ST Andrews has previously been portrayed as being only for “opulent tax avoiders”.
The university doesn’t look any further. Manipulating the context behind these numbers and worse, ignoring the efforts we make to attract a diverse body of students, is embarrassing.
When conducting my campaign for election as president of the students’ association this year, my priorities were led by students I met. Two key issues emerged: accommodation and the task of widening access to an education here. To repeat – students at St Andrews prioritise the need to diversify our student body.
We all agree that the SIMD20 (the lowest 20 per cent of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation) figures show that St Andrews does not have a diverse enough range of Scottish students. But that is all that it tells us. It does not tell us that St Andrews’ bursary packages mean there are no financial barriers to study, including £7,500 for the best achiever from every school in Fife.
It does not tell us that, unlike Glasgow, we do not have a local urban area of two million. It does not tell us that English students on £9,000 fees have no up-front costs if family income is below £42,000.
The real issue, once observed by Hugh Reilly in his Scotsman column, is that “it’s much more likely that the image of the place puts off most”. Yes, indeed. But if I wanted to find the language of the “class ceiling”, the “free school dinner brigade” and the “defiling… presence of children from no-wage households”, where do I look?
If Mr Reilly continues to paint a St Andrews “denial” to those who deserve it, then he sadly perpetuates the very image he and I regret. The victims? Those who no longer feel comfortable applying.
Where is his discussion of student ambassadors working on our Reach and First Chances programmes in schools? Where is the discussion of the student-run and funded bursaries, including one here at the association?
Faced with such ugly rhetoric, I’m not surprised many students don’t apply. I invite Mr Reilly to visit us here at St Andrews, perhaps to encourage him to “support his case… with a fact or two”. The student voice will tell him a different story.
l Freddie fforde is president of the University of St Andrews Students’ Association