Photo: Sammi McKee
A new scholarship scheme has joined the wide pantheon of offerings for prospective St Andreans.
Thanks to a new scholarship set up by two philanthropists and administered by the Bermudian Ministry of Education and Workforce Development, a pair of Bermudian undergraduates will see their education at St Andrews funded to the tune of up to £35,000 per annum starting next year.
The scholarship is open to islanders under 25 with good grades, community service, financial need and, of course, a letter of acceptance to our self-contentedly selective institution by the time of their interview.
In addition to covering tuition fees, the scholarship is intended for accommodation, airfare, a computer and food.
The philanthropists, hoteliers who are residents of the British Overseas Territory but who are not themselves natives of Bermuda, are responding to a feeling that they ought to “give back.” Those who come to St Andrews, it is argued, will return to their island home wiser and better able to contribute to the improvement of their communities with their “new knowledge and leadership skills.”
And why choose St Andrews? It’s not clear whether the philanthropists have a connection to the University as alumni. However, the two men cite the “unparalleled” educational experience to be found here, specifically evoking St Andrews’ extensive course offerings and the Scottish undergraduate model (which allows for exploration of other degree subjects in the first two years of study).
Similar programs abound, with various private institutions, charities, government authorities and even the University itself offering scholarships for prospective St Andrews students from a specific geographic area.
Most are straightforward. The University’s Hong Kong Scholarship, simply enough, is for students from Hong Kong, just as the Sappi Scholarship is for South Africans and the McEuen Scholarship is for Canadians. The R Harper Brown Memorial Scholarship gives preference to those in the Greater Chicago area.
Some geographically delimited schemes are positively zany. Particularly of note is the George McElveen III Scholarship, administered by the University, is for Georgians, North Carolinians, and Virginians “who have an interest in golf,” perhaps made stranger by the fact that aficionados of the patrician sport will be chosen for the scholarship based on financial need.
The above are in addition to more generalised scholarship programmes that offer relief to entrants to specific University schools, to those with specific artistic or physical aptitudes (the Arnold Palmer scholarship, for example, is yet another golf scholarship), or to any deserving, promising young minds.
Scholarships, quotidian or bizarre, play an important role in stimulating diversity across campus. Though we take great pride in being uncommonly diverse in terms of the nationality of our student body, St Andrews has gained the unfortunate reputation of being an elitist haven with too little economic diversity.
Recent furore over a Times article criticising our distinctive red gowns or perennial complaints by politicians like erstwhile First Minister Alex Salmond highlight what some have seen as a failed promise of inclusivity at Scotland’s premier institution of higher learning.
In her manifesto in the run-up to last month’s elections, Paloma Paige, now Association President-Elect, envisioned expanding scholarship offerings by reaching out to alumni, thereby also helping to offset the feared loss of overseas students following Brexit. The Saint’s manifesto analysis took issue with the proposal, calling it “slightly optimistic” and “difficult to achieve.”
Whatever the future of Ms Paige’s plans for expanding scholarship choices, schemes like that in Bermuda promise to continue widening access to students of diverse backgrounds and slowly, student by student, rid us off the odious stigma of elitism.