Above and beyond …

Each year two different students are recognised for going above and beyond the call of duty – one for what they’ve achieved as an Evening Degree student and the other for helping their fellow students.

We asked Zoë Garvie (winner of the Fife Council Provost’s Prize for the Most Outstanding Evening Degree Student 2017) and Emily Bruton (winner of the Frotscher Medal for Helping Hands for Excellence in Supporting Students 2017) to tell us about what inspired and motivated them.

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Zoë Garvie

“I started the evening degree in 2010 as a way of testing my academic ability while continuing to work. I’d gained reasonable grades at school but unlike my friends, I didn’t apply to university because I was worried about debt. But I always hankered to learn, and took courses in everything from hypnosis to ballroom dancing.

“It was after I met my husband that I decided to go to university. However, I wanted to find out if it was going to agree with me before I gave up work full-time. The University of St Andrews Evening Degree was the perfect way to test the water.

“It’s been seven years since that first evening and during that time life has changed considerably for me, with one baby boy born in 2012 and another in 2014 – perfectly timed for the summer break! My full-time academic ambitions changed to full-time mum responsibilities but, despite practically no sleep, I still loved my studies.

“I was seduced to study at St Andrews by the Biology modules but there was not a subject or lecturer that didn’t thrill me – from IT to Geography and Geology, and from Physics and Astronomy to Psychology. I even dabbled in Anthropology and Mediaeval Scottish History!

“I have to mention Dr Rona Ramsay. She was a real mentor to me during my level 3 Biology modules and encouraged me to try her Biochemistry bootcamp. I had never before left my children during the day and when she sent me a copy of the module I didn’t understand a word of it. Now the language seems straightforward but I remember vividly when it was unintelligible and terrifying to me. My proudest moment was when I passed that module with distinction.

“It has been an absolute privilege to have come to St Andrews. The calibre and enthusiasm of the teaching is astonishing and my fellow students have been a pleasure and inspiration to meet. There are so many of us who juggle commitments and stay up all hours to fit in the time for assessments, so it is a real honour to be recognised for the effort I’ve put in.”

Zoë was awarded the Prize (which includes £100) in recognition of her academic achievements across all modules taken as part of her BSc General Science Degree. She received the Prize at the Lifelong Learning Graduation Reception on 23 June 2017.

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Emily (centre) with the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, and panel members Ailsa Ritchie (Deputy Director of Student Services) and Rev. Dr Donald MacEwan. Also pictured are friends Naomi Boon (far left), Cameron Schoettle (far right) and nominator Harry Gunning (back right) 

Emily Bruton

“From the beginning of my time at St Andrews, I have met and tried to help students who didn’t find the transition to university life easy, or who found pre-existing difficulties harder to cope with without the familiarity of home and the support of family. This led to me being nicknamed ‘Mumma Melville’ in the halls of residence where I had earned a reputation for offering support and for giving good hugs (or so I am told).

“I suggested to the Senior Student at the time that there should be an official ‘Mumma Melville’ position in all halls of residence. Andrew Melville Hall was the first to implement this suggestion and I was voted in as Hall Welfare Rep on the Hall executive committee. This increased to two Welfare Reps the following year.

“The main role of the Welfare Rep is to act as a first point of contact for students who are struggling, and to act as a bridge between the Hall and the many services provided by the University. We have tried to do this by holding tea and cake events, for example, to raise awareness of student welfare groups such as Student Minds and Populus, and to encourage students to feel as if they matter to the University.

“As someone who has seen the early hours of the morning in many different – and sometimes overwhelming – circumstances while trying to help others, the role of Welfare Rep is therefore close to my heart.

“In a sense, the Award has given me encouragement and has shown me that the help I have given does matter – even if at the time I felt frustrated at not being able to do more, or to do better. It is symbolic of the importance of kindness and generosity and is a keen reminder of the people I have helped in the past, the people I hope to help in the future and the many wonderful people who have helped me when I needed it.”

A little consideration, a little thought for others makes all the difference.
                                                                                                         – A A Milne

Emily was awarded the Frotscher Medal by the Proctor, Professor Lorna Milne at a ceremony on 16 May 2017.

