Students mock Edinburgh University for selling £825 signet rings
‘Is Edinburgh University a parody of itself?’
Students have mocked the University of Edinburgh for “upholding its elite reputation” by selling university-branded signet rings for up to £825.
The Students’ Union (EUSA) has criticised the items for supposedly representing a “worrysome irony”, as the university seeks to increase profits while “failing to acknowledge” its responsibility over students’ welfare during the cost of living crisis.
Speaking exclusively to The Edinburgh Tab, Isi Williams, the Vice President (Community) of EUSA, said: “Our students are struggling to pay for groceries, rent and energy bills while the University creates a £60 million liquid profit”.
The elected representative recently spoke to over 200 students on Edinburgh’s campus to gauge how people were coping with rising prices. “There were only three who weren’t concerned about being able to afford essentials” including food and heating, she claimed.
The university’s official gift shop sells a range of graduation jewellery, with the £825 9-carat gold signet ring being the most expensive item. Other gifts for sale include a gold thin band ring (£595), a silver thin band ring (£110), and a silver crest necklace (£70).
Edinburgh University says its stock is “based on customer demand”, and that helping students through the cost of living crisis is one of its top priorities.
It has doubled the available means-tested funds for students struggling to pay bills to £3 million, and says it stands “ready to commit more funds to this should it be necessary”.
The 93% Club, a student society which represents those from disadvantaged backgrounds, also expressed its concern.
In a poll to its 2,500 followers on Instagram, the group asked “Is Edinburgh University a parody of itself?”, with “yes” or “yes” as the available answers.
A spokesperson for the society said selling items for hundreds of pounds was “tone deaf”, and highlights the rampant inequality at the university.
“Whilst students are calling out for a cost of living payment, the university prioritises £895 custom, crested 9ct gold signet rings”, they added.
Williams echoed the call for more help from the university, saying “not enough measures are being taken to help” students.
The University of Edinburgh has the fourth highest number of privately educated students of all UK universities. 35.5 per cent were educated at private schools (2022), compared to around seven per cent of the country at large.
The 93% Club recently launched a petition for the university to offer all its students a one-off cost of living payment, after universities in Manchester and Belfast introduced a policy to give students between £85 and £400 each.
The university says it has introduced measures to help, including fixing its accommodation and food prices on campus, and offering IT equipment for loan to those who need it.
Isi Williams, VP Community, Edinburgh University Students’ Association, said: “The University of Edinburgh shop is currently selling students signet rings for graduation costing between £150-825, viewable here. The offering of an £825 signet ring represents a worrisome irony that the University refuses to acknowledge: while a Cost-of-Living Crisis rampages through our community, affecting both students and staff, the University prioritises profit and upholding its elite reputation, failing to acknowledge its influence and more importantly its responsibility to the welfare of its students.
“To better understand the impact of the Cost-of-Living Crisis, I spoke to hundreds of students outside the Main University Library on central campus. Out of over 200 students, there were only three who weren’t concerned about being able to afford essentials (food, heating etc.) in the coming months.
“Our students are struggling to pay for groceries, rent and energy bills while the University creates a £60 million liquid profit (source: 2021 annual report). Edinburgh has one of the largest endowment funds of any University, sitting comfortably just behind Oxford and Cambridge. Sadly however, when faced with students struggling to eat and heat their homes, not enough measures are being taken to help, unlike other universities who haven’t hesitated to jump into action”
A spokesperson for The 93% Club Edinburgh said: “The fact the University of Edinburgh is advertising a £895 signet ring during financial crisis is not only tone deaf but highlights the rampant inequality at the university.
“Whilst students are calling out for a cost of living payment, the university prioritises £895 custom, crested 9ct gold signet rings”.
A spokesperson for the University of Edinburgh said: “Our University gift shop sells a range of merchandise and clothing. Items stocked in the shop are sold at a variety of price points and are procured based on customer demand.
On the cost of living, they said: “One of The University’s top priorities this academic year is to help students with the rise in the cost of living. Many will be worried about their finances this winter and we are targeting resources to help those most in need and ensure that wherever possible we will be on hand to help students through this challenging period.
“We have more than doubled the available funds for students who are experiencing financial difficulties, to over £3m, and we stand ready to commit more funds to this should it be necessary. We have streamlined the application process to access this hardship funding and staff are on hand to guide students through this. We encourage any of our students facing financial difficulties to get in touch to find out what support is available to them.
“We have a number of provisions on campus to help students manage their finances. This includes fixing our café prices for the academic year, with specific provision of nutritious meal options daily at a subsidised cost of £1.50 which are available to students but also to all in our community, including the public. A range of IT and tech equipment is also available for students to loan, and many of our buildings have access to microwaves and showers.
“To protect students from rising bills, we chose not to increase prices for University accommodation since rent levels were agreed in November 2021. Our students pay a standard rent that includes all utilities and the University has absorbed recent additional costs; our rental rates remain some of the lowest in the sector and our residential team provide ongoing pastoral support to student including where they are experiencing financial distress.”