Orientation Week

Friday 8 September 2017

It’s Orientation Week! Welcome to all new and returning students.

So you’re new to St Andrews? Look at our Orientation pages where you’ll find loads of information about everything from your new hall of residence to opening a bank account. There’s even an Orientation App (where you can you can find out about our Library tours)!! Go to the Union webpages for the Freshers Week programme and for links to twitter and facebook feeds for all events and latest news– you’ve probably made links online before you’ve even set foot in the town.

But in the days before the Internet, printed rules and regulations, handbooks, directories, manuals and guides were essential reading for the new student. This week’s blog looks at some of the publications which would have helped new students get to grips with their new lives in St Andrews in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s and which can be found in the St Andrews collection within the Special Collections Division of the Library. We’re also including some clips from a 1971 promotional film ‘The University in St Andrews’ which we’ve recently digitised. The film was written by then Principal J. Steven Watson, directed by Senior Assistant Quaestor Lionel Whitehead, and narrated by actor Andrew Cruickshank.

An introduction to the University from 1971 promotional film ‘The University in St Andrews’.

Civis being a fascinating Guide to all the exciting and illuminating Student life in the University of St Andrews 1964-66 (published by the SRC) StA LF1117.G9F49
Map, p33

This 1964-66 guide to student life at St Andrews claimed to be ‘your very own potted guide to that controversial and ambiguous institution’. It’s pretty straightforward, starting with the history of the University and including a letter from the Principal, who was pleased that students ‘are informed about the University, its life and its traditions.

Student outfitting, p13

There are sections on the heraldry, maces, rectorship, rectorial, consititution, alumnus association, red gown, regents, SRC, student newspapers etc. Faculties and their degrees (including dental school, applied science, social science and law then taught in the part of the University located across the Tay in Dundee) are described, along with library and union. Residential choices are a bit different from now though.

Pp42-43 – here’s the description of student ‘bunks’, not bunk beds, but furnished lodgings in the town.

Student societies are listed and contain many which you could join today, and some which you won’t find listed on the Union website.

Top: The Jacobite Movement in St Andrews, p59
Bottom: Voluntary Service Group (Decorating), Dundee, p80

The adverts are great – in those days everyone needed a chequebook – cash or cheque only was the rule.

This picture on the inside cover is the bank’s idea of a typical student …


St Andrews University Students Union Handbook 1971-72 StA LF1117.S8H2

Your handbook in 1971-2 features messages from the Union committee, many sporting wonderful neckwear:

Top: The President. John Brand, p4
Bottom: Union Secretary Fred Ratky, p8

The Union Committee is a body which can be compared only to Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and to serve on it is an experience that you will never forget except by surgical operation”

Stop for a hint column, p5. Here are some explanations of St Andrews traditions

The Union was a social hub, just like today, and hosted concerts by groups such as Fairport Convention, Hawkwind, Trees, Atomic Rooster, Bread, Love and Dreams, The Kinks, Jellybread and the Strawbs, Stone the Crows, Caravan, Al Stewart and Medicine Head. Brian Johnstone, the Entertainments Convener from 1971 says he got his earliest experience of events management in the Union. His greatest regret was turning down the then-unknown band Roxy Music, just weeks before they had their break-through hit. He may still be seen around St Andrews, although he looks somewhat different today:

Left: Brian Johnstone, p16  in 1971-2. Right: A poster image from his website www.brianjohnstonepoet.co.uk
Student Opinions 1975: a collection of opinions and information about academic life in St Andrews. An SRC publication edited by Franki Raffles, Brian Prothero, Iain Brodie StA LF1119.S8O6

The ‘student experience’ has to include academic work, of course. One of the editors of this 1975 ‘warts-and-all’ guide to courses leapt out from the shelf. Franki Raffles[1] went on to become an outspoken feminist and distinguished documentary photographer[2]. She and her team certainly don’t pull their punches in this publication. In a period without student satisfaction surveys, no University rankings or feedback on modules, the comments here represent ‘constructive criticism which contributors have adopted towards their departments, and although some may tend to present a somewhat gloomy picture, in the majority of cases the criticism has been of a positive nature and has perhaps pointed the way forward to possible improvement.’

Cartoon, p13

The students weren’t afraid to take on the establishment, with articles on controversial topics like the failure-rate, the lack of good careers after university and women and university.

The presence of female students is promoted in ‘The University in St Andrews’, but it’s not surprising that the feminists were up in arms.

The one shining light in the gloom is the efforts of a few of the staff to foster good staff student relations; if you attend a practical during Easter week, the senior demonstrator will give you a hot-cross bun”

Despite the criticism, some things don’t seem to have changed over time.

4 years on, p11
PG Tips StA LF1119.P7T5

In lighter vein, the 1974 PG Tips (PG Tips is a brand of tea, advertised by chimps on TV from 1956-2002) was an attempt to give new postgrads some help on understanding the workings of the University. Most of it relates to food and it describes the eating places in and around the town. The Niblick (Golf Place) and the Tudor Inn (North Street) are the best drinking places – although it is admitted that the rankings are dubious – the higher the quality the more often they are frequented and the better they are described.


The ^Dis^ Orientation Manual. A creative Guide to a Year Abroad in St Andrews written by and for American Students, 1983-84 StA LF1119.D5M2

And finally, The ^Dis^ Orientation Manual. A creative Guide to a Year Abroad in St Andrews written by and for American Students, 1983-84 is a really good guide to help American students adapt to life in St Andrews. It includes a 1980s ‘rate your professor’ – Profs Rickman and Smout come out very well! There are certainly differences in the cost of living and acceptable wording between the 1980s and today:

£3.30 will get you a good wash and cut from a buxom blonde clone in Jonalan’s in Mercat Wynd”

Money money money, p14

But the best bit is the glossary – I checked with a Canadian friend and she said she would have found it very helpful in her first few weeks in St Andrews. Awkward Social Situations are listed – and still ring true today!

Awkward social situations, p24
Two students at top of St Rules Tower 1975 Group-1975-49

You’ve made it to St Andrews. Enjoy orientation week, but you’ll soon have to get down to work – and you have access to the latest research-led teaching of course, just as you would have had in 1971:

The University’s cutting edge computer and laser equipment in 1971, from ‘The University in St Andrews’

We do hope you enjoy your time at St Andrews. If you want to see any of these guides for yourself in our reading room, just email [email protected] or ring 7380/2339 for an appointment.

Rachel Hart
Keeper of Manuscripts and Muniments

with thanks to Brian Johnstone for his input

[1] See previous blogs about Franki Raffles in Echoes from the Vault here.

[2] Find Franki Raffles’ photo collection in our catalogue here

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1 thoughts on "Orientation Week"

  • The Red Gown and St Andrews | Echoes from the Vault
    Thursday 13 September 2018, 10.10am

    […] few of the University of St Andrews traditions in recent years – the May dip, Raisin Monday, orientation, matriculation, examinations, Rector’s Installation and graduation. One of the most well-known St […]


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