Bonnie Prince Billy

Next year Scotland will be welcoming Prince William, a brave new royal, to study at St Andrews University, and history will be made.

As August went by, 18-year-olds all over Britain began to bite their nails nervously. They were waiting to find out their A level exam results, which would tell them which university they had gained entrance to. A levels act as entrance exams to university, unlike the Polish matura. Usually while still at school, pupils apply to university to do the course of their choice. Normally applications to several universities are made. The university or polytechnic may then make an offer. For example, Elizabeth studies English, French and History at school. Most school students study three subjects; their final results for each one are graded A to E. She wants to study Law at Bristol University. They make her an offer of an A and two Bs. If she gets that, she will be accepted, although as it sometimes works on a points system (A=5, E=1), A, A and C might also win her a place.

One teenager anxiously waiting with the rest was Prince William, heir to the English throne. But happily for him, his results were good enough to obtain a place to study History of Art at the university of his choice, St. Andrews in northern Scotland.

The university rejected claims from some quarters that it had been biased in the prince's favour when selecting students. Stephen Macgee, director of the admissions department, said, "His application was treated in exactly the same way as other students - that is, absolutely normally. We are delighted he is coming here, in just the same way that we are delighted other students are coming here, too."

Members of the royal family only started taking public examinations just over 30 years ago. Until the 1960s it was considered unnecessary for them to sit exams, as it was obvious that they would go to university. The prince's results are the best the Windsors have produced so far: he achieved the top grade, A, in Geography, B in History of Art, and C in Biology.

The young prince's choice of university has also been something of a surprise for the rest of the family. Prince Charles, like his father, grandfather and great-grandfather before him, attended Cambridge, one of Britain's oldest and most venerated universities. But in choosing a Scottish over an English university, Prince William may help to soothe the sometimes frayed relations between the English and the Scots. By studying in Scotland, Prince William will help to demonstrate the heritage that both countries share. And St Andrews does have something in common with Cambridge - its great age. Founded in 1411, it is the oldest university in Scotland. With its relatively small size, St Andrews has a community spirit often missing from some of the larger, more anonymous universities.

Marcus Booth, who will be president of St. Andrews Students' Association next year, was delighted at the news that Prince William would be studying there. "It's marvellous that he has opted for a less traditional choice in St Andrews and not gone for a university in England," he said.

Prince Charles has voiced special concern about the opportunities that children from poorer families miss through lack of education. But his concern with children from less fortunate backgrounds did not prevent him from being proud of his own son, who studied at Eton, the UK's top boarding school. He could not congratulate William in person, however, as the young prince was on training with an elite division of the British army in Belize, a former British colony in Central America.

Prince William has opted, like many other young Britons, to take a gap year - a year out between leaving school and starting university. This is usually a time for teenagers to work for a while and then travel before starting their studies. For many it is their first chance to find out what it is like to be a grown-up!

The prince is apparently intending to spend most of the year in Australia. However, his family are keeping details of his plans under wraps to give the young prince the privacy he needs in order to move around and enjoy himself as he wishes, without fearing the presence of a journalist's camera around every corner. The royal family holds media intrusiveness at least partly responsible for the death of Princess Diana, Prince William's mother, in 1997.