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.”
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.”
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”.