It’s not an easy time to be running a university. Last month, we heard from the Proctor of St Andrews how this University is already bracing itself for the funding cuts that are to come. And in the few weeks since we returned to town, we’ve seen ample evidence of the jeopardy of funding institutions like this one, in the shape of the reformed Library plans, the still-outstanding donation for the new Medicine building, and the controversy over the axing of teaching posts in Foreign Languages. With UK institutions falling in world rankings, it was natural that governments, both at Scottish and British level, would have to look for alternative sources of funding in the future. And, as we’ve suspected for some time, that source of funding is us.
It should be noted at this point that the many students in St Andrews from outside the EU are already wholly familiar with the prospect, paying fees to attend St Andrews that would make their British friends’ eyes water. And they’re still significantly cheaper than some of the American alternatives. But for those who currently pay nothing or (relatively) little in tuition fees, the news coming from Lord Browne’s report in England, or the comments of Sir Andrew Cubie in Scotland, might seem a little alarming.
Political opinion seems to be reaching a gradual conclusion: that students must pay more towards their education – and the careers that their graduate status earns them – if higher education in the UK is to prosper internationally. If we are to continue to demand, as we should, that we get the very best University experience possible, then this is a very difficult argument to take issue with. But governments must ensure that the burden falls on students fairly, and only when they are able to pay. Higher education in this country must retain its reputation for accessibility as well as excellence.
Big stars, little town
Once again last weekend, St Andrews was temporarily transformed into something of a paparazzi paradise. Students hunted in the town’s most fancied drinking establishments in the hope of catching a trademark grin from Hugh Grant, or wrapped up warm to catch Samuel L. Jackson emerging from the clubhouse. Some even went to watch the golf. Viewpoint wonders this week whether anyone who doesn’t live here really understands our bubble . Perhaps they don’t, but those who return for the Dunhill each year all seem to recognise that it’s a remarkable little town.