The University of St Andrews’ principal this week announced the establishment’s strategy for the next five years – including a modest increase in student numbers.
Principal Professor Sally Mapstone revealed that the student population would not rise above 10,000 as part of the new strategy, despite a huge number of applicants.
Professor Mapstone, delivering the St Andrews Preservation Trust’s annual lecture, attributed its success to it being a “small university in a small town”.
Her speech follows months of debate and discussion about the perceived pressure students are putting on the housing market in St Andrews.
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She said the small rise would allow the university to “achieve critical mass in a competitive market for the best students and staff” while also allowing it “to maintain the essence of what we are”.
Two new halls of residence are due to open this year, adding around 400 new student beds. The university plans to provide 5000 units of student accommodation by 2025.
Professor Mapstone also criticised the decision of Fife Council’s Communities & Housing Services Committee to put forward a policy of zero growth on HMOs (house in multiple occupation) in the town.
She said “limited housing stock” would leave students facing higher rents, meaning higher student loans and less money to spend in the town.
“Looking forward I would like us to take a holistic, data-driven view of housing needs in St Andrews, appreciating how students influence it, how the university influences it, and – and I think this has to be acknowledged more than it is – how second home owners and retired people influence it,” Professor Mapstone added.
‘Social responsibility’ will also play a big part in the new strategy – the first time the university has included this in its plans.
Professor Mapstone said all project boards, planning discussions and activities would be “community aware”.
She added: “Local community relations are given specific emphasis in this part of the strategy as we recognise our day-to-day activities and plans for the future have a profound impact on our neighbours.
“We will consume ‘more of our own smoke’ – ensuring wherever possible that the provision of services to students and staff has a wider positive impact on the broader population of St Andrews, especially the provision of new student accommodation to lessen the demand on private housing in St Andrews and north east Fife.”