Introducing: Mr AU

James Beeson, Sport Editor, chats with new AU President Andy Higham to discuss initiations, intramural and inclusivity at Exeter…
A UNIVERSITY of Exeter Tennis club member for three years, Andy Higham is sport through and through. After introducing himself in a confident and relaxed fashion, I ask him to tell us a little about himself, his role as AU president, and what he does on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s early days,” replies Andy, “but the overall aim for the five of us here in the office is really to enhance the student experience.
On a personal level, I’m involved with all the University sports clubs on campus, helping with event management for Varsities, as well as helping with their overall development.”
When asked about why he wanted to become AU president, Andy cites both a passion for playing sport, as well as a desire to ‘see sport grow’ at Exeter. “I come from a strong sporting background, and as a consequence I’m keen to be a part of the exciting developments that are taking place at the university” he enthuses.
So what exactly are the main aims and objectives of the AU this year? “Attendance, social media and publicity” responds Andy.
Promoting the sporting achievements of Exeter’s students, as well as getting more people involved and aware of the AU and what it does is clearly important to its President, who tells me about wanting to “shout about success” within the University, particularly in some of the lesser known clubs on campus.
I ask Andy whether he feels as if there is more the AU could be doing to help students get involved in sport (with particular reference to the high cost of joining University sports teams and the Russell Seal Fitness Centre). He acknowledges that the costs can be daunting, particularly in Freshers’ week, but encourages new Freshers to attend the free trails and taster sessions to get a feel for the variety of sports that are on offer at Exeter.
Speaking about the possibility of the fitness centre and sports clubs introducing a monthly payment scheme to spread the cost of joining, Andy doesn’t completely dismiss the idea, but suggests it could be difficult with many societies requiring sign-up fees to run trips, socials and other events throughout the term.
On the whole, Andy doesn’t feel that the costs of AU club and gym memberships are extortionate for what he calls “One of the top facilities in the country.”
We touch on the subject of (supposedly) banned Sports team initiations, and whether he feels they also could dissuade potential Freshers from joining university sport clubs. Andy is reluctant to acknowledge the existence of initiations and a drinking culture that has at times threatened to overshadow the achievements of Exeter’s sportsmen, but insisted that as “the face of sport” he was always prepared to talk to anyone who felt uncomfortable to ensure that, if necessary, action could be taken.
To end the interview, I ask Andy for his favourite aspect of sport at Exeter. He answers that it is the University’s ability to cater for students of all abilities that pleases him most, boasting that “all 49 of our clubs have some kind of session for beginners,” meaning that students need never feel inadequate or unable to get involved. Opportunities for students to get involved at all levels, from first teams all the way through to intramural leagues, make sport a great way to make friends whilst studying at the University. 

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