Mr Alistair Moffat, author and Director of the Lennoxlove and Borders Book Festivals, is the University’s 51st Rector.
Alistair, a graduate of the University (MA Medieval History, 1972), took up office in October 2011 after an intensive week-long election campaign. His three year term of office will span the University’s 600th Anniversary celebrations which run from 2011 to 2013.
First and foremost, the role of the rector is to preside at meetings of the University Court - the highest governing body of the University.
The Court exists to oversee the mangement of the University, with special emphasis on strategic leadership and accountability. The Principal leads the actual management of the University, but even he/she is accountable to the Court, which comprises senior staff and a majority of unpaid, external, independent 'lay' members, meeting about four times a year. This is the place where all the big issues are decided - budget allocations, financial policies, academic policies, estate development and capital projects, staff and student provisions, and so on.
Since 1858, the rector has been elected by the students, and the fundamental purpose of the position has remained unchanged ever since. The ancient universities were conceived as communities, in which the students were the main interest group. The best way to ensure that their interests were always at the forefront of the minds of those actually running the university was to allow the students to elect the president of the governing body.
In addition to being President of the University Court, the Rector also plays an informal, pastoral role.
The rector can open doors and help to release log-jams where the formals mechanisms for resolving issues appear to fail. A rector with the time, sincerity and commitment to get to know the student body and engage with their issues, and the skills to influence effectively, can make a valuable contribution to the student experience, as well as to the life and reputation of the whole university.
For a comprehensive overview of the role of Rector, please see the handbook produced by the Scottish Rectors' Group entitled 'The University Rector'.
The Rector's Assessor
The current Rector's Assessor is Patrick Mathewson.
The Rector's Assessor is a voluntary position, with the main role being to act as the link between the Rector and the student body, to aid and advise the Rector, and to sit on the University Court as a full member. The Assessor meets regularly with the Rector to advise on policy issues, discuss upcoming events and campaigns and ensure the Rector has a coordinated media and web presence in St Andrews.