Professor Louise Richardson denied suggestions that the university might treat students from the rest of the UK differently from Scottish ones because they pay fees.
She said: “I don’t think it should, we’re not a market.
“I think – I’m going to say something that is very unpopular – £9,000 a year is very little to pay for a St Andrews education, because it’s worth a great deal more.
“I don’t think because some students are paying fees, we should start treating them somehow as if they are customers. That’s the marketisation of education, and that way I think is corrosive.”
The introduction of £9,000 fees saw part of the principal’s residence occupied by students, who branded it “gross hypocrisy” and “dishonest”.
A Scottish Government spokesman said it intended to legislate prevent any increase in tuition fees.
“Scotland is the only country in the UK with free higher education,” he said. “Following the UK government’s decision to introduce fees, we are legislating to protect students from the rest of the UK by capping tuition fees and ensuring they can’t be charged more than the tuition-fee loan available to them.”
Prof Richardson’s comments had drawn criticism from Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, who said: “It’s a bit rich, coming from the head of a university with an abysmal record of recruiting students from the poorest backgrounds, that £9,000 degrees are a bargain.
“St Andrews already has the dubious distinction of being one of two universities in Scotland with the most expensive undergraduate degrees in the UK.”