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St Andrews Principal pledges action on Brexit, funding and diversity

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The newly installed Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, Professor Sally Mapstone, has pledged that Scotland’s oldest university will play a leading role in public debate as the UK negotiates an exit from the European Union.

In her installation address delivered to an audience of prominent academics and students in the Younger Hall, St Andrews, today (29 November) Professor Mapstone said: “As I speak to you against the dramatic background of a world politics that shifts around us on almost a daily basis, there is still much to argue for within the Brexit negotiations in the key areas of staff and student mobility; research funding; and fee status.”

Describing the University’s relationship with Europe as “fundamental to our origins” St Andrews 11th Principal and its second female leader warned that any weakening of the intellectual, cultural, and political contact and collaboration with the EU would lead to “an impoverishment way beyond the financial”.

Some 21 per cent of St Andrews research funding over the last five years has come from the European Union; with funding from European Research Council sources accounting for about 50 per cent of the University’s current portfolio. Twenty-two per cent of the University’s academic staff, and 31 per cent of research staff are from European Union countries.

Professor Mapstone promised to defend the freedom of international students to study at St Andrews.

She said: “There is also a profound case to be made in relation to international students as a whole: that St Andrews, in Fife, is a beacon for a wonderfully international student body, in which nearly half of our students come from over 100 different countries, is something that we celebrate.

“These students become global ambassadors for this university, and for UK higher education as a result of their experiences here. When there is good evidence that international students contribute profoundly to our cultural mix and our economy, current suggestions that those numbers should be reduced seem perverse in the extreme. I will work as hard as I can to defend and retain these relationships and opportunities, at Scottish, UK, and European level, and with our international friends and partner institutions.”

‌Professor Mapstone cited the uncertainties of Brexit and governance changes in higher education across the UK as reasons why she would explore “all credible funding options” for St Andrews as it plans for the future in uncertain times.

She said: “As a university approximately 18 per cent of St Andrews’ funding, outside research funding, is provided from the Scottish Government. We are grateful for that funding, and entirely accept our accountability in terms of it, but that figure, the uncertainties of Brexit, and the ongoing governance changes in higher education across the UK, must raise questions about the funding model for this university over the next decades.

“As your Principal I see it as my responsibility to explore all the credible funding options that are available to us. I also intend to build on the remarkable legacy of my predecessor, Professor Louise Richardson, in continuing, with our colleagues in the development office, and with the engagement of our staff, students and alumni, to fundraise to build the University’s endowment and to secure scholarships, posts, and key capital projects.”

Professor Mapstone said that inclusivity and diversity would be at the heart of her decision-making, signalling that St Andrews could and should do more to attract and support students from disadvantaged and non-traditional university backgrounds.

She said that this was something in which the entire university community should be involved, and revealed that she had sanctioned investment in a new University nursery.

“We must become more clearly inclusive. This is not something around the edges of what we are as a university; it is central to how we are, and to how we attract the best and the brightest to us at all levels, and how we retain them.

“And it is central to the message that we are an open and diverse community. So I am really pleased in this context to tell you that we will have our first proper University nursery open from February of next year, with 40 places available to children of staff and student parents; I hope this will be just a start, and that we will also be offering places to children of parents outwith the university when we are in a position to do so.”


Notes to editors

Read the full text of Professor Mapstone’s installation address.

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews, contactable on 01334 462530 or email proffice@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Biography: Professor Sally Mapstone

Before joining St Andrews in September 2016, Sally Mapstone’s academic career was spent at the University of Oxford, where she read English Language and Literature and where she gained her doctorate on Older Scots literature. She was for many years a Fellow of St Hilda’s College, of which she is now an Emeritus Fellow. She served Oxford University as Junior Proctor (2006-2007), Chair of the English Faculty Board (2007-2010), and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Personnel and Equality (2009-2011). She retains a strong interest in the promotion of diversity. She most recently served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education (2011-2016), and was Professor of Older Scots Literature in the Faculty of English Language and Literature.

Her research deals with literature in Scots and in Latin before 1707, with political literature, and with book history (she worked in publishing in London in the early part of her career, where her interest in book history began). She is Honorary President of the Scottish Text Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, and a Fellow of the English Association. She is a member of the international advisory board of the University of Helsinki and while at Oxford was active on behalf of the League of European Research Universities.

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