The University of Edinburgh has announced the (uncontested) appointment of a new rector: Simon Fanshawe. In much of the reporting around this he has variously been described as a writer, an activist, a comedian and a consultant, but he is probably best known for being one of the founders of Stonewall.

But Fanshawe is a controversial figure because of his more recent past, specifically his strong links to a small but particularly vocal fringe group called the LGB Alliance. This trans-exclusionary organisation has been described as a hate group by various LGBTQ organisations and prominent campaigners and, in 2022, was revealed to have a secret office at the infamous “Tufton Street nerve centre of Britain’s most influential right-wing think tanks.”

Unsurprisingly, the appointment has provoked some significant concerns. You might even wonder if that could, perhaps, have been the point of the nomination – after all, culture wars don’t fight themselves. Simon Fanshawe has defended his appointment – you can read more here.

But it would be nice if we could try to remember that there are actual human beings affected by all this. One of them is a PhD student at the university who also teaches postgrad classes and researches areas like historical linguistics. They are also trans, and explained to me how they felt about the appointment:

“To start with, I've always felt incredibly safe at the University of Edinburgh within my department. The academic faculty is amazing--they're all well-educated on transgender needs, and my supervisors and friends in the faculty have been pillars of support through my transition. They've gone truly above and beyond, and I would be a far more miserable person if I hadn't had such a strong foundation to stand on. I'm immensely grateful for this, and want the world to know that the University is more than capable of supporting students like myself.

The unfortunate decision to appoint Simon Fanshawe as Rector has turned a safe environment into a hostile one. Key decision-makers in the university often do not argue for our needs, but this one will actively place us in harm's way. It breaks my heart.

I love this university: I love my community here, my work, and the long tradition that it stands for. If there was no one else available for the job, I don't understand why the University chose to harm its students rather than re-advertise the position more broadly. We did not elect this man. We did not choose him. We are speaking out about this now--as many of us are hearing about the decision for the first time--and I cannot fathom that the University does not listen.”

READ MORE: Simon Fanshawe defends position at Edinburgh University as LGBT groups raise concerns


The latest on Scotland’s college crisis

This week also revealed the latest chapter in the looooooooong-running crisis wracking colleges. In their pursuit of an improved pay-offer, lecturers announced plans for industrial action that include a boycott on submitting results.

College principals responded by agreeing to withhold up to 100% of pay for those taking part and it seemed that some might try to start doing so within weeks. But problems quickly emerged.

First of all, it isn’t at all clear that there’s a fair way to determine whose pay should be docked. Some lecturers will be teaching courses that last for twelve weeks, so would have a resulting window coming up soon; others are delivering half-year courses, so they’ll have just missed one window but won’t have another until the end of the year; another group are responsible for whole-year courses where results could go in at different times, but are only needed at the end of the year; and then there are those teaching on courses that effectively have no resulting requirements, especially where there’s an external exam. I know this, because I have been all of those lecturers.

There’s another problem with the principal’s position: they are choosing the path of most disruption for students. A results boycott means classes are still taught and tests still marked, but the final piece of paperwork isn’t submitted. That gives time to negotiate. Instead, colleges are effectively saying that the only form of dispute they will accept is one in which classes are cancelled and students don’t learn.

And this is all, we’re told, about protecting students. 

READ MORE: UHI Perth staff to be docked full pay for union boycott

READ MORE: Colleges agree plan to dock pay for boycotting staff


In Case You Missed It…

At the start of this week we ran an exclusive story about something called ‘dual-presentation’, which is where a pupil in entered for two levels of a given subject at the same time. Specifically, we were looking at the enormous increases in the numbers of young people apparently completing a National 4 and a National 5 in the same year.

Some of the increases have been incredible, rocketing by several hundred percent over the last few years, and the resulting workload implications for both teachers and students are significant – but why is it happening?

Depending on who you speak to, it’s either to give pupils the best possible opportunities or it’s to game the latest school stats – although both of those things could be true at once. If you’re a teacher with some experience of all this, please do feel free to get in touch.

The government has written to all councils in an attempt to reduce dual-presentations but the issue really raises bigger questions about the ways in which we measure the performance of individual schools. I’ve written pretty extensively about the problems with things like literacy & numeracy data, PISA scores, and positive destinations stats… but maybe there’s more digging to be done?

Made with Flourish

READ MORE: Scottish Government urged to act after steep rise in dual-presentations