The "Prince William effect" has been credited with filling the University of St Andrews with the brightest undergraduates it has ever had.

Since the 19-year-old prince announced his decision to study history of art at St Andrews, Scotland's oldest university, the institution has been inundated with applications, which are up 44% on previous years. This year is the first in two decades that the university will not have to use the clearing process to fill student places. Last year around 6% of the 1,300 first-year places at St Andrews were filled through clearing.

Officials say the undergraduates who will start their studies with the prince next month are the most intelligent they have ever had.

"We have a rather good university," said Stephen Magee, the university's director of admission, yesterday. "And together with our heightened public profile this had produced a significant increase in interest. We have received an exceptionally high number of good quality applications and will not have to participate in the clearing process.

"More and more kids are getting better results and a significant portion of them seem to be applying to us."

Mr Magee said, however, that there had not been a significant increase in students wanting to pursue the same history of art degree course as the prince.

Meanwhile, the university principal, Brian Lang, has warned staff that "any aspect of life" at St Andrews will be picked over by the media and might be exploited by others, following allegations made against him by a female member of staff.

Dr Lang has sought legal advice after an article in yesterday's Sunday Express in which the woman alleged he had bul lied and sexually harassed her. The article also alleged that Dr Lang, who took over as principal in January, enjoyed an "extravagant lifestyle", with £400,000 spent on an architect-designed house for him and £100,000 on refurbishments.

A spokeswoman for the university said the woman, who has been on sick leave, had not made any formal complaint nor asked the university to investigate the allegations, but had made public allegations "coupled with demand for a monetary payment".

She said the performance of the woman had been subject to review since June after a number of internal and external complaints about her work.

In a letter to staff, Dr Lang vehemently denied the claims.

"The recent heightened interest in St Andrews by the media should not be allowed to encourage anyone... to ignore our established procedures in favour of damaging all our reputations," he wrote. "It appears I have been an early victim of a very unpleasant practice."


Kirsty Scott

The GuardianTramp

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