doctoral students who teach.
The training consists of two workshops covering facilitation skills, practical advice on managing tutorials, and includes information on confidentiality and duty of care, as well as support for students with disabilities. It also covers principles of assessment/feedback, and the Academic Misconduct policy, including discussions on plagiarism.
Outline of training
- Brief introduction to academic policy and administrative procedures: for example, conducting Disclosure (Scotland) checks, etc.
- Assessment and marking practical
- All new tutors/demonstrators should complete a marking practical where they blind mark anonymous pieces from a past student. When multiple tutors are used on the same module, they should compare the marks they awarded in the context of grades actually awarded and discuss how the grade descriptors had been applied (as far as possible).
- Moderation of postgraduate marking
- Peer observation of teaching
St Leonard’s College
St Leonard’s College is the ‘home’ for all postgraduate students within the University. The College works closely with the Postgraduate Society, who are the 'home society' for postgraduates in St Andrews.
The mission of the College is to promote a culture and environment in which scholarship, creativity and discovery will flourish.
St Leonard's College supports postgraduates through:
- Considering postgraduate needs such as study space.
- Communicating with postgraduate representatives and providing postgraduate support.
- Enhancing your employability by supporting your professional and career development by working with CAPOD, the Careers Centre and the Knowledge Transfer Centre.
- Providing a stimulating intellectual environment for those research PGs who wish to explore concepts beyond their own disciplines by through a range of events.
- Creating supportive social networks.
Policies for postgraduate research students
You can find a list of policies relating to postgraduate research students on the current students webapges.
The University’s postgraduate research policies are managed by the Postgraduate Research Committee on behalf of Academic Council.