Our classes were moved out of Salvator’s Quad and there were inevitable traffic disruptions. Annoying? Yes, but this will hardly lead to all of us failing our degrees.
What is more troubling is that once again the whole world is reminded that the royal couple attended the University of St Andrews, and the long shadow of the wedding is cast all the way up from Westminster and onto our current academic reputation.
According to the Guardian online survey, St Andrews is the fourth leading University after Oxford, Cambridge, and Warwick. Yet while Oxbridge entrance students will be congratulated on their academic prowess, our new students will mainly encounter: ‘Isn’t that the University the Prince went to?’ This limelight may make us well-known, but is it always flattering?
In November, an online article called Miss. Middleton a ‘typical’ St Andrews girl, recognisable by her appearance and taste for luxury. It avoided any reference to the heavy workloads most of us struggle with. I’m no astronomer, but that looks like an eclipse to me.
If the men here think they get off lightly, it might be good to consider that the qualifications for being a Prince are genetic, not academic. One ponders why it is that Harry Potter did not swamp the academic reputation of Brown University when Emma Watson enrolled. Admittedly, the reputation of a British actress is hardly comparable to that of a Prince, but is it the reputation we should be comparing? Maybe we should ask what it means to have the royal couple as the most recognisable yardstick of our academic calibre.
The Royal wedding may not be eclipsing my 10am Friday class, but the reputation of the royal newly-weds may eclipse the academic worth of my degree when I graduate. This is a tough time to be a graduating student, and we all know the competition for jobs is fierce.
I want my future employers to know this University as an academically feverish environment that produces worthy, well educated individuals. Not as the place you come to to catch a Prince.
First, a confession: I am not a royal family aficionado and I cannot say that, if the UK got rid of them, I’d be really upset. But it’s impossible to deny that royalty has had and continues to have a great significance both nationally and internationally.
A quick flick through the pages of any glossy magazine will indicate that one British film in particular will do well at the Oscars. The plot, a man trying to learn how to speak without stuttering, is simple (imagine trying to pitch that one to a movie studio) but the main character isn’t just anyone. His name is George VI, King of the UK. It adds a certain amount of gravitas to the occasion, doesn’t it? The King’s Speech looks set to emulate the success of the last great award-winning production, The Queen. It would be easy to scoff and to snidely claim that these films owe their achievements to nothing but American nostalgia.
Yet, that’s not the whole story. The British royal family has never stopped being fascinating to us. Pomp and circumstance, majesty, commemorative plates: we are constantly bombarded with royalty. This stability may not be solace to all but it provides the country with an important counter-balance to any political machinations.
But Prince William is not only a royal, he’s also a man: a man who studied here, a man who met his bride here and a man whose presence here has attracted lots of attention to St Andrews. The all-too-obvious girls who come here to search for their own prince might be irritating, but St Andrews has greatly benefited from its royal association.
Prince William’s visit is only temporary; classes will still continue, staff and students will relocate and his appearance will generate publicity and, hopefully, much-needed funding for our studies.
It might be disruptive. It might be annoying. It might even be against your political principles, but it is publicity, and that can only be a good thing.
If you still disagree, I will tell you one thing. When teaching English in France, the only famous Brit they could name was Will’s loving grandmother: The Queen.