I’m in St Andrews in Scotland today to see what the town is like. Tomorrow is the St Andrews University post-graduate open day. The university has an excellent reputation for peace studies so it needed to go on my shopping list, despite it looking too expensive with too few work prospects and, therefore, an unrealistic option.
We’re staying at The Inn at Lathones, a very comfortable and welcoming hotel just outside St Andrews. They kept the restaurant open for us when we arrived quite late last night and the dinner was excellent. So was breakfast this morning. The staff are great and, as every visit to Scotland has confirmed to me, the Scots are friendly and generous people.
The wander round the town was interesting. It is obviously a university & tourism & golf town.
I stumbled across Student Accommodation Services by accident, popped in and they could not have been more helpful. Lots of information and advice and a map of the town.
I had an excellent pint and a couple of free tasters in The Central in Market Street, a Victorian boozer with an excellent atmosphere and surroundings.
We picked up some bits for Christmas and gizzits for people in the friendly shops. I got speculative costs from the letting agents for various forms of private accommodation of various sizes (although Premier Lettings was a bit snooty and unhelpful, warning me it was a bit expensive and not even wanting to give me a business card when I asked).
A bit disappointed the public loo was 30p and I had no change. Also, I tried to buy a free bookmark in the Salvation Army shop for 20p so I could get some change, but they said it had no code on the till so could not take my money. So, back to the pub to use theirs, and make a booking for dinner.
Then I saw the university’s Student Careers office. I had to pop in.
When I first expressed an interest in working in the peace sector, one of the very first things I found was a page on the St Andrews University Careers Service web site about the peace sector. That page was the start of my research. I could not resist the opportunity to pop in and have a happy exchange with these good people.
At the desk was a young chap. I asked if I was in the right place for student careers advice. He sat back in his chair as if avoiding a leper, pulled a face as if encountering a blocked toilet and said:
“Yes. This is for students only. The Job Centre is over that way“, flicking his hand in the general direction of ‘away’ like a dowager duchess dismissing a beggar.
I was at a loss for words. I had been dismissed and was expected to depart from his presence at once.
The arrogant, stuck-up, public-school, elitist prick had, in a few words, managed to undo an awful lot of good impression created by the town. I felt embarrassed and not posh enough to be in this town of big expensive cars and daughters of rich daddies. Suddenly the attitude in Premier Lettings explained itself, the 30p for a wee, the types of shops (no mobile ‘phone or 99p shops here!, just a M&S Food Hall the size of most supermarkets elsewhere), the inflated prices of everything. However, the caff with the sign “Kate met Wills in here” still seemed tawdry.
Is this a good university? Or merely an expensive one? They are not the same thing. Right now, it feels all fur coat and no knickers. Tomorrow, we shall see what the academic side is like.
Update: we went back into town for dinner. At the table next to us were three men. One was saying to one of the others (amongst other, similar comments):
- “We turned down 50 students who wanted to learn this shit.”
- “I’ve brought you all the way up here to convince you you already have this job.”
- “I already know who is getting the post doc places. Now it is a matter of convincing them to apply.”
- “I need to see your CV so I can tell you what the Master wants to see in it.”
- “Make sure you tell them you have another job offer. It tells them you are in demand.”