The Old Burgh School – a home for postgraduate students

Agata Piotrowska
Friday 24 February 2023

In today’s blog post our current student Racheal Inegbedion tells us about how postgraduate community of St Andrews, and especially the Old Burgh School  space and people it gathers, helped her find home from home in our Scottish coastal town, and richly develop her own academic journey. Racheal embraced numerous opportunities which the community of St Andrews is offering, and found an inspiring environment to call her own among other students and staff. Here she describes her experience and gives a bit of background information about the initiative behind the Old Burgh School, which helped her so much:

“St Andrews is a second home to me because of its diverse and culturally rich community, which resembles my own background. As a black African female international student coming from the most populous black and heterogeneous nation on earth, one experience I have embraced in St Andrews is its diverse networks of both the academic and the social environment. It has provided me with opportunities for cross-cultural exchange and learning across various societies and communities.  

Since October 2022 my first semester till date, I have had the opportunity to participate in St Andrews community programmes, projects, and planning with various scholars from different parts of the world. Some of the networks of community programmes I have been involved in are Student Ambassadorship, Community Relations Sub-Committee, Biodiversity Working Group, The Student Environmental Team, Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies Social Events which are organised by the Graduate School Research Board, Leonard Post Graduate College academic and social events, Catholic Community, International Student Local Link Scheme, SolidariTee and other Interdisciplinary research programmes on campus.  

One space in St Andrews that gives me a sense of belonging and warmth is The Old Burgh School (OBS). A yes for me, because of the welcoming academic and social attributes that the staff, students and members of the Graduate School for Interdisciplinary Studies exhibits. To give a historical context, the Burgh School was established in St Andrews in response to the 1872 Education Act, which made school attendance compulsory for all children up to the age of 13. The act provided for the election of School Boards to manage education at a local level. The St Andrews School Board tried to reach an agreement with Madras College for the provision of places for less affluent students, but it wasn’t until the government intervened in 1888 that the Burgh School was built on a site sold by local businessman George Bruce.  

In 1928, Madras College was taken over by Fife Council and fees were abolished, but admission still relied on results from a qualifying examination. This system continued until 1964 when selection by ability was phased out, and the Burgh School became the Madras College Junior High School until a new building was completed in 1967. Now, Burgh School also known as Old Burgh School is a haven for students studying for a master’s in sciences, arts, letters and PhD students to learn, innovate and collaborate. At OBS, I read, research, network, and establish healthy relationships along with collaborations on academic research.  The OBS has taught me the value of people and place, time and chance and lastly the beauty of preparedness and success.  

For me, the most important aspect as a post-graduate student is prioritising my time, my skills and my expertise in a way that I derive the best from the academic teachings as well as my social life. However, taking part in this has not been easy as it has its own challenges. Going forward, I had to set up calendars, reminders and planners that prioritised my goals and objectives with my social work and academic work. I also had to do a self-awareness evaluation of my strengths and weaknesses so that I could understand how to contribute my expertise and experience in a way that was diverse and did not encroach on my priorities which is my academic study.  

The networks that I have garnered within the community of students and staff from St Andrews are crucial for my personal and professional development. It has enabled me to build lasting relationships with individuals from different backgrounds and perspectives. Currently, with the networks, I have established, I have gained valuable collaborations, new ideas and perspectives, and a greater understanding of diverse cultures. This experience will undoubtedly remain ingrained in my memory for a lifetime. I will cherish the best moments, may probably forget some of the others, but will always remember that studying in St Andrews was one of the most memorable time of my life.”

Thank you so much, Racheal, for sharing this inspiring and personal account of the gains and benefits you gathered during your time in St Andrews this academic year, and especially for giving us all your valuable perspective on the The Old Burgh School space and community. We hope that many of you all will find the same sense of belonging and motivation for work on your postgraduate degrees in this place!

Learn more about the Shut Up and Write writing retreats organised for postgraduate students in the Old Burgh School by St Leonard’s Postgraduate College. You can also learn about it from the emails sent by them. For more writing retreats see here.

If you would like to contribute to the future GRADskills blog posts please do let us know at [email protected] – we are looking forward to hearing from you!

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