First Day in Development

As part of the University’s summer internships programme, fourth year Physics student Francis Newman has just begun a six-week internship with the Alumni Relations team in the Development Office.

The Development Office, tucked away on North Street between the Barron Theatre and the Library, is not only a beautiful and spacious building in which to work – particularly on a summer’s day, with the sun streaming through the windows – but is populated by an exceptionally friendly team of people who are responsible for engaging with the many thousands of former students who have passed through the University over time. They work not only to keep these alumni engaged with the institution, and to organise the University’s philanthropic fundraising efforts around the world, but also to organise reunions, let alumni share their news, and to put old friends back in touch with each other.

My first impressions have been extremely positive – within a few hours of arriving in the building I already feel like a valued member of the team, and I’m looking forward to getting started on various projects!

On my first morning I discussed my plans for this internship with Phil, my supervisor. I have the opportunity to work on a range of projects that really interest me – and that I think could really benefit both current students and alumni.

What will I be doing? Well, as well as writing posts for this blog (keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment!) I’m hoping to explore new ways to engage current students and societies with the work of this office, so that it’s easier for them to stay in touch with alumni when they need to. I also hope to work on publicizing Saint Connect – a portal run by the Careers Centre which allows alumni to mentor current students as well as to offer jobs and advice – an idea that keeps different generations of students in touch with each other! I also look forward to helping organise the Bejant Receptions for incoming students in the USA.

As any alumni who’ve come to visit in the summer will know, being in St Andrews at this time of year shows a very different side of the town from the term-time cycle of lectures, labs, rehearsals and social functions that I’ve grown accustomed to – but both experiences are equally enjoyable, enriching and rewarding!

Mermaids at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe

In what is now a well-established tradition, several groups of St Andrews students will be heading to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August. With original student writing featuring more predominantly than ever before, there are no rights-required plays being performed. Summer intern 3rd year student Caroline McWilliams tells us more.

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Atlas, 2016 production

Mermaids Performing Arts Fund is funding five plays, all of which are student-written. Atlas by the Brothers Liebmiller (Class of 2017) tells the story of Issac Newton, Christopher Wren, Robert Hooke and Edmund Halley and a wager that changed the world of science forever. After an acclaimed run in St Andrews in 2016, this humorous play is transferring to theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36) under the direction of Alexander Gillespie (Class of 2017).

Commons written by Elliot Douglas (Class of 2019) tells the story of the romance between an MP and the rent boy he employs.  Highly original, thought-provoking and at times hilarious, this play will also be performed at theSpace on North Bridge (Venue 36).

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Pistorius: A Shakespearean Tragedy, 2016 production

After a sell-out, highly-acclaimed performance in St Andrews in Spring 2016 as part of the Shakespeare Festival, Pistorius: A Shakespearean Tragedy, written by Issac Mayne (Class of 2017) is the story of the trial of Oscar Pistorius written in iambic pentameter. This play will be performed at Greenside @ Infirmary Street (Venue 236).

Sonder Theatre in collaboration with Mermaids presents Rock and Hunt, written by MLitt Creative Writing student Helena Jacques-Morton (MA 2016). Telling the story of six interwoven characters, this play explores the themes of love, sex, alcoholism, life and death. It will be performed at Paradise in the Vault (Venue 29).

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Polaris, 2017 production

Student writer and poet Hannah Raymond-Cox (Class of 2017) presents her one woman show Polaris. She tells the story of one woman’s search for community in the face of chaos. This show is part of PBH’s Free Fringe and will be performed at 52 Canoes (Grassmarket) (Venue 366).

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Blind Mirth

Also returning to the Fringe is Blind Mirth performing both their short and long form games. With improvised comedy anything could happen and nothing can be predicted. Described as “brilliantly random” by the EdFringeReview.com, this show will be performed at theSpace on the Mile (Venue 39).

Also heading to the Fringe are some of St Andrews most beloved a cappella groups including The Other Guys, The Belles & Beaus, The Accidentals and The Alleycats. With the popularity of a cappella, you are advised to buy your tickets early.

