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St Andrews alumni return to Fife

Twenty years since they met as students at St Andrews, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today returned to their alma mater to hear from current students about how they have coped and supported each other during the past difficult year.

The Royal couple – who are known as the Earl and Countess of Strathearn when they are in Scotland – met current students involved in the St Andrews ‘Can Do’ scheme, a joint initiative by the University and the St Andrews Students’ Association to address some of the restrictions of lockdown during the pandemic.

Introduced in September 2020, Can Do sought to address the frustration and mental health challenges faced by students prevented from experiencing traditional university life, through supporting safe socialising and events. The Duke and Duchess helped finish painting socially distanced hearts on St Salvator’s Quadrangle lawn, one of the emblems of the Can Do scheme which supported students to spend more time safely indoors and outdoors.

The Duke and Duchess also paid a visit to the Can Do marquee, meeting students who were able to plan and host their Covid-secure extra-curricular activities and society events in the space. From Ballroom and Latin dancing to charity and wellbeing activities, the Can Do marquee has hosted a diverse range of more than 500 events since its launch, acting as a vital morale boost for students on campus.

The couple also joined an interfaith discussion with students from the University’s School of Divinity, the student run St Andrews Coexistence Initiative, and the University Chaplain, to hear how the university encourages inter-faith dialogue, and how different faiths have come together to understand each other better and provide emotional support.

Finally, The Duke and Duchess planted the first tree for the St Andrews Forest, one of the key initiatives in the University’s action plan to become carbon neutral by 2035. Conceived by students on the University’s Environmental Sustainability Board during the pandemic, the forest will have multiple sites across the world. It will help draw down carbon from the atmosphere, provide new habitats for wildlife, green spaces to aid mental health and wellbeing, and opportunities for education and research.

During the visit, Catherine (History of Art 2005) and William (Geography 2005) were accompanied by St Andrews Principal, Professor Sally Mapstone, and the President of the St Andrews Students’ Association, Dan Marshall.

Deanna Coleman, final year International Relations student, said:

“It was great that the Duke and Duchess were interested in the different projects going on at the University. We spoke about the St Andrews Forest proposal, which is a carbon offsetting mission for the University; they were very interested to hear more. This is my last day in St Andrews so to finish it off with a royal visit has been great.”

As a member of the University’s Environmental Sustainability Board, Deanna single-handedly researched and proposed the St Andrews Forest Initiative which seeks to offset student travel emissions. The Initiative has been nominated by Yale University for the Global University Climate Forum.

Deanna has also led the development of a new CEED workshop on Carbon Management and Sustainable Curriculum Design, allowing students to create their own curriculum, and created the Saints Sport’s Green Sport Group – the first of its kind in the UK.


St Andrews alumni, friends and supporters are being asked to support the Forest initiative by planting trees across the globe, and signing up to a crowdfunding effort to help maximise the impact of the ambitious carbon reduction scheme.


Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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