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A university rector needs to stand up for students

The multi-coloured manifesto leaflets have been distributed and have now fallen like confetti on the path towards the library. This can only mean one thing: election season has a grip on students again.

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I'm talking about the race to become the new rector of the University of St Andrews last week, and the imminent elections for rector at the University of Aberdeen.

A rector holds the highest position in the University Court and the Court is the governing body of the University. This position only applies to Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Glasgow, Dundee and Aberdeen.

It's quite a powerful position, to put it mildly. Apart from anything else, the very well paid and powerful Principal must report to the rector. What a power trip.

Last week was campaign week in St Andrews and we had five very different candidates ranging from the socialist, Colin Fox, to the very Conservative Lord Michael Forsyth.

Anyone believing St Andrews' reputation for being an extension of the private school playground should think again, as every political belief was represented.

The winner was Alistair Moffat, previous director of STV and the Edinburgh Fringe, an all round nice guy with a similar appearance to Santa Claus or a teddy bear. A self-proclaimed 'father figure' for the students.

His victory was a triumph for his campaign team and the 1956 people who voted for him. But now that we recycle the leaflets and take down the homemade banners from flat windows, will people forget the person they elected?

Will anyone pose the question of why we there isn't a student on the Court? If this position is elected by the students for the students, why isn't it a student?

Call me cynical, but aren't we students being blinded by the campaign confetti thrown in our faces and the excitement of another election and chance to exercise our democratic right within a small community?

In 2007, the Scottish Rectors' Group issued a guidance document on the role of Rector. It states: “The right of the students to elect a rector does not entitle them to expect him/her to represent them in the meetings of the Court.”

Oh goody. We get to play at voting but we shouldn't really expect too much in return. If these are the rules the rector plays by, then why do they really need to listen to us in order to represent our views at the University Court?

I spoke to Alistair Moffat during his campaign week and he was the only candidate I saw actively speaking to students about their views and concerns. That is why he was voted in, because it was clear he cared. I do think he will make sure students voices are heard in Court meetings.

These meetings behind closed doors are when money matters are discussed. When money is such an issue in higher education and when universities seem to be on the threshold of becoming a business for financial gain and not for the intellectual gain of students, there absolutely has to be a rector on the side of students present at those meetings.

I'll be going along to Moffat's surgeries to keep up to date with the University Court and to make sure this rector is for the students and not just elected by the students.

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