St Andrews University Should Be Privatised 57

After a tiring trip from Accra to Izmir via Frankfurt and Munich (in which I discovered Lufthansa incredibly do not offer a wireless connection in their business class lounges) I arrived in my hotel last night and put on BBC World to catch up on events before getting my kip. Imagine my horror on hearing “Now for a half hour report on the highlights of this week’s preparations for the royal wedding.”

This morning it happened again. The BBC ran a report on Nazarbayev’s “re-election” in Kazakhstan with 95.5% of the vote. Without a hint of conscious irony, they then morphed into a straight 15 minutes of absolute propaganda, in which among other lies we were told that New York is agog with “Royal wedding fever” and that Kate Middleton is “an ordinary girl about to become a Princess”.

It is 33 years since I published in Annasach, the Dundee University student newspaper, that to enter St Andrews University you did not need good A Levels or Highers – they were more interested in whether your daddy owned a Range Rover. That has become ever more true, as useless and thick but rich English people are dispatched to a dismal, distant, misty neuk where they can be embarassingly dim, invisibly.

St Andrews is in Scotland but is no longer of Scotland. It actively discriminates against Scots. Less than 20% of the students are Scots. Let me say that again. Less than 20% of the students are Scots.

I have no objection to the existence of a finishing school where the Anglo-American super-rich can send their offspring to pretend to study a non-subject like “Fine Arts”, while hoping to contract an advantageous marriage alliance. But I have profound objection to it being financed by the Scottish taxpayer.

St Andrews University should be privatised immediately. By privatised, I mean cut off without another penny of taxpayers’ cash. The money saved should be distributed among Scotland’s real universities.

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

57 thoughts on “St Andrews University Should Be Privatised

1 2
  • Paul Johnston

    And most English Universities will be "Local Free" because who but the very rich can afford the fees and anyway you get a lot more from "overseas students" assuming we let them in!!
    Seriously, let the chip go Craig. I'm sure not all the rich English are by definition "useless and thick". I assume you would not stand for crude stereotypes against say the Ghanians or Scots so why are the English fair game?
    Are Oxford and Cambridge public Universities when such a large percentage come from private education despite the Universities being state funded?

    • John

      Craig Murray is an embarrassment to both Dundee and Scotland. St Andrews and to a lesser degree Edinburgh are the closest we have to competing with Oxbridge. His sour grapes should be chalked up to a chip that most people in Scotland do not share. Get over it…

  • mark steward

    Well, I'm a St Andrews graduate, albeit from 1994, and I grew up in Kirkcaldy, Fife going to the local High School. I got a bunch of grades that allowed me to just about get into any Uni in Scotland. I chose St. Andrews because I like golf and they required the same grades for entry as the other universities. My dad doesn't have a range rover. I agree that since Prince William went there it has become more anglicised. However, if local Scots apply they will not be discriminated against, it's just they choose not to apply and it's their loss. What's required is a campaign to address this problem and not to come up ludicrous suggestions of privatising the oldest and most famous university in Scotland. Unsurprisingly, this comment has come from a Dundee University graduate with a large chip on his shoulder. Incidentally, when I applied for my course, of the five established universities, the one that offered me a place with the lowest grades was, yup, you've guessed it, Dundee. I'm not having a go at Dundee University here but please, get real…………………………

    • M.A. (Cantab)

      "when I applied for my course, of the five established universities, the one that offered me a place with the lowest grades was, yup, you've guessed it, Dundee…"


  • WikiSpooks

    I'm in hearty agreement with your substantive point – as usual. I'm afraid I had a serious cringe moment over the following though:

    I arrived in my hotel last night and put on BBC World to catch up on events before getting my kip

    I accept that the BBC is as good a way as any to stay tuned to the Western 'official narrative' of how the world is and ought to be, but "to catch up on events" – really??

    To be substantially anethetised to and inoculated against them more like.

  • ingo

    only 20% are Scots, that is abysmally metropolitian. That said, more Karimovs will in future move here with their daddies, after the terrible decision to grant absolution to the likes of Tsivi Lipni.

    I wonder whether Moussa Koussa's arrival in blighty, on an MI6 ticket so it seems, already marks the first test of this abuse of law. He should be arrested. lets hope other European countries do not ponder to the piracies that mark these shores and someone will put this man in the dock.