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The Other Guys, 2017

From seventeenth-century scientists to contemporary politics, the St Andrews Fringe programme truly has something to offer everyone and we hope that you will enjoy all that the students have to offer this summer. You can keep up-to-date with the shows over their social media pages or contact any of the groups via the email addresses below.


Mermaids Fringe email: mermaidsfringe@st-andrews.ac.uk

A cappella Society email: ac-soc@st-andrews.ac.uk

Blind Mirth email: blindmirth@gmail.com

Ticketing web addresses

Atlas:                     https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22atlas%22

Blind Mirth:        https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/blind-mirth

Commons:          https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=commons

Pistorius:             https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=pistorius

Polaris:                 https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=polaris

Rock and Hunt: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/rock-and-hunt

A cappella web addresses will be available soon.

The R&A Ransome Scholarship: Funding Excellence

The Dr. Ernest L Ransome III Scholarship was initially established in 1994 as a way for the friends and associates of Ernest Ransome to recognise his commitment to philanthropy, education and athletics.

The scholarship’s mission is to enrich the experience of deserving postgraduate students by affording them the opportunity to attend the University of St Andrews. Due to the generous support of our wonderful donors, the R&A Ransome Scholarship has helped fund the full course of study for deserving students entering a one-year postgraduate course.

One such R&A Ransome Scholarship recipient is Imogen Hawley, from Bainbridge Island, Washington, USA. She is one of the three 2016/2017 postgraduate recipients and is completing a MSc in Global Health Implementation.

Imogen completed her undergraduate degree here in Social Anthropology and proved to be a highly active member of the St Andrews community. Now, she speaks on her experiences here as a postgrad:

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Imogen Hawley

“Though just a snapshot, this description of a day in my life encompasses much of my experience in St Andrews so far. After running twenty miles, I defend a policy on tuberculosis diagnostic methods used in sub-Saharan Africa during a tutorial. Later on, I attend a postgraduate executive forum, representing the Global Health Implementation course.

Well after the sun has set, I find myself in the Union café, reading about social franchising in maternal health organisations. My reading is interrupted by an email appearing in my inbox: a message informing me that the bake sale that I had held earlier in the week had raised £70 for Women’s Rights Initiative in Uganda.

I smile, warm with the feeling of being able to make a difference globally – even from this small fishing village tucked away on the eastern shore of Scotland.

The breadth of my course has kept me continuously curious, exploring a vast range of topics and theories. I have been able to develop practical skills in coursework and tutorial presentations, applying my knowledge to real world situations.

When I’m not studying or writing essays, I spend time volunteering, running and spending time around town with new friends.  I have also been involved in student affairs as a class representative, helping make improvements to the course curriculum as well as planning guest lectures and possible fieldtrips.

All of this is complemented by St Andrews’ unique environment, fostering academic prestige and ambition in a small, beautiful town on the sea.

I am confident that my experience in St Andrews this year has shaped the rest of my life – not only with brighter career prospects but also with stronger friendships and new perspectives. This formative opportunity would not be possible without the help of the R&A Ransome Scholarship, and for that I am extremely grateful.”

For more information about the R&A Ransome Scholarship and ways to donate, please visit http://www.st-andrews.ac.uk/develop-2/ransome/about.php or for further information about making a gift in support of scholarships at St Andrews please visit https://sparc.st-andrews.ac.uk/giving/scholarships


Sallies Quad

Sallies Quad, or more formally, the United College of St Salvator and St Leonard, is one of the oldest remaining parts of the University of St Andrews and sits at the heart of the town, both geographically and spiritually. Former intern in the Development Office, Naomi Boon, investigated the history of the Quad and how it has changed over the University’s 600 year history…

The steeple of St Salvator’s Chapel is a well-recognised sight in the St Andrews skyline and is a rare but stunning example of the town’s late gothic architecture. The chapel was founded in 1450 as a part of Bishop James Kennedy’s College of the Holy Saviour and despite a long and varied history, remains the central hub of the University, popular with students and tourists alike.

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Photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of St Andrews library

The college tower rises above the main entrance to the old college. It was originally finished with a flat summit, but a stone spire was added in the mid-16th century.  The oldest photographs show a clock featuring on the tower from the earliest times, situated immediately below the belfry.


Photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of St Andrews library

Today, the chapel is a mixture of old and new. It bears the scars of religious strife but remains a beautiful, living building much used by both students and staff. It is today very much as it was intended to be by Bishop Kennedy: the heart of the University.

The Quad has served a wealth of functions throughout the University’s history, hosting foam fights on the lawn on Raisin Weekend, to the old glassed-in cloister which has served as a social space for generations, from a space for the debating society, to a functioning gymnasium.

“The Gymnasium I remember vividly on the South side of the Quadrangle. It was a great meeting-place on wet afternoons. We had no instructor, and were left to the freedom of our own wills, so did not learn much. I am afraid the most popular bit of apparatus was the trapeze, used simply as a swing.”

Robert Stewart, University of St Andrews student, 1879-81.

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Photo from 1911, courtesy Special Collections, University of St Andrews library

The refurbishment of St Salvator’s Quad in 2015 has ensured that this historically important space will remain a focal point of University life for many years to come. This redevelopment was one of the University’s 600th Anniversary fundraising initiatives.

One of the main objectives was to introduce a hidden infrastructure to allow the Quad to be a venue for major events, such as international celebrations, important community events and graduation parties. This was made possible by replacing the degraded tarmac with hard-wearing flagstone, restoration and extension of the central lawn, ramps making the space safer and more accessible, as well as installing hidden power, water and lighting for events.


In 2016, additional work was done to refurbish the appearance of the clock tower

The redevelopment captured the imagination of over 1,500 donors, whose generous support raised in excess of £700,000. Alumni from every corner of the globe responded to the flag stone campaign, with accompanying stories and special memories from their time at St Andrews.

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Photo courtesy of the University of St Andrews

Thanks to the special Anniversary gifts given by generous alumni, the refurbished Quad is ready for future generations of students to enjoy and for another 600 years of memories to be made.


Photo courtesy of the University of St Andrews

These flagstones proved incredibly popular with donors wishing to see their loved one’s name etched into the future of the Quad. A second wave of flagstones was released at the end of 2016 and there are still a few available for alumni and friends to inscribe. For further information, visit http://bit.ly/2jz7jfI.

 For further information on the Quad and its wonderful history, see http://bit.ly/2kQvzLo.

Master of the Universe

Robin White (LLB 1967) studied Law at the University’s Queen’s College, Dundee campus, graduating in the year that St Andrews and Dundee split. Robin opted to accept his degree from St Andrews, but has maintained close connections with both institutions ever since. Here is his story…

I took the LLB between the years of 1964 and 1967. The 1964 cohort comprised between 30 and 40 students, only a few of whom did not graduate. We came from a wide variety of places within the UK, and the proportion from England (like me) was something much discussed.


Robin outside “the Terrapins” following his graduation in July 1967

Nearly all of us were straight from school (the gap-year not having been invented), but there were a couple of mature students and perhaps six women.

I have no idea where the great majority of that cohort are now. It is a safe bet that most are (possibly now retired) solicitors, but I do know one became Regional Procurator-Fiscal for Strathclyde, two became professors, and another went to jail.

The LLB dated from an 1894 Ordinance designed for part-time students, modified only in that it was now full-time. Thus, there was very little choice of subject, but it was considerably less challenging than it had originally been (and would shortly become). We had two or three lectures a day, generally in the traditional monologue form, and little by way of other work.

Half the staff were local practitioners, teaching part-time, as nearly all teaching in all Law Faculties always had been. Most memorable was Alistair MacDonald, part-time Professor of Conveyancing, and still with us. Full-timers were an innovation, but more obvious to students. Memorable ones included Arthur Matheson (Professor of Scots Law), Neil (later the famous Sir Neil) McCormick, Jim Robertson (both lecturers, very clubbable and known to attend student parties) and Ian Willock (Professor of Jurisprudence), all regrettably now deceased.

Social life was equally memorable. Gaudie Night, when Senior Women/Men took out their bejant/ines (yes, still called that) to get them drunk, flourished. Indeed, social life revolved around the Union Bar (then decorated by wonderful Breugelesque wall-paintings), the Tavern in Hawkhill, the Saturday Hop in New Dines, and parties in flats. There seemed to be a party somewhere every Saturday.

