The Next Steps for the No. 1 University in the UK

Katie comments on what St Andrews should be focusing on for the future.

According to The Times’ Good University Guide 2022, St Andrews has now eclipsed the likes of Oxford and Cambridge to propel it to the top spot on the university league table. With a teaching quality of 86.5% and a student experience rating of 84.2%, it seems to be head and shoulders above the rest in terms of student satisfaction, even after the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic, accommodation issues, and dual-delivery teaching. It seems like there is nothing St Andrews cannot do as the first university outside of Oxbridge to claim the no. 1 ranking.

This is an achievement to celebrate. Oxford and Cambridge have dominated the top spots on the university league tables since their inauguration, making it seem like it would be impossible to ever oust them. But St Andrews has done just that. For too long, St Andrews has had the reputation of being a playground for British royalty and a hub for Oxbridge rejects. Perhaps now the university will start to be taken more seriously.

Source: Katie Brennan

Yet, St Andrews should not get complacent. Although it has done so much in the past few years, there are still pressing issues on campus that need to be addressed and which should not be forgotten amidst the celebrations. St Andrews still has a reputation of elitism which it has been unable to shake over the past decade. Out of the Scottish universities, only the University of Edinburgh rates more poorly in terms of social inclusion. It also continues to have one of the highest numbers of admissions from independent schools, with 36.2% of the student population being privately educated. This is completely disproportionate considering that only 7% of people in the UK go to independent schools. With some of the priciest student accommodation in the country, St Andrews’ image is not one of accessibility. Arguably, this causes it to miss out on some of the brightest, most capable students in Britain.

Source: Emily Goggin

Furthermore, some students still feel unsafe after the pervasiveness of sexual assault on campus was recently revealed. In the past four years, there have been forty-seven reports of these types of incidents. And those are merely the cases where victims have felt confident enough to approach the university. As the BBC documentary ‘Am I Safe on Campus?’ highlighted, students at St Andrews have felt, and continue to feel let down, betrayed, and frustrated with university staff and the system for reporting that is in place.

It is true that the university is trying to change for the better – significant progress is being made. St Andrews wouldn’t be no. 1 if this was otherwise. They have promised to take students seriously and are increasingly responsive to their concerns. After all, it is the students of St Andrews, in combination with the staff, who have granted it the spot at the top of the university league table, and the university is extremely conscious of this. Perhaps it should start listening for the sake of listening, however, rather than listening with the ulterior motive of preserving its image for the press and prospective students.

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