St. Andrews has 1,230 Americans among its 7,200 students this year, compared with fewer than 200 a decade ago.
The large American enrollment is no accident. St. Andrews has 10 recruiters making the rounds of American high schools, visiting hundreds of private schools and a smattering of public ones.
With higher education fast becoming a global commodity, universities worldwide — many of them in Canada and England — are competing for the same pool of affluent, well-qualified students, and more American students are heading overseas not just for a semester abroad, but for their full degree program.
Ryan Ross of Annapolis, Md., applied only to St. Andrews; McGill University in Montreal; and Trinity College in Dublin. “I knew I wanted a different experience,” said Mr. Ross, now a freshman studying international relations at St. Andrews.
The international flow has benefits, and tradeoffs, for both sides.
For American students, a university like St. Andrews offers international experience and prestige, at a cost well below the tuition at a top private university in the United States. But it provides a narrower, more specialized course of studies, less individual attention from professors — and not much of an alumni network to smooth entry into the workplace when graduates return to the United States. For overseas universities, international students help diversify campuses in locations as remote as coastal Fife, home of St. Andrews.