As we return to the bubble for another semester, and September’s cohort of fresh faces start to relax into the St Andrews lifestyle and battle it out for second-year accommodation, The Saint takes a look at who they are and where they’ve come from. In short, we look at the statistics and stories behind the Class of 2021.
Living in St Andrews, it is immediately clear that people from near and far are drawn to this quaint Scottish coastal town, both as holiday-makers and visitors to the oldest university in the country. What can be harder to decipher is how many of your peers are from the same place as you, and how much of your year group hails from elsewhere.
The Saint spoke to two first year students whose homes are in Scotland, and asked them about their experiences of meeting new people, and the diversity (or lack of) that they associate with the University since arriving in September.
Morgan Morris studies biology and geography and currently resides in University Hall. Mr Morris told The Saint that he does he feel he is in the minority, being a Scottish student whose hometown is very local to St Andrews.
“I have met many people during semester one, with many of them being from different countries around the world,” Mr Morris said. “There have been very few people from the Fife region, and the same with Scotland, that I have met. Personally, from my year cohort in high school I am the sole person who came to St Andrews.”
When asked to estimate roughly what percentage of his year group he believed to be from the UK, Mr Morris suggested between 30 and 40 per cent. As the infographic of data provided by the University admissions office indicates, the figure is in fact much higher, at 58 per cent.
Interestingly, this figure was guessed almost exactly by Ailidh Mackichan, a first-year physics student living in David Russell Apartments, who suggested 60 per cent. Ms Mackichan told The Saint that “the year group seems to be pretty diverse in terms of nationalities,” and that, despite her observation that a considerable number of students were from England and the United States of America, “there is also a large number of Scottish students.”
These two differing accounts further emphasise the difficulty of accurately surmising how large or small a portion of the students here are from the UK, which both students interviewed believe is due to the very diverse makeup of the student body, and particularly their year group.
“I do view St Andrews as a multicultural university as there are so many international students from so many different countries”, Mr Morris said.
Ms Mackichan agreed, going a step further by suggesting a number of reasons why St Andrews draws such a wide variety of students.
“The demographics of the University (even with students from the UK) are very diverse. I’d imagine this is due to the reputation St Andrews has as a good university and also the notoriety of the town itself,” Ms Mackichan said. “In addition, the University has a reputation for having a large number of international students, which could increase its appeal to those from outside Scotland.”
The Saint also spoke to Courtney Halder, a first year overseas student from New Zealand, studying biology and also living in DRA.
“I’ve only met one other Kiwi [in St Andrews], but that’s generally the case when travelling anyway,” said Ms Halder. “There seems to be quite a mix of nationalities, which is great because there’s always something different you can ask people about where they’re from.”
“You can hear a range of accents wherever you go,” continued Ms Halder, “You would be hard-pressed to not come into contact with any international students during your day.”
Both students alluded to cultural identity, and the importance of its maintenance to themselves and fellow students, as a contributing factor to the multi-cultural atmosphere of the bubble they have experienced.
“I don’t think where you’re from impacts you on a day to day basis in St Andrews. However, people still often retain strong cultural identities. This means that the University feels very diverse,” said Ms Mackichan.
“Where I am from is very important to me”, added Mr Morris, “and it has been important in my life at St Andrews as I have been able to share my experiences from the local area, for example. Due to being local, I have known St Andrews for many years, but being a student here has definitely given me another view of the town.”
The largest portion of the Class of 2021 are indeed from the UK, followed by North America, which may not come as a surprise to many. However, it also conveys the large number of other countries that engage with the University, many of which have a sole student studying here. Perhaps in the future, more will follow them.
As compared to the most recently released HESA statistics, St Andrews has a considerably larger non-EU intake than the UK university average. Meeting people from these countries across the world certainly seems to have gone down well with the interviewed first year students.
“I would say this is one of the reasons I chose St Andrews as I wanted to meet new people and learn from their different life experiences,” Mr Morris said. “At St Andrews I would say that you could probably meet someone from every corner of the earth.