  • Clare

    Yep! You are quite right!
    But – let me make only three correction:

    1) it is necessary to allow free education to native Scotchmen (i.e. for those hapless 20%. Hell! It is not a "racial discrimination"! It is a justice. Scotchmen pay the taxes for the education of their children. They must get the education in their own universities free of charge irrespective of form of university's property!).
    2) to set a tuition fees for ALL foreigners (including Anglo-American, of course) not less than £12000 (i.e. twelve thousands) a year (better – £15000).
    3) to set a tuition fees for super rich persons more than £15000 (progressively, depending on personal income).

    Eh?.. 😉
    I think it's a good plan. Using the plan, you could even go to their Vice-Chancellor with the proposal about privatisation St. Andrews Univer… And don't forget about a visit to Scotland Ministry of Education. I think they will allow it on such advantageous terms.

    Good luck! 😉

  • Guest

    "St Andrews University Should Be Privatised"

    From what you say Craig. sounds like it has already been privatised!. As it is with so many things, not all is as it seems. “Fine Arts”, more like… The art of fine illusions.

  • Germanicus

    I checked out St Andrew's website a while back, for reasons I cant' remember. I noticed that the home page featured fulsome congratulations to – yes you've guessed it – Kate and William! Why? Because they were outstanding students? I think not! That told me all I needed to know about what this university's priorities are – and they clearly aren't academic!

    They might just as well have said: Come to St Andrews and bag yourself a rich spouse! Wasn't there a rumour that Kate Middleton's mother directed her daughter to St Andrews just in order to hook up with Wills?

  • mark_golding

    Yes I am just filing my application to Milton Keynes council for a street party to celebrate William and Kate's wedding. (puke) An excellent bit of propaganda to unite a divided Britain – is it not?

  • vavatch

    Yeah, denizens of Dundee uni have long been jealous of the (much better) university down the road.

    What is this tabloid rubbish? Do you really think that nothing happens at St Andrews other than some posh twits going to a "finishing school"? Did I hallucinate St Andrews' top class research record and league table topping performance in many subjects?

    I suppose you want universities to be a vehicle for fighting your class war – sectarian institutions where your bloodline is inspected for the ideal amount of Scottishness and working class origins. oh wait! that's what you were complaining about in the first place. Don't tell me, you're some sort of hypocritical leftist.

  • vronsky

    St Andrews has a good maths department, astronomy almost respectable. Isn't Fine Arts *anywhere* just the survivable curriculum for those who aspirations are social rather than academic? Heard about the graffiti above the toilet roll – 'Sociology degrees – please take one'.

    I might agree that taxpayers shouldn't fork out for that Fine Arts nonsense except I'd get a vertiginous glimpse of a slippery slope beneath my feet. Who says what's nonsense? Me? Nick Clegg? What we're being told we need is profit centre techies, not expense line philosopher poets and that 's a suicidal (literally) error in reading of the balance sheet.

    BTW, I have an investigative (really) journalist friend in LA whose business card says FREELANCE PHILOSOPHER.

    • M.A. (Cantab)

      Fine Arts, eh.

      Surely the whole point of the govt's new fee arrangements is that people will think twice before forking out £9000 on an Arts course which may not enhance their future earning power.

      They're cutting taxpayer funding of Arts and other "dubious" lefty feminist type courses by 80%, hitting both demand and supply side of the equation.

      They're basically closing the feminist factory down.

      Not to worr

      • vronsky

        Very much agree, but different agenda, I think. Perhaps fine arts is not a useful example, but we're in the fix we're in because we're knee deep in techies (like me) yet have too few people – and those few too lightly regarded – with the abstract ability to reason out the value of things. Philosopher poets are the ultimate risk analysts.

  • dreoilin

    "where they can be embarassingly dim, invisibly"

    Made me hoot 🙂

    I'm watching young, dim, tweeters (twitterers?) in Dublin and elsewhere in Ireland yapping on about "the dress" and it really, really, pisses me off. They're equally excited that the POTUS is due here for a few hours. I hope they live and learn.

  • mrjohn

    (in which I discovered Lufthansa incredibly do not offer a wireless connection in their business class lounges)

    try slumming it down in economy then, a better class of people, and you can probably find a wireless connection in a coffee shop for the proles

  • PDB

    To all Scots posting here…..let's just be proud that Scotland had FOUR universities (sorry, Craig, Dundee not in the list) established by 1583 How many in England at that time?

    • vronsky

      My late father in law was an Aberdonian. He was fond of saying: England has two universities – just like Aberdeen.

