Paul Sweeney MSP runs for rector

By Odhran Gallagher

Member of the Scottish Parliament for Scottish Labour and UofG alumni, Paul Sweeney, is running to be the next Rector of the University.

Labour politician and former UofG alumni Paul Sweeney will be nominated to be the next Rector of the University of Glasgow, The Glasgow Guardian can reveal. The politician, who represents the Glasgow region in the Scottish Parliament, is expected to be nominated and endorsed by the Glasgow University Union.

The Rector is a student-elected position on the University Court, which is the statutory governing body of the University. The Rector is expected to represent students on the Court. A new Rector is elected every three years. Former Rectors have included Adam Smith, Winnie Mandela, and Charles Kennedy. 

Paul Sweeney graduated from the University of Glasgow in 2011 with an honours degree in Economic & Social History and Political Science. While at University he was involved in Union Debating and the Dialectic Society, of which he is an honorary member. Sweeney last visited the Glasgow University Union on Friday 12 January to take part in a show debate: together with Paul O’Kane and Michelle Thomson, fellow MSPs, he argued that the UK Government has failed this generation, in which his side of the house was victorious. 

After leaving University, Paul Sweeney joined a graduate development programme with BAE Systems, a major military shipbuilder based on the Clyde. The University has been criticised by some student groups for hosting BAE Systems events on campus, given its involvement in the arms trade. 

Sweeney then unsuccessfully ran for office in the 2016 Scottish Parliament election. He was elected for Glasgow North East in the 2017 UK Parliament election, before being unseated in 2019 by SNP MP Anne McLaughlin. He then ended up being elected as a Labour Party list candidate for the Glasgow region in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election, later being appointed Scottish Labour’s Shadow Mental Health Minister. During his career as an MSP, Sweeney has championed causes such as safe drug consumption sites and the improvement of Glasgow’s public transport system. 

Nominations for Rector are due to close on January 22 with the voting to take place between 25 and 26 March. It is unclear whether or not students intend to nominate a rival candidate, although sources within the Glasgow University Catholic Association have shown interest in renominating the current Rector, lawyer and judge Lady Rita Rae.

In an editorial by The Glasgow Guardian published last year, Rita Rae was accused of being an absentee rector. Lady Rae responded to these accusations in a recent interview with The Tab Glasgow, in which she shared her frustrations that the position of Rector, and what it entails, is widely unknown among the student body, adding that she “want[s] students to approach her” rather than the other way around.


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