The student experience is always an important aspect of university life and for students that have attended Abertay University over the years, this is no different. Outside of teaching, research and the day-to-day activities of students, there were a variety of activities, social aspects and political ventures for students to get involved with. Over the years, the Student's Union has been at the forefront, playing host to bars, clubs and societies, alongside being the home of the S.R.C (now the SA).
Societies have always been varied, including drama, roleplaying, charities, rock music and subject related one such as the Biotechnology Society.
Sports activities also played a fundamental role in the student experience. Over the years, the University has had sports teams from hockey, basketball and volleyball to chess, rowing and hillwalking, there was something to suit even the most unlikely sports starts. Students would often gather at the Union on the Marketgait to watch many different live sports events on the big screen.
Over the next week we will be sharing some of the interesting and unusual material relating to student experiences that can be found within Abertay University's Archives. Share with us some of your memories and photos that stick out from your time studying at Abertay. Please email Abertay Archives at firstname.lastname@example.org or tag @AbertayAlumni on Twitter or LinkedIn.
Most students past and present have been affected by the work of Abertay's Student Association in some way, but many aren't aware of how far back it goes in our history. The first constitution of what was then the Student Representative Council, was passed in 1952, hinting at how old it is, and gives us some interesting facts.
They operated out of the Marketgait building and were responsible for promoting and representing the general interests of the members of the association. Just like now, membership was open to any students regardless of their degree course. But the date of the constitution isn't the date of the SRC formation. The former students association magazine, Tech Views, tells us that it dates back to at least 1937.
Perhaps the most visible but unknown way that our former students in the association have affected those that attended after them, is in the University Crest, seen by all our students and worn by many of them (on the sports field) since 1953. The Tech Views magazine explained that a need for a crest had been explored and discussed from 1937 by the SRC. From April 1949 - May 1953 it then attempted to get support and funding for a badge they had designed. An initial design was approved by the Technical College Committee on 5 April 1949 and is described as the cross of St. Andrew in silver on a blue background with the Dundee 'pot of lilies' in the centre, surmounted by a lamp with a book on either side on a red background and the moto 'Scientia omnis vincit' underneath.
There was a gap of around four years before a request was then sent by the Technical College to the Lord Lyon to register the different design that we all know, with the registration fee of £60 paid by the former students association.
The Student's Representative Council (SRC) was a very influential body. As well as providing a voice for students at the institute, it was responsible for running all services, including sports and dances. It held wide financial responsibilities and was involved in operating the bar and shop facilities on campus. Like today, the council also provided representation on the Board of Governors, making the views of the students known to the administration.
The SRC strongly emphasised that they were 'your' elected representatives and actively encouraged students to participate in events and organised dances in order to support their own union and justify their existence.
From 1968, The Target Magazine reflected this support by highlighting that each club and society was gifted £50 by the SRC to keep the club going and ensure that students continued to benefit. However, there was also a small word of warning within the student handbook from 1978-79. Although all students were encouraged to have fun and become involved in the social aspects of university life, it was important that the events did not detract from academic study!
Regardless of the decade, many students and alumni know that Freshers Week is always one of the most exciting and eventful periods of the university calendar. Marketgait provided the local for several events in 1977, from the Oldies but Goldies Disco to Meet the Older Students and a folk night showcasing Hamish Imlach alongside other guest artists.
There was also the opportunity for freshers to meet members of the governors, academic council, and administration of the college in a more formal setting. However, the SRC were keen to assure students that a full programme of events would continue throughout the academic year, with events including - film nights, theatre groups, dances and discos all scheduled for the coming year.
Fast forward to Freshers Week in 2011 and the new Student's Union building on Bell Street had four floors of activities and events for freshers and current students to immerse themselves in. With live music from DJ's including Chris Moyles and Dave Pearce and local artists such as The View, alongside karaoke and celebrity guest appearances, there was something for everyone. The sports bar provided the perfect environment to watch sporting events on the big screen, whilst enjoying the variety of music on the jukebox. It was also the perfect place to pass time between lectures, enjoying a game of pool or darts.
The Freshers Fayre was always a highlight in semester one too, giving students the opportunity to sign up for a variety of clubs, societies and sports teams on offer and meet new people along the way.
Regardless of the decade, the Student's Union was always at the forefront of student life. The original student union was located at Marketgait between Guthrie Street and The West Port roundabout (where Pure Gym is now). The building in 1987/88 had a wide range of facilities on offer, including a gym, tv room and multigym.
Marketgait also provided a point of contact for students to voice concerns and opinions to the Student Representative Council and the President of the Student Union. This open door policy in a relaxed environment made it easy for students to get help, along with making new friends. Marketgait was also a central meeting point for clubs and societies. For example, the inaugural meeting of the Anti-Racism Society was held there in October 1993.
