Abeer was born in 1964 and grew up in Belfast. After studying English and Drama at the University of Kent at Canterbury, graduating in 1987, she worked in radio broadcasting, moving to BBC Scotland in 1994. There she received acclaim as the presenter of Good Morning Scotland, the station’s flagship radio programme, whilst also presenting many televised political and news programmes, including Newsnight Scotland, and working as an investigative journalist for Frontline Scotland. In 2009 she left the BBC to become lead fundraiser for Mary’s Meals, a charity which helps children in the developing world to realise their right to education by giving them a daily school meal. When Abeer assumed her key role, the charity fed 350,000 children every day; that figure now stands at almost 600,000. She lives in Clackmannanshire, an hour’s drive from St Andrews.
Abeer’s skills from broadcasting, and investigative journalism in particular, make her ideally suited to the Rector’s role of engaging with students, determining their views and championing them fearlessly at Court, motivated by her passion for a right to real access to education which she has pursued at Mary’s Meals. She pledges to be a working Rector, coupling regular visits with 21st century technology to give every student a voice in the development of the University’s future, focussing on both the student experience and transparency and dialogue between students and the University administration.
The Saint Online asked each candidate a few brief questions:
How would you sum yourself up in one sentence?
I spend every day of my working life fighting for young people to have real access to education and want to bring that passion and experience to St Andrews.
What does the position of rector mean to you?
It would be a huge honour to be the Rector of such a prestigious institution but fundamentally this role is about engaging with students and representing them. I’ve discovered from meeting students around St Andrews that there is a real disconnect between you and the way that your university is run; as Rector I would want to make sure that you, the students, are at the heart of decision making.
If you could achieve only one thing during your term of office, what would it be?
My main concern is to make the University look at how affordable it is, so I will strive to find real solutions to the funding gap which would reduce fees and the cost of living to ensure that no student misses out on coming to St Andrews or making the most of their time when they are here.
How does your background qualify you for this position?
My work for Mary’s Meals not only fuels my passion for education; it has also put me at the table with governments and NGOs to fight for the future of young people in the developing world. This would make me an ideal chair of the University Court, as would my twenty years of experience as a journalist and broadcaster, where I grilled politicians, chaired heated debate on live TV and also used my communication skills to engage with the public to find out what the issues are and present them to a wider audience. I also live less than an hour away from St Andrews, near Dollar, which would allow me to come to St Andrews very regularly.
If you were an animal, what would you be, and why?
Perhaps it’s a cliché, but I would be a pussycat; one that would definitely show its claws if need be!
Are you a graduate of the University of St Andrews, and if not, where did you graduate from?
I graduated from the University of Kent at Canterbury with a BA in English and Drama in 1987. I think this will allow me to bring a fair, impartial and apolitical approach to the University Court.
Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=113811888728581