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There was a time when Scottish universities were havens of free thought

Then:

After the Uniformity Act 1662, for about two centuries, it was difficult for any but practising members of the Church of England to gain degrees from the old English universities, at Cambridge and Oxford. The University of Oxford, in particular, required – until the Oxford University Act 1854 – a religious test on admission that was comparable to that for joining the Church. The situation at the University of Cambridge was that a statutory test was required to take a bachelor’s degree.

English Dissenters in this context were Nonconformist Protestants who could not in good conscience subscribe (i.e. conform) to the beliefs of the Church of England. As they were debarred from taking degrees in the only two English universities, many of them attended the dissenting academies. If they could afford it, they completed their education at the universities of Leyden, Utrecht, Glasgow or Edinburgh, the last, particularly, those who were studying medicine or law.

Now:

After making their grades and unpacking their bags, new students may be forgiven for thinking they are ready to launch themselves into university life.

But at one of Britain’s leading institutions, they must now clear one more hurdle before beginning their studies: they must accept “personal guilt”.

St Andrews has introduced compulsory modules on sustainability, diversity, consent and good academic practice and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements. The university is one of a growing number insisting that students undertake training on subjects including anti-bullying and climate change.

[…]

At St Andrews, the induction asks students to agree with statements including: “Acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” Those who tick “disagree” are marked incorrect and too many wrong answers mean they have failed the module and must retake it.

Another question from the course asks: “Does equality mean treating everyone the same?” Those who respond yes are told: “That’s not right, in fact equality may mean treating people differently and in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity.”

Students are also asked to agree with the statement: “It is important to think about and understand our own prejudices and stereotypes so we don’t treat someone else unfairly or inappropriately.”

33 comments to There was a time when Scottish universities were havens of free thought

  • Zerren Yeoville

    One wonders how long it will be before possession of a degree becomes a distinct disadvantage when applying for a job with any small or medium size business (i.e. outside the public sector or the giant ‘woke’ corporations).

    ‘Morning, Janice, how many applications have we had for the vacancy in the purchasing office?’

    ‘Eighteen CV’s in total, Mr Richardson. But we can whittle that down to eleven straight away if we follow our usual practice of putting all those that mention university or a degree straight into the shredder.’

  • Stonyground

    “English Dissenters in this context were Nonconformist Protestants who could not in good conscience subscribe (i.e. conform) to the beliefs of the Church of England.”

    I believe that Quakers were among those affected. This turned out to be a good thing for people who like chocolate.

  • will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements.

    Literally, this seems to mean that if, at the end of four years (Scottish system is 4 years for honours degrees), you get a first class honours degree in some subject (physics, say) but you do not also get a pass in ‘holding politically correct opinions’, then you do not get to go to the ceremony in which they give you a piece of paper and hit you over the head with a mortar board. You can however truthfully state on your CV what you got in either or both subjects if you wish. (I may of course be ignorant of other legal consequence of non-matriculation. And of course, they appear to insist you sit the exam “before studies can begin” so maybe ‘failure’ has consequences earlier than matriculation.)

    Of course, getting marked fairly in your degree papers after having failed the PC exam might depend on the double-blind marking system not being corrupted, which it could be on the way in or (probably easier for the woke to do) on the way out, as marking results are translated back from anonymous codes to pupils’ names.

    In a fair world, this year’s students would have been warned of this before they applied – I’m guessing its appearance in mainstream news two weeks after term starts is not a coincidence – but maybe the University’s existing diversity statement’s fine print allows for imposing almost any unwarned requirement on anyone.

  • Stonyground

    “Another question from the course asks: “Does equality mean treating everyone the same?” Those who respond yes are told: “That’s not right, in fact equality may mean treating people differently and in a way that is appropriate to their needs so that they have fair outcomes and equal opportunity.””

    There was an earlier post on this matter, I posted this thought at the time.

    I play the piano a bit. I’m not very good but I play for my own amusement and it gives me a certain amount of enjoyment. I sometimes daydream about playing the Emperor Concerto or the Rach 3 in front of a packed audience at the Albert Hall. But wait, with this newly defined reality my dream can come true. I don’t get equal treatment with pianists who started playing at four years old, had masses of talent and got a scholarship to go to some elite music academy. No, I get equal outcome, Albert Hall here I come.