In 2006 Abertay opened a new Students Centre in Bell Street, across the road from the Kydd Building (now the Annie Lamont Centre). As well as having a campus shop and two bars, it had a cafe, a gallery space (The Hannah McClure Centre) and cinema space. It provided social space for societies to operate, sports events to be watched in a great atmosphere (like national football matches), and for events to be held such as the Freshers Fayre and Varsity Sports Awards.
Cinemas like the Capitol on the Seagate (later the ABC) and Gaumont on the Cowgate were available to college students for seeing the popular films of the day, like Bonnie and Clyde, and on Her Majesty's Secret Service. The Tech, and later the University, also had facilities to screen films. There was a regular educational film programme in the 1970s, and the cinema in the Hannah McClure Centre was also available to students for film events.
If music was more your idea of a great night out, a good selection of pubs offered music to cater for all tastes. In the 90s and 00s, Drouthy Neebors and Brannigans were known for housing some of the up-and-coming local DJs along with a lively karaoke scene. The Mardi Gras Nightclub, known as the Mardi, was also a permanent fixture on students social calendars on a Wednesday night, with its students' drinks promotions and only £3 entry fee.
Tech students also got their first taste of promotion by organising gigs in Dundee for up-and-coming bands. In 1970, The Busker Magazine boasted that our Ents Convener had arranged for the Caird Hall to play host to 'The' Fleetwood Mac early in their career, and our own Union gig space 'The Bowling Alley' (on the corner of Marketgait and Guthrie Street) also gave The Sex Pistols their one and only gig in Dundee. You can find more info on why this particular visit caused some controversy in this blog: BLOG: The day the Sex Pistols played at Abertay.
One of the most popular ways for students to spend their free time was to visit one of the many pubs or clubs near Abertay. The Breadalbane Arms (aka 'The Bread') was a popular haunt of students.
Some bars offered deals, particularly for students. The Student's Union offered drinks for 50p on their James Bond themed nights and the Nether Inn offered an impressive 15 bottles of selected drinks for £30, alongside a unique yellow card that catered specifically for students and offered regular discounts.
Sport has played an important role in lots of students university experience, from participating the university teams or enjoying watching live sport in the Student's Union. A large range of sports from football, rugby and table tennis to some more obscure sports such as aikido and Gaelic football, meant there was something for everyone.
One story highlighted through the 'You Can Do It At DIT' campaign radio show, follows the somewhat turbulent journey of the men's football team playing in the amateur league in autumn 1993. The team faced a difficult start to the season, only picking up three points from their first four games due to a mixture of injuries and lack of players. However, by December the team's luck was beginning to change having won an away game to Grove and picking up 11 points from 10 games. The team manager, Jim Closs, suggested that an improved team dynamic and interlinked social lives between the group resulted in their upturn in fortunes.
The rugby team were lucky enough to have Calcutta winning Scotland International Andy Nicoll playing for the team in 1993., but this was not our first international success.
During Abertay 25, former student Graham Milne told the story of the 1982 team taking on international universities in a rugby tournament in Bibao. After receiving a letter from Spain looking for teams to promote rugby in the Basque area, an application form was submitted and accepted. The College contributed to funding for the team to travel, but the majority of funds were raised externally. Despite a few obstacles, the team arrived safely and won a bronze medal, having beaten the English team from Salford University in the opening round. Graham credits this to the opposition team being over confident and having gone out the night before the match, leading to an easy win for Scotland.
Over the years, students have faced many issues throughout their studies. Some are very localised (such as price increases in the refectory), other are far more national (like cuts to the student grant). These issues have always been represented by students themselves who have been democratically elected by their peers. The most visible of these have been the Student Presidents, as they have had to speak out on the most pressing matters.
We are lucky to have recordings of the president in 1993 - Rachel Thomas speaking out about the wide range of ranging proposed changes to Student Association funding structures and the cuts to student grants. Both of these issues had profound effects on students throughout the UK and still affect them today.
During Abertay 25, former President William Moheiddeen was interviewed about his experiences during his time in office, in particular his campaign to prevent the merger of Abertay University with other nearby higher education institutions. In this interview, William cites a good relationship with journalists, use of media and posters as the main actions used to attempt to gain popular support to stop the merger. It gained international support, with people from countries as far afield as Australia and Indonesia signing the petition. The campaign culminated in a march and rally from Dundee University's Student's Association to Abertay University, with the support of both universities and colleges in the city. It played a significant role in the history of Abertay and is part of the reason why the university is still independent today