Historic race for Rectorship

Published

Adam Campbell

The contest to become the University of Glasgow’s 121st Rector has begun with two candidates vying for the position – current rector Charles Kennedy and contender Alison Louise Kennedy.

The contest will be decided on February 21 and 22 when students at Glasgow University will vote online. The Rector’s chief role is to represent students, and acts as the ordinary president of the university court, which is the governing body of the university.

The University of Glasgow is one of five universities in Scotland that elect a rector and the office is held for three years.

Tommy Gore, President of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), which the Rector works closely with, encouraged students to use their vote in the contest,

He said: “Whilst the SRC is impartial in the Rector election, we’re pleased to have two strong candidates running in what we hope will be a hotly contested election. I look forward to the election, and I’d urge all Glasgow students to take an interest, find out about the candidates and why they think they’d be the best person to be Rector. I hope the election will help to raise awareness of

the position of Rector, as Glasgow students are in a lucky position in that they are able to elect the person who chairs the University Court, the senior governing body in our institution.”

The race for Rector will be historic if either candidate wins. If A. L. Kennedy wins, she will be the second woman to hold the post after Winnie Mandela held it from 1987-1990. If Charles Kennedy wins, he will be the second rector to serve two consecutive terms as Rector, as Benjamin Disraeli held the post from 1871-1877.

Charles Kennedy, graduate of Glasgow University, is the former Leader of the Liberal Democrats whom he led from 1999-2006, and is the current MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber. He is critical of the Liberal Democrat coalition government with the Conservative party and was one of 21 Liberal Democrat MPs to vote against the Browne Review proposals in December. In his role as Rector he stands as an independent.

Charles Kennedy won the last rector election in 2008 with 46% of the vote, being backed by the three main student bodies, The Glasgow University Union (GUU), which he was once President of, the Queen Margaret Union (QMU) and Glasgow University Sports Association (GUSA), all of whom are continuing to back him in his present campaign.

Colin Woods, current President of the GUU explained the reasons behind the union’s decision to back Charles Kennedy,

He said: “We feel that his experience as both a Glasgow Uni student, and as a continuing rector, will allow him to hit the ground running in tackling important issues both locally on campus and nationally.

“We feel that he is in the best position to represent Glasgow students at a national level, through his position at Westminster and as he has already shown he is not afraid to stand up for what he believes is best for us.

“Charles has also already built up strong relationships with members of the University court, student presidents and with the wider student population; meeting regularly with all concerned.”

QMU President Iain Smith, echoed Woods’ comments,

He said: “The QM Board of Management took the decision to support Charles Kennedy’s campaign for re-election as we felt that it was important that someone was elected to the role who would be able to represent members of the QM, as well as the wider student populous, in the most effective way possible.

Charles Kennedy is the QM’s preferred candidate due to his track record of working for students through his surgeries and meetings with elected student representatives, as whilst the latter is an innovation which came late in his first term as Rector, the meetings he has held with myself and the President’s of the SRC, GUSA and the GUU have been productive and enhanced the working relationship of the four student bodies.

“Furthermore, Charles’ experience with dealing with the University Senior Management Group during his first term as Rector could prove invaluable as the University begins to re-evaluate spending on teaching and student services, and if re-elected he will be able to begin acting on behalf of students without any transitional period.

“Finally, Charles has shown he is not afraid to stand against majority opinion in representing students by in voting against the Coalition Government in last year’s Tuition Fees referendum, and his role in Westminster offers Glasgow University students a level of national representation which many other Universities would envy.”

Alison Louise Kennedy is an award winning Scottish writer, teacher and stand-up comedienne. She was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters degree from Glasgow University in 2007.

A.L Kennedy spoke to the Glasgow University Guardian about her reasons for running as a Rector candidate.

She sawid: “The main issue I want to focus on is there’s this wrong-headed determination to use utterly discredited business models in education.

“It’s come quite late to Glasgow, which makes it slightly more bewildering because it clearly doesn’t work, even in business.

“It’s an opportunity to talk about that and to talk about getting back to looking at what education genuinely can be about, which works better commercially, it works better for people so that they actually have successful lives in a rounded way and it will work better for an institution that has a high academic reputation rather than just churning out highly discredited business models that destroyed the NHS, destroyed the BBC and have been generally undermining the institutions that we have been speaking about.”