Founded in 1411, when a school attached to the Augustinian Priory of St. Andrews Cathedral was given a charter of incorporation, making St. Andrews University the oldest in Scotland and the third-oldest in the English-speaking world. It was quickly recognised as one of the leading universities of Europe and by the late Middle Ages had three endowed colleges: St. Salvator's (North Street) founded in 1450, St. Mary's (South Street) founded in 1537, and St. Leonard's (now united with St. Salvator's; its chapel is off The Pends) founded in 1512. Bishop James Kennedy, who built St. Salvator's collegiate church (1450-60), and his niece Katherine have been remembered since 1849 in an end-of-term student rag known as the Kate Kennedy Pageant.
St. Andrews was one the first universities in Europe to allow women to enter for examinations, in the 1870s, the first in Scotland to enrol women on an equal basis to men (1892), the first to have a students union and the first to have a marine laboratory (1882). It is the only British university to have a Greek motto - Aien Aristeuein, meaning 'ever to excel'. Amongst its famous graduates have been the 15th-16th Century poets William Dunbar and Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, James Graham, Marquis of Montrose (1612-50), and John Napier of Merchiston (1550 - 1617) the inventor of logarithms. Its Rectors have included steel magnate and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919), author Sir James Barrie (1860 - 1937) and the explorer Fridtjof Nansen (1861 - 1930); one of its Principals, Sir David Brewster (1781 - 1868), who invented the kaleidoscope in 1817 and went on to play an important part in the development of photography.
While only the twelfth largest in Scotland, with 9275 students and 1800 staff (2009), St. Andrews has an annual income of £147 million (2009) and consistent ranks highly within the British university sector. International interest in the unversity increased when Prince William of Wales studied here, graduating with a degree in Geography in 2005.