  • Ruth

    As 29 April is a Bank holiday I think the day should be devoted to massive student protests to demonstrate the huge imbalance between the rich and other members of society. In three years' time two students wanting to get married will have an accumulative debt of at least ninety thousand pounds. It'll be extremely difficult for them to get a mortgage and be able to afford children.

  • Eddie-G

    There are plenty of completely unserious Fine Arts students at unis like St Andrews, but someone should stand up for the subject itself! (I went out with a Fine Arts student at uni for a while, and she tore me a new one when I dared to suggest it was a non-subject.) For the right sort of people, who are passionate about art in its many forms, who live and breathe the subject matter, it is a subject that should be supported.

    Clearly it's on the Arts departments to stop accepting toffs who don't give a stuff about learning, but on its merits, for the way it enriches our culture, Fine Arts should have mileage as a uni course.

    • Guest

      Being a graduate in the subject myself, and having worked hard for my degree, I found Craig's remark both ignorant and offensive. I did a science degree first and so funded myself through Fine Art. It is a four year course, (including the foundation), so you can see it's something I take very seriously. My college runs a survey of past students to compare later earnings with graduates from other courses, and although Fine Arts graduates on average can take up to ten years longer to get onto the ladder, they ended up at the same level as those who took traditional "subjects". The critical intellectual and creative faculties can be applied in many other fields. Some of my fellow graduates are now working in art therapy, furniture design and advertising, to name but three. Perhaps Craig thinks English Lit and Drama are also "non-subjects" as they certainly don't possess any greater intrinsic merit. Man does not live by bread alone.

  • Douglas


    I do enjoy reading you blog on a regular basis. The discussion about the fact that only 20% of the student population got me thinking . iremebered a fabulous address to a student population i once read it went something along the lines of

    "I learnt vastly more in discussions with people of other academic, social, cultural and ethnic backgrounds in bars and kitchens, and from private reading, than I ever did in the lecture theatre. In my formal university learning I acquired skills of logic, analysis, ordering and debate".

    I very good and correct way to view Higher education we do not wish to encourage a university to fufill any form of quota or specific social requirments.

    As a side note a work collegue of mine studied the much maligned "fine art" at St Andrews and is now a highly competent financial manger within the NHS just goes to show that "A University Education must teach you to think, not just to stack widgets" again from the same speech. I am sure you are aware of the author's identifty 🙂

    • vronsky

      It was a semiconductor process engineer who told me, memorably, that 'education is what you're left with when you've forgotten everything they taught you'.

  • glenn_uk

    At least it was heartening to hear today that, despite this frenzied atmosphere, not one single application for a street party had been received. The BBC's news-24 left us dismayed last week, by going over for a gripping report on the Royal Wedding Cake instead of the Japanese reactor problems. The latter had been giving even more cause for concern of late, with contradictory reports on its state, and radiation leak announcements being issued and then withdrawn. But clearly, it's this wedding cake that we're all anxious to know about. I wonder about the BBC. Russia Today and Al Jazeera are far more useful these days.

    • vronsky

      Hate to go anywhere near postmodern semiotics, but If you think everything all the way through, isn't it those Royal Wedding Cakes that are *really* toxic? They're made of some really scary isotope of BS, a substance which can persist in the environment for thousands of years. You though those little black spheroids were raisins, did you?

      BTW – lively, expert and knowingly uninformed debate about Fukushima at

      Read it and you'll see what I mean by 'knowingly uninformed'.

  • Jane

    Oh come on. There are at least 5 people from my High School class at St Andrews, not because its posh and certainly not because Daddy has a Range Rover but because they worked hard, got good grades and most importantly, they wanted to go there.
    I didn't apply to St Andrews because it is a bit stuck up (and its awful for my degree choice) but that's also the same reason I didn't apply to Edinburgh or Glasgow or Aberdeen. Does it really matter if St Andrews has become elitist? Its no different than Edinburgh.

    Also, I think you owe the hard working students at St Andrews an apology for some of the things you have said about them. Just because they aren't from Scotland does not mean that they've gone to St Andrews to be "embarassingly dim, invisibly". Can you imagine if people someone from St Andrews said something similar about the students at Dundee? After all, Dundee was just a constituent college of St Andrews until the late 60s.

    I'm slightly ashamed that you were Rector of Dundee, as a holder of this position, you should have more, dare I say it, class than to publicly slander another Scottish University.

  • Aien Aristeuein

    Actually Craig, there is no such undergraduate degree at St Andrews as "Fine Arts". Art History yes, Fine Arts no. A far wider range of art degree courses is offered by, you guessed it, Dundee.