    This was obviously posted somewhat tongue in cheek but, being a bit more serious about it, how exactly would this work in practice? I am never going to be able to play piano at the level required to perform major classical and romantic works to the standard required for venues like the Albert Hall. The only way that I could possibly have an equal outcome with world class pianists is if they were all dragged down to my level. What do we do, drug them, break their fingers maybe? Oh, suddenly no paying punters want to go and listen to bad piano playing, no problem we can subsidise the thing that people used to willingly pay for before we screwed it up.

  • Eric Hyperspace

    It’s about time that Scotland acknowledge and atone for its legacy of slavery as well as its oppression of the English.

  • Crosbie

    Seems test acts are inevitable. I preferred the old one

  • Snorri Godhi

    It’s not like Scottish universities were always the most enlightened. From the Wikipedia page on James Clerk Maxwell:

    In 1860 Marischal College merged with the neighbouring King’s College to form the University of Aberdeen. There was no room for two professors of Natural Philosophy, so Maxwell, despite his scientific reputation, found himself laid off.

    I have been told this story before. I have also been told that the new University of Aberdeen had 6 (iirc) professors of Theology, none of them laid off.

    What i would like to know is who the other professor of Natural Philosophy was.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    (Stonyground, 5.23pm) “The only way that I could possibly have an equal outcome with world class pianists is if they were all dragged down to my level. What do we do, drug them, break their fingers maybe?”

    Kurt Vonnegut’s story ‘Harrison Bergeron’ envisioned just such a future, emphasised in the opening scene of the movie version where a student is praised by the teacher for improving his grade from a B-plus to a B-minus.

  • bobby b

    Just imagine if we had allowed the Moonies to take over most of our societal institutions beyond just our airport terminals back in the 70’s.

    We’d have to profess the wisdom of the good Rev with our every breath in order to attend classes, buy food, sell books, etc.

    Wouldn’t that have been awful?

  • lucklucky

    So what about that great love that Anglosphere had for Freedom that people told me about?

  • phil

    @Niall Kilmartin: matriculate means to register at the university as a student. If they don’t let you matriculate, then you can’t be a student, sit exams, etc. It’s a very old duster/handerchief they brush your head with IIRC, not a mortar board. The mortar boards aren’t used there supposedly because they were thrown away in disgust when the university admitted female students. I’m surprised they haven’t started using them again, as an act of woke penitence / accepting of guilt.

  • bob sykes

    Russia is the last bastion of European civilization and liberty.

  • Fraser Orr

    Ahem…. it is just St. Andrews… nobody took them seriously anyway. Now if it were to happen at a good University like Glasgow, that would be a problem.

    I was a student there many years ago in the Comp Sci department on Lillybank Gardens. Glasgow has two student unions, QMU, which used to be the “women’s” union, and the GUU, which used to be the men’s. Of course they were bisexual by the time I got there, but QMU was always the home of the radical lefties. Which is unfortunate since it was right next to the Comp Sci department. However, although I had to occasionally run the gauntlet of leafleters, protests, signs and so forth, they always let me in, always let my buy a burger and beer. I doubt you can get in without passing a purity test now.

    FWIW, Scotland ruined it’s university system when it promoted lots of polytechnics to the title of “University” thirty years ago, utterly diluting the brand.

  • James Hargrave

    Fraser Orr – and compare what is left of Lillybank Gardens with the ghastly buildings erected by Gl university.

    Alas, universities have been making staff go through this sort of dross for years (a decade?) – and not even just new recruits as part of their inductions but long-serving individuals as part of their annual appraisal. Just as obvious, there are right answers and ‘correct answers’, i.e. reality and progressivist moonshine respectively. And the patronising guff from ‘human resources’, wrapped up in all sorts of gooey prose, was that the test had to be taken when in fact it had to be passed.

    I would find it very difficult to go to a university nowadays because of this sort of thing, and what is on offer is often far less serious and attractive than it was as the institutions become vast degree mills (I have three degrees from long ago). I rather think I would train as a plumber or electrician and become self-employed because this poisonous muck gets everywhere.

