Laura Cummings: A right royal time may await Princess

Pippa Middleton, sister to Kate Middleton was a student in Edinburgh
Pippa Middleton, sister to Kate Middleton was a student in Edinburgh
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WHEN Princess Mako of Akishino arrives in Edinburgh to begin her studies, it is fair to say it may be slightly bigger news in the Far East.

The 20-year-old great-granddaughter of the late Emperor Hirohito will be a virtual unknown to many despite being one of the most famous faces in her home country of Japan.

Albert, 12th Prince of Thurn

Albert, 12th Prince of Thurn

Which may very well be part of the imperial family’s reason for choosing the Capital.

Another is certainly the pedigree which Edinburgh enjoys, having played host to a number of royal and high-profile names over the decades.

President of Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA), Matt McPherson, believes the diversity of the university’s students is a major draw, as well as the reputation that the university has worked hard to attain over the years.

He said: “When I give an open day talk to new students, I get them to introduce themselves to the person next to them. There are few stages in life where a biology student from Canada could be friends with a sociologist from Bulgaria.

“I find the diversity of our 30,000 students our greatest asset, and it’s no surprise that more people want to come. Edinburgh is a beautiful city with a great reputation for educating people who have gone all around the world to do great things.

“The student experience is one I’m sure any princess would relish. However, we need to work hard to encourage more people from less opportunistic backgrounds to come and be part of our story too.”

The 23-year-old, who lives in the Southside, also believes the opportunity to remain fairly anonymous may appeal to high-profile figures when making their decision.

He said: “While many of our students are already excited about Princess Mako’s arrival, most will not recognise her, and I think her experience at Edinburgh will be peaceful compared to her duties back home.”

More recent well-known alumni include Pippa Middleton, the younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, who studied English Literature.

And Princess Mako’s enrolment at the university, as the News reported yesterday, inset above, won’t be the first time that students have rubbed shoulders with Japanese royalty. Princess Tsuguko, the eldest daughter of the late Prince Takamado, began her English course in October 2004.

Edinburgh University rector, Peter McColl, believes Princess Mako’s arrival in the city may well lead to an increase in the number of student applications from the Far East.

“It will be interesting to see what happens,” he said. “Edinburgh University has become very good at attracting people from around the world – not just royalty, all sorts of people.

“It’s worth saying that Julius Nyerere, the first president of an independent Tanzania, was also a student at the university.

“There aren’t many other universities of this quality in cities with the global reputation and the ability to be interesting and exciting in the way that Edinburgh is.”

But what exactly does the enrolment of an array of royal and famous figures mean for the university?

St Andrews University has inevitably received a huge boost from William and Kate, with the royal couple making their first visit to the medieval town since graduating in 2005 to launch the university’s 600th anniversary fundraising appeal last year.

While news of Princess Mako’s matriculation may not be on the same royal scale, Universities Scotland –the representative body of Scotland’s 19 universities and higher education colleges – believes it will still provide plenty of benefits.

A spokeswoman said: “Princess Mako’s matriculation into the university is certain to help boost the university’s profile amongst prospective students in Japan. The student body at Scotland’s universities is one of the most international in the world. Princess Mako will be mingling with students of all walks of life during her studies, as the institution is committed to admitting the brightest and the best students, whatever their background.”

Meanwhile, Matt hopes Princess Mako studying at the university will encourage other students from around the world to consider continuing their education at Edinburgh.

“It’s important that she and all students know that Edinburgh is not only one’s place of study, but also one’s home.”

The great and the good

• PRINCESS Margarita of Romania was a student at Edinburgh University in the late 1960s. The princess, who was Queen Victoria’s great-granddaughter, studied sociology and politics. She was apparently Gordon Brown’s first great love.

• Japanese Princess Tsuguko of Takamado is the eldest daughter of the late Prince Takamado. The 26-year-old studied English at Edinburgh University from 2004 to 2008.

• Prince Albert II, the 12th Prince of Thurn and Taxis spent his childhood in Regensburg. After his military service, he studied economics and theology at Edinburgh University.

• Princess Raiyah Bint Al-Hussein, 26, is the youngest daughter of the late King Hussein of Jordan and Queen Noor. She received her master’s degree in Japanese and International Relations at Edinburgh University.

• Isabella Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe studied classics and art history at Edinburgh University from around 2000. The socialite and daughter of banking heiress Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon struck up a close friendship with Prince William in 2004.

• Pippa Middleton, younger sister of the Duchess of Cambridge, studied English Literature at Edinburgh University. She graduated in 2008.

• Bakhtawar Bhutto Zardari, daughter of assassinated Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto, made her first move into student politics within weeks of beginning her English literature studies at Edinburgh University, being elected as a first year representative to the students’ association.