The Shibboleth: A Royal retrospective


And so, with a plethora of funny looking hats and a ring that was too small, this engagement has finally ended. Years from now we will all be able to look back and say we were there, we saw it all unfold, looking at it from the place where it first began.
For all of us as individuals we’ll have different memories of this past semester and the royal couple that haunted our every move. Some lucky JSAs from the US will be met with jealous admiration back home as they happily tell tales of how they got to meet the now Duchess of Cambridge, and even shake her hand. Others will eagerly point out to their parents and friends how they made a brief appearance on the BBC’s coverage of the Wedding Day Breakfast.
There will even be those who will huff and puff about almost anything that can be linked to the newly weds, and share their annoyance with anyone who will listen.
What is perhaps more ambiguous is the way that this university will be affected by this whirlwind wedding. Our little town has been the fodder for the masses, providing the picturesque background to this modern fairy tale.
Some will undoubtedly argue that any publicity is good publicity. When that publicity is actually linked to one of the world’s most talked-about royal families, then most would probably go as far as claiming that it’s great publicity. It has undoubtedly put St Andrews back on the mainstream map of the world.
An example of this is just last week, when I was in a church basement, in a tiny town in Nebraska, USA, and a relative of mine walked up ready to hear more about the University where “that Prince met Kate.” All of a sudden “University of St Andrews” has become a household name.
The only problem is the image that has now become attached to that name. Does it have anything to do with the cutting edge research on the prevention of influenza conducted here? How about the world-class International Relations department? We all know that neither of these items made the top ten news stories on BBC, not even the Art History department got an honourable mention for educating our dear Catherine. Instead we have been slapped with the label “Britain’s top matchmaking university.”

One article in the Financial Times hit the nail on the head, saying that this university is better known for golf rather than academic selectiveness. And it is not just golf that is competing for the most well known aspect of our community. An article on titled, neutrally, “Unveiled: St Andrews, where William and Kate found love” takes the cake of obtuse commentary. There are several gems in this piece of writing worth reading, and I would advise you to go read it for yourselves.

One tidbit that I will share with you is this, “At ‘Sallies’, evening meals are served on long tables in a grand dining room adorned with wood panelling and stained-glass windows. The formality of the setting encourages students to talk over dinner, before they retreat to the hall’s common room, where a grand piano serves as the main source of entertainment.” Is it just me or does it sound like we go to school in a Victorian novel?

The university administrations have done little to combat this image. After all they were the ones who released the damning press statement which coined the title of “top matchmaking university.” Of course, there is only so much that they can do, since the free press does as it pleases. At the end of the day, though, it seems that perhaps College Gate was a little too compliant in perpetuating this romantic story.

While the world now knows about us on a larger scale than they did before, our degrees will forever be tarred with this image. You would think that a female principal who had previously seemed particularly keen on promoting women’s rights and inclusiveness would have taken a greater stand against this solidification of our stereotype of a school for “well-heeled” eligible bachelors and bachelorettes.

It will definitely be interesting to see the type of students that will apply in the years to come. Without a doubt, one of the best recruiting tools will be the image of our town as a quaint coastal retreat, our students as singularly well-mannered and well-bred dinner-partygoers and that wonderfully glamorous Lifetime film showing the complete (and of course accurate) story of the Royal romance.

We may become more selective as a result of more applicants, and the brand value of the university has certainly increased.
The thing is, this was a great opportunity to show off our academic prowess as well as the beauty of the town and the romantic appeal.


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