The 2023 Guardian Universities Guide has named the University of St Andrews as the number one university in the UK, edging out Oxford and Cambridge for the top spot. This is the first time the Guardian has named St Andrews above Oxbridge but adds to a growing trend among university guides over the past two years, with the Good Universities Guide naming St Andrews in first position last year.
In response to the news, Principal and Vice-Chancellor Dame Sally Mapstone released a statement to staff and students. The statement read: “I hope that St Andrews’ terrific students and all of my hard-working colleagues will feel the recognition of this very significant achievement. They entirely deserve it.”
She added, “The amalgam of our strengths in the key areas which The Guardian measures has set us narrowly ahead of some of the very best universities in the world,”. “For a small Scottish university to shake the established order repeatedly is a great tribute to everyone who works and studies here.”
“What a fantastic way to begin a new academic year, and at a time when the world we serve has rarely been in greater need of the transformational powers of the highest quality of independent research and teaching.”
The news was shared by the University on social media and the official University of St Andrews website, accompanied by photos of students around the campus celebrating with a number ‘1’.
The Guardian ranks universities based on a variety of different criteria, including student satisfaction rates, expenditure per student, and graduate career prospects.
A supplementary article published by the Guardian, entitled, “Forget Oxbridge: St Andrews knocks top universities off perch” coins the new term, “Stoxbridge”.
Matt Hiely-Rayner, who put together the guide, has said that this year has brought the narrowest difference between first and third place in the guide’s history.
“What’s clearer is the extent to which these three are removed from the rest of the sector. But between them there isn’t much difference, they are so close that tiny judgements would make a difference in the order.”
Combined, “Stoxbridge” have taken first place in 30 out of 36 individual subject areas, with St Andrews specifically ranked first in Art History, Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, English, History, Economics, and International Relations. Sixteen of the 22 subjects taught at St Andrews ranked in the top five.
According to the Guide, what clinched it for St Andrews this year is higher entry grades in incoming undergraduates, high levels of student satisfaction, and graduate employability rates. According to the University website, 92% for first-level degree graduates find full-time employment or go on to further study.
In an article published by the University Communications Office, the reputation for student satisfaction that the University enjoys is seemingly justified by a video of St Andrews students commenting on their ‘number one’ favourite thing about studying at the University. One student states, “My number one favourite thing has to be how friendly everybody is. It’s just such a fun spirit all round.” This sentiment was echoed by others who remarked on the friendliness of the townspeople, professors, and their fellow pupils. Other students commented on more unique aspects of the town, such as its seaside location, strange traditions, and vibrant social atmosphere.
The Guardian Universities Guide has made their view clear that St Andrews, despite its small size and out-of-the-way location, plays a significant role in the prestigious reputation of UK universities.
Image: University of St Andrews