  • bobby b

    And who was the Russian who pointed out that they don’t care at all if you really believe the things they make you say, just so you say them, because the act of repeating such things on demand when you don’t believe them is much like a dog rolling over to show his belly in fear, and makes each successive indignity that much harder to resist?

  • phil (October 2, 2021 at 10:39 pm), you are quite right. I had indeed misunderstood the story at first to mean that they would not let you start your course if you did not sit the exam but only not let you graduate if you failed. Clearly, they plan to nullify immediately those who do not fail the test of character by ‘passing’ the exam.

    In the case of any ‘failing’ student who has already arranged accommodation etc., so cannot conveniently be elsewhere for a term at least, it will be interesting if the modern prejudice proves more determined than the victorian Oxford one against the home students. Before the first women’s college was founded in 1879, women were sitting in on lectures and getting marked to know how they ‘would’ have done. but were not formally given degrees. They were called ‘home students’ because they were not members of the university and did not live in college. I’m guessing the woke mob will prevent any PC-banned from doing the equivalent today by eagerly effecting their physical expulsion from lecture halls. Of course, virtual expulsion from online lectures, or in-person lectures in which some students just keep their phone cameras on, may be harder. And the masks I so hate might yet have their uses in evading detection. 🙂

    In Edinburgh, in the year when women were first studying to become doctors there, they won the rugby club to their side by providing first-responder service at rugby games, etc., so that a group who planned to disrupt their exams were very surprised to be set on by rugby club types they had imagined would agree with them. 🙂 In this modern era of sports kneelers, it would be a brave rugby club who would do as much for the St Andrews blacklisted.

    Phil is also correct about the St Andrews incident of throwing away mortar boards. (I knew of it but had assumed they resumed using them after getting used to the company of the fair sex. As he says, it is surprising they haven’t.) One wonders if even such a futile protest will occur over the admission of commissars. (One hopes there will be pushback but one also wonders – we’ll see.)

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    But what about the old belief that you should get an award just for attending? Perhaps conformists could get gold degrees, and successful nonconformers could get silver degrees, and the rest get bronzes? If this ‘social’ justice keeps going on, then soon dates will be allocated randomly, with good-looking people being told who they will date, instead of selfishly choosing for themselves!

  • Sam Duncan

    “Fraser Orr – and compare what is left of Lillybank Gardens with the ghastly buildings erected by Gl university.”

    The architect of the new Comp. Sci. building seems to have taken his brief literally and designed it to look like a server rack. Still, if you’ve ever seen the plans they drew up in the ’60s (and the ’30s), you’ll know it could have been even worse.

    “FWIW, Scotland ruined it’s university system when it promoted lots of polytechnics to the title of “University” thirty years ago, utterly diluting the brand.”

    My father attended the opening of “Caledonian University” (a.k.a. the University of the Coocaddens), and remarked to one of the bigwigs, “Hold on… this isn’t a university. It’s all teaching. Where’s the research?” “Oh, the definition of ‘University’ has been changed.”

    As put it, what can you say to that? To me, what stuck out was the “has been changed”. Not “has changed”, organically, through usage; been changed. By some authority. To my mind, the very concept is unacademic.

  • the last toryboy

    There’s so much horror out there these days I wonder if the west will survive it.

    https://www.urban.org/urban-wire/equitable-research-requires-questioning-status-quo

    Okay that is a think tank, but a well respected one apparently in the past. And now it seems to be into full bore Lysenkoism territory.

  • Sam Duncan

    From TLT’s link:

    We live in a racist society …

    Speak for your goddamn selves. You’re certainly doing your best to create one.

  • Dr. Chaotica

    Another university forgets that its job is to teach people how to think, not what to think.

  • Mr Ecks

    All Marxistic shite needs to be purged from UK society in general. That Bogus Johnson does nothing in the face of all this evil tells us all we need to know about UK “Conservatives”.

  • Paul Marks

    In the United States Freedom of Speech died in most universities when the Obama Administration started to “interpret” Title Nine of the Civil Rights Act (the Act of 1964) to mean that language “harmed” certain groups – and therefore this language should be stopped by universities. Most administrators and academics were only too eager to go along with this – as they were long corrupted by Frankfurt School Marxism and just needed the final excuse. A few universities, such as Hillsdale, rejected the evil (for evil it is) – but most have accepted the evil at their very core.

