Academic Celebrations – “Where things begin”

Sunday 15 September 2013


The University of St Andrews’ 600th Anniversary Academic Celebration – which brought intellectual leaders including Former United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, inventor of the world wide web Professor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, and Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, Founder of the Jane Goodall Institute & UN Messenger of Peace, to a corner of Fife – has been hailed as a once-in-a-lifetime success.

Over two days academic leaders paid tribute to the University’s history, and turned to the next 600 years to debate the future opportunities, responsibilities, and threats facing universities.

Secretary Clinton described St Andrews as the place “where things begin: teaching that opens the world, research that improves the world”. The Academic Celebration was an important beginning. On Saturday (14 September 2013) many forward-looking discussions were begun during a series of Mastermind panel debates on issues as varied and vital as the life of nations, global health, sustainability, next generation technology, and the next enlightenment.

These were followed by a 600th Anniversary Academic Summit, which started a global conversation about the future of universities. The summit was chaired by Professor Peter Bruce, Bishop Wardlaw Professor of Chemistry at the University of St Andrews; who was joined by former President of Harvard Professor Derek Bok, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the West Indies Professor Nigel Harris, Cambridge History Professor Peter Mandler, and Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson.

This Summit sought to answer the call of Honorary graduate Secretary Clinton who said: “Today our democracies are under stress. It is more important than ever that we rally behind what started here.”

Leading the rally, academics gathered in Younger Hall to discuss the way ahead – debating the challenges of issues including globalisation, information technology and the need to move away from the current, “corrosive” audit culture.

The celebrations reached a spectacular conclusion as the University’s Papal Bull Relay cycle teams arrived back into St Salvator’s Quadrangle to rapturous applause, having completed their 1,600 mile journey from Spain to St Andrews. Their journey retraced the route travelled by the papal bull that granted Scotland’s first University its authority. On their arrival a giant birthday cake was cut and shared with staff and students – before being delivered to Craigmount Care Home, Balnacarron Care Home, Gibson House, and St Andrews Care Home.

Finally a £10,000 firework display saw rockets shooting from St Andrews’ pier, while over 400 spectators on the East Sands cheered the University and brought the celebrations to life.

Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson said: “I couldn’t be more proud. This weekend we have demonstrated what makes us great: the talent of our staff and graduates, the support of the town, and our ability to bring people together. This has been an absolutely fabulous couple of days, and what a way to end it.”

Vice Principal Professor Peter Clark said: “Never, in my estimation, has the University ever been stronger than it is today. That strength is largely due to the extraordinary support of the town, the people who work here, and our students. It is thanks to them that we have been able to demonstrate, year after year, the quality we can produce – and to prove what can be achieved if we all get together and stick to our motto: ‘Ever to Excel’.”

Now, as the 600th Anniversary celebrations draw to a close, the University looks to the future with hope and excitement; having started, in spectacular fashion, some of the debates that will shape the next 600 years.

Notes to News Editors

Full details of the Academic Celebration

Details of the Papal Bull cycle relay

The fireworks display, provided by 21cc, was made possible thanks to a generous donation.

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