Principal’s st andrew’s day graduation address

Friday 30 November 2001

Chancellor, Rector, Ladies and Gentlemen

St Andrews Day has been for all of us, I hope, enjoyable and fulfilling. Enjoyable, thanks to the musicians who have entertained us, and fulfilling through the degrees which have been awarded and the Professorships which have been conferred. I should like to congratulate everyone who has graduated today, or who has been granted the role of Professor. The degrees have been well earned and represent the culmination of years of hard work completing theses and sitting exams. To those who have been awarded degrees today, I wish you all well in whatever careers lie ahead of you. To the honorary graduates, this is the University of St Andrews’ way of thanking you for the contributions you have made to all of our lives, but particularly, because this is St Andrews’ Day, of thanking you for what you have done for Scotland. To the new Professors, I look forward to working with you for many years, and to seeing the university’s judgement of your achievements to date and your potential as scholars, amply justified.

Long ago in the 8th century, some treasured relics asserted to be of St Andrew, were brought to this town for safe keeping. The monks who cared for them and ministered to the cult of St Andrew could not possibly have looked more than a thousand years into the future to visualise the city of St Andrews as we now know it. Their cathedral is now but a picturesque ruin. The university which began as a handful of scholars learning classics and theology is now one of Britain’s leading seats of learning and one of the world’s top centres for philosophy, mathematics, and more.

It is appropriate to note on St Andrews’ Day that the University of St Andrews remains distinctively Scottish. We are a highly cosmopolitan community of staff and students, with more than 20% of our students from overseas. However, of the top ten schools sending us undergraduates, nine are Scottish. Madras College in St Andrews is number four on that list, and Elmwood, a local Further Education College, is seventh. The number of applications from Scots wishing to study at St Andrews continues to rise, and it is our intention that the unique Scottish experience of a higher education at St Andrews will be maintained.

One of the reasons for our significant proportion of students from overseas is the high regard in which Scottish universities are held. We punch beyond our weight. Scotland, with 8% of the United Kingdom population, wins 13% of UK research funding. We are third in the world for the number of research publications produced per head of population. Among Scotland’s biggest exports are education and educated people. Scotland’s universities give Scotland a global presence.

The quinquennial research assessment exercise, in which the research performances of all United Kingdom universities are assigned independent ratings, is about to be announced. We will be extremely disappointed if St Andrews is not once more assessed as one of the most successful research active universities, with all that implies for the extent to which we contribute to Scottish competitiveness.

On behalf of the university, I wish you all well. Thank you for being with us today.


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