Last week, it broke the record of maintaining the Number One position for the second year running on The Guardian newspaper’s league table of UK universities. Not only did it do so, the ranking also gave it the Number One position in nine course areas, lower than that of only the Oxford University which predominated in eleven subject areas. This week, the University of St Andrews broke another record by being the only other UK university to take the Number One position in two major ranking exercises. In The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024, to be published this weekend, it has been ranked the top university in the UK.
The significance of one university coming first in two different ranking exercises with different ranking criteria suggests that the University of St Andrews is not a pushover whichever way one turns as far as university education is concerned.
The University of St Andrews community is, understandably, unable to contain itself, obviously overjoyed over the feat. It is all there in a statement jointly issued by Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, Principal and Vice-Chancellor; Barry Will, President, University of St Andrews Students’ Association and Cam Brown, Director of Education, University of St Andrews Students’ Association. Intervention is reproducing the statement as follows:
“We are taking the unusual step of writing to you jointly this morning to acknowledge th positive news that, for the second time in the space of a week, St Andrews has been judged to be the best university in the UK.
The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024, to be published this weekend, ranks St Andrews top in the UK. As you know, the Guardian ranked us first in its University Guide 2024, published last Saturday.
It is a historic moment for the UK league tables, and a double first for St Andrews; no university other than those of Oxbridge has ever topped both principal UK rankings in the same year.
This achievement belongs to you, our fantastic staff and hard-working students. It reflects a deep institutional commitment to a critical balance of world-leading research and teaching, the engagement and academic potential of our students, and collectively, the ways in which we all try to support each other and constantly improve this great institution.
Our sense of community here in St Andrews is strong, and one that binds us to our alumni and supporters around the world, who share in this success. Those of us with a connection to St Andrews know that it is a special place which brings out the best in people, and is at its best when we value what we each bring as individuals to our shared experience and endeavours.
To make history in this way is a special way to start a new academic year, and we hope each and every one of you will recognise and feel able to celebrate what you have achieved”
The principle of localisation of news compels Intervention to ask what concerns Nigeria in the University of St Andrew’ feat. The answer is that the School of International Relations at the University of St Andrews, a subject in which the university is ranked in the first position, has a Nigerian lecturer, Dr. Alkali Omeni, highly, highly published for his age and doing a lot of research on the Nigerian Air Force. The School of Geography and Sustainable Development also has another award-winning Nigerian academic by name Dr. Ifesinachi Okafor-Yarwood. Another Nigerian is joining the University of St Andrews School of International Relations this September. She must have resumed by now since the new academic year is already off the ground in the UK. What all these mean is that the University of St Andrews’ exceptionalism is not a totally distant thing from Nigeria. This is more so that there are few Nigerian Students in the university.
Above all, the nature of the University of St Andrews raises questions for the organisation of university education in Nigeria. When one talks of a university such as St Andrews, what comes to mind is an elite university, with bias towards research. But the University of St Andrews’ persistent areas of high score is quality of teaching and students’ satisfaction. Nigeria might want to know how this has been possible.
Nigerian public intellectual, Prof Jibrin Ibrahim has consistently listed massification as part of the problems of quality university education in Nigeria. Is the University of St Andrews a proof of his contention, given that it has a relatively low student population as a deliberate policy, so to say. Is massification necessarily an anti-thesis of quality education? University College London, University of Manchester, Imperial College, Cambridge or the LSE are great universities but they are also demographically large universities. How have they combined the two? In these senses, the University of St Andrews’s Double First this week is not an alien topic in Nigeria.
The Times media platforms are not usually accessible to non-subscribers and it is thus not possible at this point to say which universities followed St Andrews. What is known now is that University Collee London was declared the UK university of the year for 2024. It is no longer safe to speculate that Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College and so on will follow St Andrews given that Imperial College dethroned Oxford and Cambridge in the Daily Mail’s ranking last week.
This story can be regarded as a sequel to another one titled Is UK’s University of St Andrews Finally Breaking the Oxbridge Hegemony? The reader may also wish to read that story!