Top Scots university told to ditch “elitist” £160 red gowns to appeal to poorer applicants


A TOP Scottish university has been urged to ditch red gowns to appeal to poorer applicants.

St Andrews University’s 600-year-old tradition of students “parading around” in red gowns on campus has been called “elitist”.

Professor Sir Peter Scott, an independent advisor to the Scottish Government, said it was time for the £159 gowns to go.

The University said that the tradition of the gowns began to keep students warm.

Credit: Wikicommons

It also apparently helps staff spot students sneaking out to go to the local pubs.

However, some former student’s have hit back on social media following the comments, claiming the gowns created a sense of ‘inclusiveness’.

St Andrews, established in 1413, is one of Scotland’s four ancient universities, and dawning the red gown is considerd the university’s most famous tradition.

The gowns are usually worn on special occasions – such as formal dinners and the universities weekly ‘pier walk’, from the Sunday church service to the sea-front.

Giving evidence, Professor Scott told the Education and Skills Committee on Wednesday (FEB 21) that the gowns risked sending out an elitist message.

He told the committee: “A university, such as St Andrews, that prides itself on its traditions needs to take into account the fact that that might act as a bit of a put-off for certain applicants.

“On certain occasions, students there parade around in red gowns.

“That is probably not an image that some people want to be associated with. It sends out quite a strong cultural message.

“Such universities need to work a bit harder to prove to those people that they would fit in and would be welcome there.”

Sir Peter today said this was a throw-away remark during one and a half hours of evidence and was not among his ‘key messages’.

Solicitor and former St Andrew’s student, Mark McKeown tweeted about the claims, writing: “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.”

Kris Getchell commented: “I totally agree, I am from a non-traditionally ‘St Andrews’ background and embraced the historic St Andrews Red Gown with much gusto.”

However, Ian Gent wrote: “Except the ones who don’t come here because they were put off by the red gowns. There is a selection bias.”

And Calum Irvine added: “Sadly, ‘all backgrounds’ cannot feasibly afford the luxury of a £160 gown.”

A spokesman for the University of St Andrews said: “Red gowns have been worn by St Andrews students for 600 years and were introduced as a means to keep warm and to ensure undergraduates were easily spotted if they tried to sneak into the local hostelries.

“The red wool gown has never been more widely worn than it is now, but is particularly popular amongst 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.”