Q&A: All your Rectorial Elections questions answered

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Alistair Moffat is installed as the University's 51st Rector.
Alistair Moffat is installed as the University's 51st Rector.
Alistair Moffat is installed as the University’s 51st Rector.

Choosing a rector is an ancient tradition dating back to the founding of Scottish universities. A new rector is chosen every three years at St Andrews, one of only five Scottish universities that still honors the position. Most students experience only one election during their time here; therefore, the election process remains a mystery for many. The Saint has created a guide to assist you through the Rector Elections. Hopefully these FAQs will help explain the process.

What is the rector?

The office of rector is one of the oldest institutions of University government, and a new rector is elected every three years by St Andrews students. The rector is the president of Court, the supreme governing body of the University. Mainly, the rector’s responsibility is to create an environment in which everyone’s opinions are heard and to represent the student body.

Who is the current rector?

Alistair Moffat is our current rector. He was elected in the autumn of 2011 and instated in the spring of 2012. As the 51st rector of the University, he oversaw the 600th anniversary celebrations. Before becoming rector, he worked as an award-winning writer and journalist and was the former director of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. He is also the CEO of BritainsDNA, a DNA analysis company.

Are there any past rectors I should know about?

Yes! Notable rectors of St Andrews include: John Stuart Mill (1865-68), Andrew Carnegie (1901-07), J. M. Barrie (1919-22), Rudyard Kipling (1922-25) and John Cleese (1970-73).

What are the responsibilities of the rector?

The main responsibility of rector is to preside at University Court meetings, where he or she helps to oversee the management of the University alongside the Principal. The University Court, led by the rector, make decisions about budgets and policies, development and fundraising, and provisions for both students and staff. Additionally, the rector attends graduation ceremonies, participates in student events organized by the rector’s assessor, serves as the Chair of the School Presidents’ Forum, and is the principle fundraiser for the Rector’s Fund, which provides support for student careers.

Unofficially, the rector will ideally get to know the student body and advocate for its issues. According to the University’s website, the rector plays a pastoral role among students, helping to heighten the student experience and maintain the good reputation of the University.

Who can run for the position?

Anyone can be nominated for the role of rector except matriculated students and members of staff of the University. For example, University of Glasgow elected Edward Snowden, the former NSA spy who now lives in an undisclosed place in Russia, as their rector last year.

Who can vote in the election?

Since 1858 the student body has decided the rector. Any matriculated St Andrews student is eligible to vote.

How does the election process work?

Nominations for the position open on Monday 27 October, 9am and close on Wednesday 29 October, 5pm. Students nominate candidates. For a candidate to officially run for the position, he or she needs to submit a nomination form signed by 20 matriculated students. Campaigning happens between Friday 31 October and Friday 7 November. Every campaign team has £350 to spend on their campaign. The Rectorial Debate takes place in Monday 3 November in the Byre Theatre. Students are asked to submit questions relevant to policy, experience or perspective to be asked to all rectorial candidates via www.surveymonkey.com/s/ZFT9KCH, and The Saint will be live-blogging the evening – keep an eye on our Hub for more information.

Students will be able to vote between Wednesday 5 November and Friday 7 November, through the online voting system. Finally the election results will be announced on Friday 7 November.

How does the voting process work?

If only one candidate is nominated, no election will take place and this candidate will be automatically appointed. Voting will be only open to matriculated students and will take place online only for a prescribed period (Wednesday 5 November through Friday 7 November). Each voter will be allowed to indicate the order of preference of candidates. If at the end of the first round a candidate receives more than 50% of votes, he/she will be declared the rector. If no one receives the majority of the votes, the candidate with the lowest votes will be eliminated, and their votes will be transferred to whichever candidate has been listed second in order of preference.

What happens after the results are announced?

The installation ceremony is held in Younger Hall in February or March where the newly chosen rector delivers a speech to the audience. The Principal hosts a formal dinner held in Lower College Hall in honour of the rector. ‘The Drag’ is a day of celebrations that take place the day before the Installation. On this day the rector arrives in town and is then drawn through the town in an ancient carriage. Student clubs and societies introduce themselves and their activities, buy the newly appointed rector drinks and offer relevant gifts. The day ends with a torchlight procession from St Salvator’s Quad to the end of the pier at night.

Who is the Rector’s Assessor?

The Rector’s Assessor is usually a student chosen by the elected rector and is a full member of the Court. Ideally, the position goes to a well-connected, organized and involved matriculated student. The assessor’s main responsibility is to be the link between the student body and the rector, to aid and advise the rector and to be a part of the University Court. The assessor is also expected to advise on policy issues, inform the rector of upcoming events and help coordinate media and web presence. The current Rector’s Assessor is Patrick Mathewson.

Why is it important for us to choose a rector?

In simplest terms the most important job of the rector is to make sure student opinions are heard. Choosing a good rector will ensure that we, as students, are going to be represented well and be listened to and supported. The office of rector is an ancient tradition and we all know St Andrews students are very fond of traditions. Voting for rector is a way of maintaining the traditions of St Andrews, as well as providing a representative of the study body within higher university government.

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