My other chief extra-curricular activities were the Folk Club (and I once heard Mary Brooksbank sing Coarse and Fine) and the Air Squadron (flying at Leuchars every Sunday) and, for a year, the Judo Club.


A recent photo of Robin

Finance deserves a mention since it was no problem in those days. Like almost everybody, I got a grant, merely supplemented by holiday jobs, at the Post Office (Christmas), and a building site and a bakery (over the summer). Indeed I saved enough to buy a large BSA motorbike in Second Year, and a large Alvis car in Third.

I can remember, one summer’s evening, between the exam results coming out and the date of graduation, standing outside the Ship Inn in Broughty Ferry, watching the sun set over the hills upstream of the Tay, and thinking I was a Master of the Universe.


Robin went on to forge a successful career in law, as a regularly-sitting Justice of the Peace, a member of the Judicial Council for Scotland and as part of the Advisory Committee of the Judicial Institute for Scotland. He is currently an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Dundee where he previously held the posts of Senior Lecturer and Associate Dean of the former Faculty of Law and Accountancy. He was the first recipient of the Chancellor’s Award for Lifetime Contribution to Teaching by the University of Dundee upon his retirement and is now writing a history of law teaching in Dundee. 

It’s All There in Black and White…

Alan McPherson (BSc 1965) shares memories of his time at the University of St Andrews, Queens College, Dundee in the 1960s. He describes his final year as an undergraduate and how it changed his career path for ever …


Alan’s Degree Certificate

“From an early age I wanted to be an engineer, and this influenced my application to St Andrews University, Queens College, Dundee to study electrical engineering. It was, and still is, my opinion that engineers make the world go round. However, although I emerged from Queens College as a graduate engineer, and am still qualified to call myself a Chartered Engineer, my career from the time of leaving university did not follow the path towards heavy electrical engineering I had envisioned when I started. So what caused this change of direction?

In the final year of the undergraduate course, each student had to conduct a series of lab experiments. One experiment in particular involved complicated mathematical calculations that were assisted considerably by a small program run on the ZEBRA digital computer installed at the college (used extensively at that point by research staff from the Physics department for their work on X-Ray crystallography). ZEBRA – an acronym for the Dutch words Zeer Eenvoudige Binaire Reken-Automat (which translates as very easy binary calculating machine) – was the result of a collaboration between mathematicians of the Dutch Post Office and engineers of Standard Telephones and Cables. It was built using about 600 thermionic valves and a similar number of germanium transistors.

This machine was the first ‘proper’ computer I had seen, and I was so impressed that I was given permission to use it unsupervised when it wasn’t being used by the Physics research staff. It filled most of the space in the room, generated prodigious quantities of heat and had to be run continuously to avoid malfunctions provoked by temperature cycling. Before using the computer there would normally be a pause while the windows of the room were opened wide to allow the system to cool down for about 20 minutes.

I learned programming on that computer, becoming familiar first with the interpreted Simple Code programming language and moving on later to the more fundamental Normal Code program running directly on the hardware.


Graduation, 1965

At that time, computing was still in its infancy – indeed it was barely out of the cradle. After leaving university and enthused with my first experience of computing, I ignored opportunities in the heavy electrical engineering industry and became involved exclusively in the emerging field of the design and development of digital computer systems. I remained in that field for the rest of my working life, working on both hardware and software. In fact, I found that having a good grounding in both hardware and software camps was a positive advantage that not many other design engineers possessed.

Over the years, I was drawn to the secretive field of secure computing, protecting information that has a government security classification. My last position before retirement was as chief systems test engineer for a company specialising in cryptography using high-grade encryption and producing secure systems and products for financial establishments, most UK and European banks, government and military establishments.

Because of that lab experiment in the 1960s and my consequent change of focus, I feel that I have played a small part in the subsequent Digital Revolution, now in full swing. The social consequences of this will be every bit as sweeping and far-reaching as its predecessor the Industrial Revolution, but this time on a global scale and with an immediacy spurred on by the internet and world wide web. This digital revolution still has a long way to run, and the social consequences will be even more significant and life-changing for everyone on the planet.”


Alan at home in front of his laptop, 2017