University denies expansion plans after anger over leaked document

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Photo: Peter Gordon

The University of St Andrews has denied that there are immediate plans to expand student numbers after a leaked document caused uproar at a meeting of the St Andrews Community Council.

A paper entitled “Strategy for the first decade of our seventh century”, which discussed the possibility of creating a law school, materials institute, data science institute and cyber-security institute, was leaked to the public by a member of the Council.

But the University’s director of communications, Niall Scott, stressed that this was only an “uncosted general discussion document” that was designed “to prompt discussion and debate about the shape of future strategic plans”.

He told The Saint: “These are early routine discussions designed to elicit broad input and ideas for the future before a plan is finalised and costed. It’s important we consider all possibilities and alternatives, including expansion, because that is simply good governance.”

He also said that the councillor who leaked the document had apologised after its provenance was explained, admitting their actions had been “crass”. The councillor is now explaining the misunderstanding to the other members of the Council.

Mr Scott said the issue of increasing student numbers is constantly reviewed because the University’s size is important both for its smooth running and for securing funding from research councils.

At the Council meeting he explained that the University’s future is impossible to predict: “I’d love to be able to sit here and tell you the shape of the University in five or 10 years’ time, but I don’t think there’s a university in the country that could do that because of the nature of what universities are.

“[T]here is absolutely no way I can sit here at the Community Council and give hard and fast plans about expansion. We have no plans for expansion.

”We are absolutely not planning to increase the number of students. We do not have any plans to introduce a law faculty. It’s something we’ve certainly looked at and will revisit, but as we sit here at present there are no plans to increase the number of students.”

He added: “What we do have is plans to respond to changes in funding and likely changes in demographics. But if you are suggesting, are we suddenly going to grow to 20,000? No we’re not. But I can’t tell you that we won’t grow incrementally or we won’t decrease in size. I can’t control these things, neither can any university.”

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