Alastair Moffat was elected Rector of St Andrews last month. The Saint’s craig lye spoke to Moffat about his reaction to his election, and how he intends to take on the role.
CL: Could you briefly outline the role of the rector, as you see it, for any students unsure about what it involves?
The role of the Rector is to chair the University Court, the central governing body.
That involves a great deal; not only understanding the broad sweep of the activities at St Andrews but also thinking about future policy as well as present concerns. In addition, I shall be representing my constituency, the student population – both undergraduates and postgraduates – in all my actions.
During the election campaign I spoke to approximately 3,500 students and have a powerful sense of their concerns and interests, and since the students ARE the University, that strong and recent sampling of views will be at the centre of all I do. Throughout my three year term I plan to hold regular surgeries and meetings with students and to help wherever I can.
CL: When your campaign team first approached you with the idea of your candidacy, why did you decide to accept?
When I was first approached by students to stand for Rector, I didn’t immediately agree. Instead I came up to meet a group of Society Presidents, School Presidents, and people interested in any campaign that might form.
It was a terrific party. I was hugely impressed with the people I met; they were so bright, busy, vibrant, life-enhancing and optimistic.
When I was an undergraduate, we were such lumps, almost inert by comparison. I was knocked out by their energy and, driving home that night, I decided to stand. When I got to Guardbridge, I realised I hadn’t had anything to eat and stopped at the chippie. My car still smells of salt and vinegar.
CL: What happens in the interim period between your election and your being sworn in?
Well, before my installation next spring, I am already doing the job. My Rector’s Assessor, the excellent Kate Andrews, is setting up meetings and surgeries and I shall chair my first meeting of court in January. I started work the night we won!
CL: What do you hope to achieve as rector?
In only three years goals have to be realistic. The first of these is to carry on the superb work of Kevin Dunion, the outgoing Rector.
He will be a tough act to follow, especially in the area of working with students.
I want to become involved in fund-raising too, but I think one of the most urgent concerns is how to widen access to St Andrews. It is the students lost to us as well as those here who concern me. As a nation we need to make the most of our talent – all our talent – and I would like to see the University open its doors a little wider. That involves making a degree available to people who cannot pay either for some of it, or all of it.
CL: Can you give us any hints as to your costume for the Rectorial Drag?
The only hint I can give about the Rectorial Drag is that I shall be wearing a crash helmet. If I survive that, I hope to have a wonderful three years serving the students of St Andrews University. After graduating – gulp – 40 years ago, it feels like a sort of homecoming.