Environmental issues were foremost among the issues raised by Heriot Watt Students’ Union when I met their President and Vice President, Mike Ross and Laura Gregson, along with Naomi Hunter, this week at Riccarton. They are working with the university to reduce energy use in the student residences (‘student switch off’) and the money saved is being ploughed back into student support services. They hope to create community gardens for each residence and they told me that this linked to their desire to address mental health issues in the student group. Gardening is very therapeutic, as we know, and these young people hope that it might help those who have difficulty settling into university, like it helps people at the Redhall Walled Garden run by SAMH and at the Suntrap Garden nearby.
Mike and Laura would also like to forge better links with the local community. They have a great idea for using the project work of Engineering students, of whom there are so many at Heriot Watt, to add value to the local community. We also talked about the gender balance issues in students and staff at each campus; most students in the Borders campus are female and most in the Riccarton campus are male. The University is part of the national drive to attract more women into Engineering, in particular, and we talked about how that needs to start with attitudes to babies and children.
We were lucky to have this meeting on one of the loveliest days of the summer and enjoyed the cycle ride. On the way back we met a University staff member who regularly practises his saxophone at lunchtime under a canal bridge – what a lovely sound! Then we chatted to a family where the Dad had a five-year-old pedalling behind him in tandem style and the baby in a seat behind that. That’s family cycling!