One of the biggest worries that occupies new students upon starting at university is not only whether they’ll find ‘their people’ but, crucially, whether they will find a community. A community is not necessarily a set of people but, rather, an intangible feeling of belonging; a belief in a shared ‘something’. This therefore raises the question as to whether students who attend the University of Edinburgh feel part of an overarching university community. Furthermore, the ‘community feel’ is a significant part of student welfare, and if there is no overarching university community this arguably brings into question the extent of the University of Edinburgh’s welfare structure.
Traditionally, there is a huge community feel in university sports teams throughout the UK. Whilst beginning a sport can be initially difficult, with the fear that most will already know each other creating a certain exclusivity, the University of Edinburgh’s sports teams have become increasingly welcoming, with free starter sessions available during Welcome Week. This initial willingness to join a sporting community is then fostered via tournaments and nights out, helping to build a team spirit and welcoming new members to join the already established community. This ability to join a community that is already well established when starting at university, a time that is often so alienating and disconcerting, is a positive way of feeling at home in the space.
Societies form a strong part of community at the University of Edinburgh. Generally welcoming, there is such an abundance of choice that there is a society to cater for every interest. Here at The Student there is a tight-knit community, especially among editors and within sections, and everyone is made to feel welcome when they want to join. However, many communities arguably simply fulfil a function, the social aspect coming second to the ‘purpose’ of the community. This creates an environment where, although the core members may feel part of something, periphery members may find it hard to access the upper echelons of said community. The concentration on the society’s role means that newer members may struggle to feel involved, depending on how many meetings or events they hold.
Although the best way of joining any society is to go to socials and any other events, talking to those involved and meeting the committee, joining the community in a society can be hard; the ways societies are constructed are not necessarily conducive to creating an extensive sense of community.
Community within each subject can also help to build a larger community feel in the university as a whole. Yet the connection felt between students doing a course varies by subject, with science students typically a tighter-knit group than humanities. Studying History, I have found that, while I know many students on my course, there is a sense of disconnect felt by many, in part due to the enormity in terms of participants. Meanwhile, a friend studying veterinary medicine feels that the vets have built a real community, with most at least knowing each other if not being good friends.
While there are sport, society, and subject communities there is still the question of whether this equates to an overarching university community here in Edinburgh.
There are over 30,000 students at the University of Edinburgh, meaning it is hard to unite them all. This is compounded by the split between campuses, with Kings campus and George Square effectively creating separate institutions and making it very difficult to build a real community. That said, Welcome Week helps bring students together whatever their subject or interests and allows people to build bonds between courses or modules. Furthermore, sports teams and societies nights by the Students’ Association bring together existing small communities, helping create a sense of belonging.
While it may be hard to create an encompassing university community, societies, sports teams and subjects contribute towards this. The Students’ Association also brings together existing communities, allowing for a space for mixing and growing.
In being a part of this, we can all feel like we are a welcomed part of the University of Edinburgh.
Image: Dienu Prihartadi