Interview with Kelvin Holdsworth


Euan McTear

Guardian: What attracted you to the role of rector?

Holdsworth: I’ve worked in universities before and I have a passion for students, and I care both about higher education and the student experience. I stood because I was asked to by a student and looking at the role and looking at the things I could offer being very local, I just thought “Well, actually that is something I could do.” It’s the kind of job that you can actually make a difference in. There’s a lot of jobs you can do in this world where you’re not ever going to make any difference, but the rector of the university really can make a difference to the people that elect you.

I think the important thing that people have to remember is that it’s not just a ceremonial role. It can be that as you want someone that can make people proud of the University, I think that’s true too. But you want somebody who is actually listening to students and knows how to connect people on the campus. You want somebody that can work with the SRC, somebody that can work with the administration and know exactly where to put the problems and connect people. I’ve worked in universities a few times now and I’m used to knowing how they work. I’m used to getting University principals to think about student issues, I’ve already done that so I’m probably an unusual candidate in that I’ve already done that kind of thing for students.

Guardian: Can you give an example of how you have represented students at another university?

Holdsworth: When I was working in the University of Stirling, because of the job that I had I had direct access to the Principal. He was someone that I would see an awful lot. One of the issues that came up there, which has also came up in Glasgow, was private commercial businesses taking students off of campus, particularly in Freshers week and running buses to take business away from student bars in the union. And when you’re a local you see that kind of thing happen and when you listen to students you’ll say “You know, we need to actually do something about this.” And when you know exactly who to go to with that issue and what to say at that moment then you can really make a difference.

Guardian: How would you be a working rector?

Holdsworth: Well I work and live 10 minutes away from campus. That means I can be a hands-on rector and not just a working rector. I can be somebody who can turn up at pretty much any time. I wouldn’t see my role as being restricted to the meetings that a rector has to chair. I would be looking to make sure that students knew how to get in touch with me and know how I would be working with SRC people. Being almost there already at just 10 minutes away makes a huge difference. For example, after the Hetherington Occupation, the University made a lot of promises and the University hasn’t made good on the promises that were made after the Hetherington Occupation. You need a rector who can be there sitting in those meeting and keep saying “Come on, you’ve made promises. Where are the results?”
It’s absolutely 100% a local rector, a hands-on rector that is the ticket for me.

Guardian:Do you think that the fact you know the recent issues at Glasgow University makes you a better candidate?

Holdsworth: Well there is continuity. Firstly, if you know the campus anyway and have been hearing the stories on campus then you can follow through with them. Another thing is that SRC reps change almost every year. One of the things a rector can do is make sure that student concerns are carried over from year to year and from one rep to the next.

Guardian: One of the biggest issues in your manifesto is overcrowding. What would you be able to do as rector to deal with that?

Holdsworth: The rector’s job, I think, is to make those issues known to the University at every stage of planning its intake for the next year and to be asking the difficult questions of “Will there be enough space for people?” The University isn’t just about making money of the backs of students. It’s actually about the experience of students.
It’s also good for the University as word gets round if students are saying that they feel crammed in and nobody wants that as Glasgow is a great place and university.

Guardian: How would the role tie into your current work as a reverend?

Holdsworth: The current work that I have. As I’m local, I currently work with local people, often a part of the University. The kind of job that I have means that I get to deal with people at every level of society. I deal with decision makers quite a lot, but also people who are struggling and people who are homeless. I can’t meet those needs, but what I can do is point people to where the answers to those questions are. And again there’s a correlation with that and being a rector. A rector is never going to provide all the answers and solutions, but what the rector can do is provide the routes and the contacts to solving problems for students. That’s quite similar to what I’m currently doing.
I’m also always campaigning. I’ve been recently involved in getting the same-sex marriage laws through parliament. That’s given me the skills to make things happen and again that’s transferrable to campaigning for students.

Guardian: Any final thoughts ahead of the elections?

Holdsworth: For me it’s all about student issues. It’s about overcrowding in the library. It’s about integration for international students. It’s about access for disabled students. I’ve got a list of things to take to the University. If I’m elected, I’ll walk in on the first day with a list of things to present because I’ve already been able to listen to students and I’d go on doing that.
I think students have got a very clear choice this time: do they want a working rector or not? That’s what I can do.