    In the past, say in 18th or 19th century England and Wales, not going to university did not matter all that much – as few people went to university. Now a “good job” depends on going to university – and getting the “good degree”.

    The universities are making it quite clear – that if you do not agree to various “Woke” beliefs you will not get a degree and you will not get a “good job”.

    Indeed the objective is to prevent non “Woke” people getting any job at all.

    Last year I enquired about the training scheme to a be security guard – I was one in my youth, but there were no “licenses” then.

    What do you think the very first section of the training was?

    “Diversity and Inclusion” of course – perhaps “The Climate Emergency” will be next, but it is “Diversity and Inclusion” now – in short one must support Frankfurt School Marxism even to get this job.

    The alternative, eventually, will be the dole – or suicide.

    As for St Andrews university – it is making its position clear. If you are not a leftist do NOT go to St Andrews – the difficulty is that most other universities are now the same.

    “To get a job you must have qualifications – and to get the qualifications you must be WOKE”.

    And the old who got employment before the qualifications were needed?

    Simple – the first time they say anything that is not “Woke” DISMISS them.

    This is no longer a Free Speech Culture – this is now a “Woke” culture (often BY LAW – see, for example, the 2010 “Equalities Act”), and the “Woke” want us out of this world. It is that brutally simple.

    Why bother to kill us if they can deny us all employment?

  • Philip Scott Thomas

    And who was the Russian who pointed out that they don’t care at all if you really believe the things they make you say, just so you say them, because the act of repeating such things on demand when you don’t believe them is much like a dog rolling over to show his belly in fear, and makes each successive indignity that much harder to resist? – bobby b

    Václav Havel’s “The Power of the Powerless”, section III, perhaps?

  • Peter MacFarlane

    @phil: ” It’s a very old duster/handerchief they brush your head with IIRC…”

    It was John Knox’s cap at St. Andrews, allegedly. At least, that’s what they said it was when I took my degree there, happily long before all this nonsense started.

  • TomJ

    I think the quote being reached for may be Theodore Dalrymple’s:

    “Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, not to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.”

  • DP

    Dear Miss Solent

    Would the university not fail its own test?

    DP

  • pete

    Worth giving this system a try for 3 years or so to see if it helps reduce liberal and progressive racism.

    If anti-Semitism levels don’t drop then it can be abandoned as a failure.

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Mention of Free Thought in Scotland reminds me of something:-

    Wings Over Scotland is closing-down.

    https://wingsoverscotland.com/tidying-up/

    Fair enough, the Rev. is retiring. Many thanks for all he’s done. But what will takes its place? Who will keep us updated (for example) on the latest twists and turns in the story of the SNP’s missing “donations”?

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Re
    St Andrews has introduced compulsory modules on sustainability, diversity, consent and good academic practice and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not “pass” by agreeing with certain statements.
    and
    it is “Diversity and Inclusion” now – in short one must support Frankfurt School Marxism even to get this job.

    Some of us could be forgiven for thinking this only applies to getting a degree or a job. But – beware! – it increasingly applies to keeping your job with any big business that has wokist tendencies.

  • Fraser Orr

    FWIW, I was mentioning above my experience at the University of Glasgow, and the Computer Science department at Lillybank Gardens. Something else worth mentioning is that often after my lunch at the leftie, radical, but convenient QMU I would walk up to the library, a truly fabulous library with all sorts of books that no doubt should be banned by modern lights. I spent many a happy hour browsing its huge collection, encountering books with ideas that I didn’t like or shocked my innocent conscience. Believe it or not, back then they didn’t even give you a trigger warning. They just let you read any book on the shelf…. like an animal or something.

    My walk to the library required me to walk past the Adam Smith building, wherein resided the Economics department. I remember thinking back then how ironic that a building named after such a man should be in the University of Glasgow — a city descending into socialism even back in the olden days when I was a kid. Perhaps current students or more recent alums can confirm, but I assume that they have renamed it the Nelson Mandela building or the Lenin Building since I had last been there?

  • jimmymcnulty

    If I admit a loathing of gays, dagos, frankly, everyone from the Mediterranean, would that be ok?
    I am willing to admit my prejudices, but, hey, I was born this way, it is my identity.
    So ok, right?

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