It has been revealed that there were no suitable nominations for the position of rector this year. The SRC Council will soon hold a vote to determine whether to reopen nominations as soon as possible, or to leave the position vacant and hold elections in the next academic year.
This would have been the first rectorial elections since recent Higher Education Governance Act (2016) which on its first draft would have transferred the rector’s responsibility to transferred to a different position elected by staff and students. The Scottish Government redrafted the bill to ensure that the rector remained a position in the five of Scotland Universities (St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen and Edinburgh)
The position is currently filled by American whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who followed in the footsteps of former liberal democrat’s party leader Charles Kennedy, actors Richard Wilson and Ross Kemp and anti-apartheid activist Winnie Mandela. The Rector’s job at the university involved chairing the University Court and is one of the few positions on Court that represents students. The Court is one of the main decision making bodies at the University, most recently voting to raise fees by £250, making the position particularly important to students.
Although the Rectors position is not always necessarily required to be present at the University, with our most current Absentee Rector being in self-imposed exile in Russia. Many students see the Rector as a symbolic role, Snowden was the second whistle-blower in a decade to be elected, with Mordechai Vanunu, Israeli nuclear technician and whistle-blower, elected in 2005.
However, other students have highlighted both the need for a working Rector, with the Government introducing Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which will potentially shake higher-education funding, in the near future. It has also been emphasised that Winnie Mandela was one of the only female Rectors in nearly 400 years of the positions history, pointing out a need for change in the seemingly patriarchal Senior Management of the University.
– Johanna Crighton