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I want to publish and damn my degree's small print

Did you know your degree comes with terms and conditions attached to it?

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This week and next many people will be disturbed from their slumber thanks to the rowdy return of students and their enjoyment of the traditional freshers' week.

But among the drinking and catching up with friends, there is a serious bit of administration to do.

Matriculation is the moment when enthusiastic freshers get their hands on that little card that grants them a 10% discount in many shops and moreover, it is also when students are officially enrolled in the university where they have chosen to study for four years.

It is a process that must be repeated at the start of every academic year, but is moving with the times in that it is now carried out online.

For what I hope to be the last time, I went through the annual panic of doubting whether I had registered with the Students Award Agency for Scotland, updated my contact details, and declared that I did not have a criminal record.

On the last screen of the online procedure, my eyes bypassed the text and went automatically to the "accept" button.

Realising soon after that what was on my screen was written in a language I have sadly never been taught - Latin - I thought it wise to at least glance over the translation to see what it was I was getting myself into.

The Sponsio Academica is translated as a Matriculation Agreement and is followed by the more modern Honour Code. Quite simply, it is impossible to matriculate unless you click to agree with it. And it carries some pretty weighty words.

What stands out the most is the following excerpt: "we students [...] shall be subject to the authority of the Senatus Academicus and shall, whatever be the position we attain hereafter, promote so far as lies in our power, the profit and interest in our University of St Andrews."

I wouldn't object to this statement any other year, but this year I have two reasons to object to it.

Firstly, as I write this on my way to a student media conference and when, as the editor of the student newspaper, The Saint, I am working out what to put in the first issue of the year, I can't help but think the Sponsio Academica could be used as a type of gagging order for student media.

I would like to hold the university to account for its decisions and actions particularly regarding its recent fee hikes. But if I do this and it receives wider attention, am I not defying my agreement to actively promote "the profit and interest" of my university? This could warrant disciplinary action by the university court.

Ironically it has not been the university principal who raps student journalists on the knuckles, but the PR officer.

This happened to the student who exposed that money was being taken away from our library redevelopment project to go into the redecoration of the Principal's house a few years ago.

And when I spoke my opinion to the BBC when they asked for a student's opinion on our royal alumni's wedding, my thoughts were questioned by Mr PR man for not being in line with the university's point of view.

Secondly, I object to agreeing to promote the best interests of the university when I believe its leaders and decision-makers are doing the opposite.

When St Andrews decided to charge students from the rest of the UK £36,000 for a degree, it actively went against the best interests of the institution.

It was granted an opportunity to counter its elitist image of a privately educated tweed wearing student population by not imposing a great financial barrier to students. It also had the potential to prove that it had not fallen victim to the herd mentality by following in the steps of Edinburgh.

Sadly, the profile of this great institution at the height of its 600th anniversary celebrations is blighted by business decisions and not education excellence.

So what will I be doing in freshers' week now that I have eventually clicked "accept" to the matriculation agreement?

I'll be trying to meet the rector Kevin Dunion, the information commissioner, to make sure any freedom of information requests I make and any actions I take as a student journalist are acceptable.

That is unless I am called into the PR office after this has been posted online...

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