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Thursday, 17 August, 2000, 10:23 GMT 11:23 UK
St Andrews: Home to the well-heeled student
St Andrews: Known to some as "England's northernmost university"
Prince William has turned his back on Oxbridge in favour of the remoteness of St Andrews University, Fife - popular with well-heeled, public school-educated students.

Prince William may have broken with Royal Family protocol in choosing to study at St Andrews, but as a public school-educated Englishman, he will be in good company.

Despite its location well to the north of Edinburgh, St Andrews is sometimes called England's northernmost university.

History of Art main office
The inconspicuous main office of St Andrews school of art history
For years it has been popular with upper crust young men and women from south of the border - disparagingly known as "Yahs" by their state-educated colleagues.

Many who enrol are smarting from an Oxbridge rejection. William, who gained an A, B and C in his A-levels, will not have to conjure with that sort of rejection - St Andrews came top of his list, even though Cambridge is a family favourite.

His choice of degree - history of art - is a popular one at the university, especially with the "Yahs", says one former English student.

Academic standards are high for the four-year course. Students have to achieve excellent marks in coursework and exams for the first two years, before proceeding on to the honours course.

Alumni include:
Fay Weldon, author
John Napier, inventor of logarithms
Sir James Black, Nobel prize winner
Modules include the Age of Giotto, Scottish Art and the Modern Movement and Art of Renaissance Italy.

The remoteness of the university is said to have pleased the prince's bodyguards, who will find their job more manageable than in a bustling city.

But some students find the isolation hard going.

"When I first got there, I got off the train at Leuchars - St Andrews doesn't have its own station - stood on the bridge above the track, and looked around me 360 degrees," recalls former student Duncan Whitehead.

Outdoor activities

"There was absolutely nothing but countryside. I wouldn't say everybody was dying to go there."

The rural location makes it popular for outdoor activities such as climbing, trekking and, of course, golf. The town is home to the world's oldest surviving golf course.

St Andrews general
Rural charm? The town has a population of 11,000 plus 5,000 students and 900 post-grads
"Lots of students play golf at the historic course. It's not seen as unusual, like it would be elsewhere," says Mr Whitehead, a former economics undergraduate.

As Scotland's oldest university, St Andrews is steeped in tradition. Its reputation as home to the Scottish Reformation leader John Knox has won it enduring popularity with west coast Presbyterians.

It has a rich political history, especially as a proving ground for young Tories. In the 1970s, students used to burn effigies of Tony Benn and its alumni include former Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, and ex-Tory minister Alan Stewart.

Break with union

The university's students' union was one of a small handful to sever ties with the National Union of Students.

However, it has also played host to leading Scottish nationalists including Alex Salmond, the SNP's outgoing leader.

Tiger Woods
Golf links: St Andrews is best known as "the home of golf"
And while senior figures have recently sought to shake off the institution's fusty image, there is still the notorious Kate Kennedy Club.

The student club - named in honour of the niece of former university founder, Bishop Kennedy - is an exclusively male body, similar to the "frat houses" at American universities.

Although much of its work is now for charities, the club holds an annual procession in which its prettiest member is dressed up as Kate Kennedy and paraded through the streets.

It's a fair bet that Prince William will not be signing up.

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Prince WilliamFit for a prince
William to study art history at St Andrews
See also:

17 Aug 00 | Education
Prince William makes the grade
17 Aug 00 | Scotland
Town tees up for prince
16 Aug 00 | UK
Get ahead, get a year out
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