It is clear that Professor Sally Mapstone has taken office as principal during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of Scotland’s oldest university.
Brexit poses fundamental challenges to the UK’s higher education sector, and The Saint is heartened by the fact that Professor Mapstone, along with the rest of her senior management team, clearly recognises this fact.
During a Brexit forum hosted by the Students’ Association, Professor Mapstone made it clear that she is concerned whether the UK government is sufficiently prioritising higher education in its negotiation plans. She also said that she will continue to fight on the University’s behalf and has already met with senior government figures to express her priorities.
The University’s management team has proved its members are passionate about maintaining St Andrews’ valuable links to the continent. For proof of this, look to issues including securing access to research funding and fighting to ensure that staff and students have some form of freedom of movement between institutions across Europe.
It should also be noted that Professor Mapstone is not an extreme ideological “remoaner” (as more extreme Brexit-supporting commentators have dismissed them). She recognises the potential benefits that St Andrews could gain from Brexit. Indeed, at the forum in question, she cited no longer being restrained by the EU’s bureaucracy as one of the potential upsides of leaving the international institution. Clearly, the University will not pass up potential opportunities presented for St Andrews’ students and staff.
The proctor, Professor Lorna Milne, also deserves praise for her whole-hearted defence of the Erasmus Programme. The scheme is vital to St Andrews’ status as an international university, and it is of paramount importance that we (and other British universities) continue to participate, following the UK’s departure from the EU.
The Saint has previously expressed scepticism over Brexit, and our belief that Britain would be better off having a close relationship with the EU has not changed. We also believe that the interests of St Andrews’ students on the vast array of complex issues surrounding Brexit are well served by Professor Mapstone.