The Student – ‘There is a shortage of places and Scottish students are being kept out’

Primary source material reproduced from M.R., ‘Black and White Student Traffic’, The Student, 24/10/1963.

Dr Julius Nyerere, dark horse in the Rectorial stakes, is already Chancellor of a half-empty University – the newly inaugurated University of East Africa. The facts, as revealed in the ‘Scotsman’, are that African students are shunning their own University and going abroad to study.

The importance of this fact for us in Edinburgh is that many East Africans are students here where there is a shortage of places and Scottish students are kept out. It is not only to Edinburgh, of course, nor only to the countries of the western bloc that East Africans travel. Hundreds of African students each year travel all over the world, overcoming great difficulties, including that of language bar in the case of those who go to Russia or Cuba, and colour bar in the ‘free’ nations.

Why do East Africans come here? Some come for advanced instruction not yet available in East Africa. Others come because they want to travel out of their own backyard. There is another group, the whites, to whom a British University and not a largely African one is the logical step after an English Public School education. One more factor of prime importance – especially for the Europeans and Asians – is the uncertainty of the political situation. The space devoted to East Africa, especially to Kenya, in the serious newspapers underlines the importance of this factor.

Basically, the indigenous African comes to acquire the education which, when he goes home, will give him position, power, and prestige – or at least a damn good job. Thy still talk of the Libyan student who took nine years to graduate in Dentistry. When he left home there were two dentists in Libya; when he got back there were 683, many of them out of work.

Undisputed Right

The right of East Africans, ability-wise, to be here is undisputed, but the fact remains that they turn their backs on a University with a shortage of students to come to one with a shortage of places. We have here a new slant on an old problem, since we in Scotland have long complained about the yearly influx of English students keeping out Scots.

Some of us, however, have begun to appreciate the value of the English. No one in Edinburgh can deny that it is largely the English (‘chronics and all’) that we look to bring life to the University. There is apathy (that word again) among the English students, just as there is undoubtedly apathy among the Scots, but those who undoubtedly try to do something about the apathy – and I say this as a Scot – appear, by and large, to be English.


Distance has shrunk in the modern world, and it is, therefore, inevitable that students travel in search of learning (they did so when distance was a real obstacle). It is now an undisputed fact (or rather, it is a much-spouted and little thought about platitude) that the University must contain people of all races, religions, philosophies, etc.

East Africans of all kinds and colours are welcome in Edinburgh, especially if they bring a transfusion of interest in student affairs. If they sink into the morass of general apathy, they are rather less welcome, since we must try to place as many qualified Scottish students as possible.

Two solutions present themselves: one is to start work on our long-awaited new Scottish University, thus partially solving Scotland’s problem. The other is for the Government to give generous grants to Scottish students to attend the University of East Africa, thus partially solving Scotland’s and the Federation’s problems. This second solution is not as fantastic as it might seem, since the Scottish student was always traditionally ‘civis mundi’ before, under the anglicisation that set in after the Union, he became even more introverted than the English.