    • Craig_Murray

      Aaah but Dundee has a wonderful Arts school that teaches students the skills needed to create art. That can't be compared to a degree in looking at pictures.

  • HNS

    Never let the facts stand in the way of a good rant, eh Craig? A third of the student body at St Andrews is Scottish, a third rest of the UK and EU and a third from overseas. Students come from over 120 countries. Less than a third of St Andrews income comes from the public purse. It is probably the least reliant on public money of any of the Scottish universities. Last year it was a net contributor to the Scottish economy of £300 million. Its entry standards are among the toughest in the UK and it very actively tries to recruit the brightest and best Scots. So basically, you called the whole thing wrong. Again. Facts are chiels that winna ding.

  • Ruth

    To study on a four year History of Art course leading to an MA you need the following minimum A level grades:
    St Andrews AAB
    Glasgow AAA
    Edinburgh AAA

  • Craig W

    Craig – do you organises buses from Dundee to go and fight yahs in St Andrews on a Saturday night? This is a rant unworthy of a former university rector.

  • Craig W

    Having said that I can understand your annoyance at the coverage – do what I do and save your blood pressure, don't watch TV or read newspapers.

  • Misty Dismal

    Very lazy article which conflates St Andrews in its entirety with its management. Privatisation is exactly what they want – do you really think that will lead to more Scottish students getting a world class education? Because despite your sneers about subjects that don't actually exist, that is exactly what students get at St Andrews due to the quality of the teaching and research. Removal from national conditions would also lead to lower pay and worse conditions for the thousands of Fifers employed there.

    The University does *not* actively discriminate against Scottish students – the cost of living and the reputation (which you seem to unquestioningly buy into) puts people off. Those are real issues which many people are trying to do something about.

    There is a very different side to the place apart from royalty and wealthy home counties students – and however unpleasant some may be, they are far from "useless and thick". Privileged, sure, but actually academically very bright. There has just been a campaign which collected thousands of signatures against the arbitrary increase in part-time tuition fees which will mainly affect local, low income students. In a month's time there is a 'Carnival Against Cuts' organised by staff and students where there will be free lectures, music, workshops etc organised around the town. The Student Union presidency has just been won by the Left Society candidate who has been involved in two occupations in the last year, one of which led to the granting of scholarships to Palestinian students.

    There are plenty of targets at St Andrews who are fair game, but don't insult all of us working there and what we do.

  • somebody

    I have just revisited this article and the comments thereon and it is amusing to see how many St Andrews' trolls/alumni visited it too.

    I reckon there is nil interest in this staged event (apart from the brain dead royalists) in spite of the promise that 1000 staff will be employed by the BBC on the day and the amount of sickening propaganda that they have been transmittting..

    Have you got your royal sick bags yet?

  • Sam

    Very ill-informed rant. Scottish students may be in a minority, but not due to discrimination by the university – more likely that few apply due to myths and stereotypes perpetuated by people such as you! Actually, it is probably easier to get in if you are Scottish as they often give out to unconditional offers to those with Highers, while English people need to get good A Level results. Foreign students already more than pay for their tuition, so they are not costing anything to the taxpayer.

    Perhaps, instead of reinforcing class barriers by denouncing whole universites as being full of "thick but rich English people", you could be fixing the imbalance by encouraging locals to apply to a competitive, highly-achieving and world-renowned institution on their doorstep. It would certainly be more beneficial than the inverse-snobbery you've shown in this article.

    And no, I'm not a student there.

      • Sam

        There might be a relatively large proportion of rich English people there (although I doubt many are thick), but this is hardly grounds to privatise it. I knew people from my (state) school in Scotland who went there – if more were encouraged then we would have a better, more representative university with less of the ridiculous stereotypes that seem to accompany it. A university we could be proud of instead of trying to disown.

        • Craig_Murray

          "There might be a relatively large proportion of rich English people there (although I doubt many are thick), but this is hardly grounds to privatise it." Yes, on reflection you are right. Better tow it out to see and sink it.

  • Sam

    Witty. As I said before, the only reason for the low proportion of Scottish students is the reputation. 60% of admissions are from state schools – lower than it should be, perhaps, but it is hardly the case that everyone is rich there. Any state school pupil would fit in, if they were encouraged to apply and not put off by exaggerated stereotypes. I won't bother replying any more after this, seems a bit pointless, but as a former Rector surely you should be basing your opinions on more than prejudice?

1 2

Comments are closed.