St Andrews University will try to salvage as much research material as possible from the fire-ravaged biomedical sciences building.
With fire investigation officers still on the scene on Monday, the university said it could not comment on the extent of the damage to the 20-year-old building at North Haugh.
A blaze ripped through laboratories used by PhD students on Sunday evening and there are fears years worth of work may have gone up in smoke.
St Andrews University quaestor and factor Derek Watson described the incident as “hugely disappointing” but he said everything possible would be done to recover precious research material.
He said: “The fire service and police are concluding their investigations now.
“Once that’s done, the fire service will support us to go in and try to recover as much of the research material as we can and clearly we hope that will mean that research activity is not lost, and we’ll simply have to relocate them to other labs to allow work to continue.
“It is hugely disappointing. The research that goes on here is genuinely world leading.”
Mr Watson said it was fortunate just “a handful” of people were in the building when the fire broke out shortly before 5pm on Sunday.
He said: “The staff are more impacted at the moment because we’ve had to close the building. It’s under the control of the fire service. Until we get control back, those staff have got no access to the labs.”
He said teaching is continuing as normal.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service area manger Roddy Keith said a joint investigation involving fire and police services was under way and it was too early to speculate about the cause.
He praised staff and students for their reaction to the incident.
“There were a number of students and staff in the building at the time,” he said.
“Their own procedures were enacted very quickly, the alarm was sounded and the building was evacuated very effectively.
“I would like to pay tribute to university staff and students for reacting as quickly as they did at the time.”
“Due to the nature of the building, a number of hazardous materials were within it, as we would fully expect. We do have to follow different procedures for that.
“We’ve got very well established procedures for dealing with hazardous materials incidents. It just involves some additional work so we can tackle the fire safely in the first instance and maintain safety throughout the building.”
Students in nearby university accommodation blocks were told to keep their windows shut.
Julia Swerdlow, 17, who stays in halls at North Haugh, said: “I got locked out of my hall.
“No-one was allowed to go in and no-one was allowed to leave.”
Physics student Joshua Bernard-Cooper, 20, added: “One of the PhD labs was right above where the fire started and lots of PhD students are panicking about years of work that could have been lost.”