A former president of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has questioned the ability of the organisation to nominate a suitable candidate for rector of Glasgow University, after it emerged that the there were no candidates for the position, soon to be vacated by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.
Liam King, who was president of the SRC for the academic year 2015-16, said on Facebook: “SRC president [Ameer Ibrahim] cannot have his cake and eat it: he cannot complain about engagement, and yet fail to organise a single nomination.”
In an email sent to Mr Ibrahim and various other elected student leaders, Mr King asked: “What meetings and discussions took place between SRC and University for Rectorial Elections planning; how responsibilities and actions for executing and promoting the Rectorial Election were divided between SRC and the University, and who the accountable officers were; what lobbying, influencing, and leadership [the] SRC did to secure Rectorial Nominations, including encouraging groups such as Unions/clubs and socs [sic] to nominate; and what plans are there to ensure the integrity of the Rectorship and that a future Rectorial Election is successful?”
Mr King requested that a paper be drafted and circulated to members of Council ahead of the next meeting, which takes place on Thursday 2 February 2017. He remains on Council in the position of past president.
The Glasgow Guardian understands that a number of approaches were made before nominations closed this month, including to the BBC Newsnight presenter Kirsty Wark and the human rights campaigner Amal Azzudin.
After it was revealed that the University had not received any nominations, Mr Ibrahim said: “Students at the University of Glasgow have not had an active Rector on campus for over three years. After some recent discussions with students, it certainly appears this has had an impact on engagement levels.
Asked about the SRC’s role in discussions to reopen nominations, he later added: “The SRC has been engaged with Senate and Court Office throughout this process, and will continue to do so over the coming weeks.”
The rector chairs the University Court - the governing body of Glasgow University. Elected by students, the rector represents the interests of students, along with the SRC president and another member of Council who also sit on Court.
The failure of students at Glasgow to nominate a candidate for rector comes after the Higher Education Governance Act (2016) caused concern that elected rectors at Scotland’s “ancient” universities would be undermined if their main responsibilities were transferred to a “senior lay member” of Court, elected by staff and students.
The Scottish government redrafted parts of the bill to allay fears that it was attempting to abolish the historic role of rector, before it passed into law. This is the first rectorial election since the bill became law.
Nominations have been open since 16 December 2016, with each nominee required to submit a letter confirming their consent to being nominated, signed by ten matriculated students who support their candidature.