Principal’s Start of Semester Message

Thursday 11 January 2024

University of St Andrews Principal, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, wrote to all staff and students on Monday 8 January ahead of the start of the Candlemas Semester.

St Andrews crest

Dear Colleagues and Students,

I hope you have all enjoyed a restorative festive break from work or study.

I write to wish each of you the very best for 2024, a year which I hope promises much for you all, and our University, as we approach the start of Candelmas semester.

We will, I am sure, each have our personal goals for the year ahead. As an institution, notwithstanding the limited and diminishing means governments choose to make available to higher education in the UK, St Andrews’ ambition to be world-leading, diverse, digital, sustainable, entrepreneurial, and socially responsible remains undimmed.

These well-established strategic goals will manifest in further positive change and new developments in the 12 months ahead of us:

  • We will invest in our people and the areas in which we are or can be world leading, enhance our student and human resources support, and continue to lobby nationally for pay settlements which recognise the real terms erosion of remuneration experienced by our sector over many years.
  • We will launch a highly ambitious new fundraising campaign, unveil plans for New College as the home of our new Business School and the School of International Relations, and pursue key improvements to our North Haugh estate.
  • We will develop a clear roadmap to show how we will be Net Zero by 2035, and redouble our efforts to be socially responsible in everything we do.
  • We will apply for the Race Equality Charter award and an Athena Swan Silver award for the University as part of wider work to advance equality and inclusivity.
  • We will give new impetus to making our digital environment work harder and better for each of you.

The Students’ Association, which is independent of the University, is in parallel embarked on a major change programme designed to improve representation and services for all students of St Andrews.

The palpable sense of renewal and momentum behind each of these important initiatives will, I hope, inspire and motivate us all in the semester ahead. They are indicative of a University determined to remain the best in the United Kingdom, and they owe everything to the drive and ambition of those who work and study here.

What will also concern us in the months ahead, however, are world events; the wars and injustices which feel, and in many cases are, painfully close to home in an international community such as this.

There are presently at least 20 wars or violent and oppressive conflicts in the world in which thousands of lives have been lost, and human rights abused. St Andrews has students or staff from almost every one of those areas affected.

What may seem distant or irrelevant to you may be critical or life-defining for your neighbour, colleague, or classmate.

Gaza and Israel are two of those places. As in other university communities, some in St Andrews have been engaged in debate, argument, and demonstration on this single conflict, and I am sure that will continue to be the case in this semester.

In our community there are differing and nuanced points of view of this war, and the history which preceded it.  There is also understandably high emotion, a desire for an end to the devastating impact of the conflict on innocent civilians, and a belief that all parties to the war should be accountable under international law.

What there is not, however, is agreement amongst you on the way in which peace should be achieved. Having heard from many of our community in recent weeks it is clear to me that there remain very significant, and passionately held, differences of opinion.

I have said previously on this that St Andrews takes no side but the side of humanity, and as a leader, my job is to listen to, reflect, and represent the diversity and totality of the views of this community, and to provide pastoral support to all those affected directly, or indirectly.

That will remain the case.

St Andrews must be a place where every single one of us can feel safe, heard, and valued, and where debate, discussion, and campaigning, if desired, can take place unfettered by the perception that the institution, and those in positions of leadership, have picked a side.

We are a university, not a political or lobbying group. That is why leadership in our context should not adopt positions which fail to take fair account of the totality of views.

We are all St Andreans; our first duty is to each other. Under my Principalship, this University will always put its pastoral duties first.

Finally, I hope you will join me in offering our warmest congratulations to three members of our University community recognised in the King’s New Year’s Honours List.

St Andrews Regius Chair of Mathematics, Professor Kenneth Falconer FRSE, has been awarded a CBE for Services to Mathematics. Andrew Pettegree FBA, Professor of Modern History, has been awarded a CBE for Services to Literature, and Professor of Pure Mathematics, Colva Roney-Dougal, has been awarded an OBE for Services to Education and Mathematics, marking a double celebration for the University’s School of Mathematics.

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE
Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Contents of an email from University of St Andrews Principal, Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE, to all staff and students on Monday 8 January ahead of the start of the Candlemas Semester.

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