Photo: St Andrews

St Andrews Gowns Labelled Elitist

Harry Potter-esque, or a sign of the times?

A government advisor has suggested that St Andrews should reconsider their 600 year tradition of wearing red gowns.

Sir Peter Scott, an independent advisor to the Scottish Government, said in an address to members of the Education and Skills Committee, “A university…that prides itself on its traditions needs to take into account the fact that they mights act as a bit of a put-off for certain applicants.”

He added that images of students in town wearing the iconic red was “probably not an image some people want to be associated with. Such universities need to work a bit harder to prove those people that they would fir in and would be welcome there.”

Photo: The Times/James Glossop

The tradition of wearing the gowns at the University was established in 1413 and is considered its most famous practice.

St Andrews has rejected the comments from the commissioner, saying that the £159 gowns are popular amongst students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

A spokesman said, “The red wool gown is particularly popular among our access students, many of whom wear it as ambassadors for our widening participation programmes. We understand why the commissioner might have jumped to that conclusion, but in practice we’ve found the opposite is true.”

Photo: St Andrews

Past and present students have commented on the remarks across social media.

Jordan Cavell, a current undergraduate, said on twitter, “As a student from a disadvantaged background I don’t quite see how anyone could come to this conclusion. The gown creates a sense of belonging and family. I’ve never felt more at home than here, in St Andrews.”

While former student Mark McKweon tweeted, “This is a sweeping statement made by someone who needs to do a bit more digging before he speaks out. The red gown is worn proudly by students from all backgrounds.”

However, associate lecturer Adi Macartney comically responded by tweeting, “Personally, I feel gowns should be the reserve of Hollywood super heroes.”

Debates around fair access to education are ongoing, but Sir Peter has since said his claim was a throwaway remark during an hour and a half of evidence and was not among his “key messages”.



177 thoughts on “St Andrews Gowns Labelled Elitist

  1. As a student from a not particularly wealthy background, I personally could not afford a gown in my first year, and have not bothered to save up and get one since. I know this is the same experience for many of my peers. While it is true that we may feel occasionally left out on university wide event such as the pier walk or the gaudie, at a univerity placed in a town this overly expensive to live in (which is it’s own seperate issue) a £159 gown to be worn once or twice a month at most, does not seem to many students a useful purchase for anything other than a statement of one’s own wealth or desire to feel included.

  2. A student from not particularly wealthy background here: this is the least of my problems. Trying to juggle work, school and many other things is exhausting enough than to think whether or not owning a red gown makes any difference to my academic experience. Knowing that some people are able to shell out over £150 on a piece of fabric hardly concerns me more than knowing that some people can spend my monthly food allowance on one event. In short, I didn’t care when I applied and, a few weeks away from the graduation, certainly don’t care now.

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