Willie Rennie should be our next Rector

Jake Massel explains why he believes Willie Rennie should be our next Rector.

Credit: Sammi Ciardi

As president of the University Court, the Rector is uniquely positioned to enact positive changes for the entire student body.  This October the student body has charged with considering two eminently qualified candidates for the post in a hotly-contested race for the Rectorship. But only one candidate has a proven track record of standing up on the issues we care about most. Willie Rennie has spent his life devoted to public service. As MSP for our constituency of North East Fife, he has tirelessly campaigned for increased funding for mental health initiatives and fair access to accommodation for everyone. Willie believes in opportunity for all, looking out for others, sharing power, and global trusteeship. His values embody the spirit of the Rector, which is why I’m proud to support him as a candidate.

St Andrews is a fantastically unique place; where else can one find over 8000 students crammed into a bustling yet ancient town? A combination of distinct factors makes Town and Gown relations fragile and treacherous to navigate in the best of times. Let me be very clear. In the face of the myriad challenges ahead for us, including Brexit, increasing demand for quality wellness services, and the ballooning student accommodation crises, we can’t afford a mere figurehead Rector. We need a Rector who understands the political environment of North East Fife, who has deep connections to Fife Council, University governance, Scottish Parliament, and all the way up to Westminster. Willie Rennie has the right connections in the right places and know-how to get things done.  As a party leader, Willie will be the staunchest possible advocate for the students of  St Andrews on the national stage.

Willie Rennie has the right connections in the right places and know-how to get things done

But this election isn’t just about Willie’s ability to enact change; it’s also about the specific positive and lasting impacts he intends to create. Thanks to the dedication and tenacity of our academic staff, the University now ranks #1 on the TEF (Teaching Excellence Framework) scale.  Brexit is now jeopardizing our ability to maintain these standards of teaching excellence and is endangering our ability to retain EU research funding. As rector, Willie will vigorously defend our ability to attract funding and talent from the EU in Holyrood.

Willie appreciates that a sense of community means caring for the wellbeing of others. Last year, the University took a significant step in creating a dedicated mental health coordinator within Student Services. While we know that St Andrews is not unique in experiencing difficulty keeping pace with demand,  more must be done to integrate wellbeing services into every aspect of the student lifecycle. Endeavouring to promote this type of deep, structural change, Willie will not only expand access, he will also raise the standards of services available.

Anyone who has had the experience of lining up outside letting agencies on a frosty February morning knows the student accommodation situation in St Andrews is at a crises point. With currently over 8000 matriculated students, the laws of supply and demand now tilt heavily in favor of landlords and letting agencies, and increasingly, landlords get away with charging exorbitant prices for substandard accommodation. Recently, RBS concluded that St Andrews students are paying some of the highest rent prices anywhere in the UK. The extension of the HMO ban has severely curtailed opportunities to access affordable accommodation. Willie believes that, instead of being saddled with debt, students should be getting a fairer deal, and he understands that the HMO ban is not the answer. Leveraging his deep connections to Fife Council, Willie will work alongside his contacts in local government to tame the Student Housing Mafia and secure affordable housing solutions for St Andrews students.

Lastly, Willie understands the value of the Rector’s fund. A few months ago, a friend of mine secured a dream summer placement in London, but due to high rent prices, he would have been otherwise unable to undertake his placement without the assistance of the Rector’s fund. Established to help alleviate unavoidable costs of undertaking internships, the Rector’s fund levels the playing field for students who come from lower-income backgrounds. Willie Rennie will work to expand awareness, scope, and scale of the Rector’s fund so that greater numbers of students are enabled to pursue their career aspirations.

only one candidate has an established record of standing up for issues that matter most to St Andrews students

Over the next three years, the University Court will face numerous consequential decisions, perhaps some of the most significant in its 600-year history. As the President of the University Court, and as a representative of the Student body, the Rector plays a pivotal role. We have a tough choice to make this year, but only one candidate has the right ideas, experience, and know-how to become the 53rd Rector. Only one candidate can directly advocate for us in the Scottish Parliament and Westminster, and only one candidate has an established record of standing up for issues that matter most to St Andrews students.

On October 12th, vote Willie Rennie for Rector.




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