New Rector of St Andrews announced

Friday 28 October 2011

The new Lord Rector of the University of St Andrews is Mr Alistair Moffat.

Mr Moffat, an author, former Director of the Edinburgh Fringe and former Director of Programmes at Scottish Television, was one of five names from the worlds of politics, broadcasting, literature and sport to contest the 2011 Rectorial Election.

Alastair, who graduated from St Andrews in 1972, beat Lord Michael Forsyth, Colin Fox, Abeer Macintyre and Pat Nevin after a week-long election campaign. He is appointed for a three-year term and takes up post immediately. His period of office will span the University’s 600th Anniversary celebrations from which run from 2011 to 2013.

Mr Moffat follows in the footsteps of such luminaries as Peter Pan author J M Barrie, Jungle Book creator Rudyard Kipling, comedian John Cleese, and more recently Simon Pepper and Kevin Dunion, Scottish Information Commissioner.

St Andrews students broke all previous records for turnout in a Rectorial Election. A total of 3882 students voted, over 49 per cent of the full time students of the university. The previous highest turnout in an election was 28%.

For the first time, the election was conducted using electronic voting, relying on a system created by staff from the University’s School of Computer Science, allowing students to vote securely from a computer anywhere in the world. The voting programme was developed by Ross Nicoll and Stuart Purdie of Computer Science.

The Rectorial Election was by the Alternative Vote System.

There were 3882 total votes cast by students and a result was achieved after two rounds of counting.  In the first round of counting, the total valid votes were 3857. The quota for an outright win was therefore 1929 votes.

The results in the first round were as follows:

Michael Forsyth 784 votes
Colin Fox 667 votes
Abeer Macintyre 289 votes
Alistair Moffat 1851 votes
Pat Nevin 266 votes


Pat Nevin had the least votes and was therefore eliminated and his votes redistributed.

In the second round of counting, the total valid votes were 3802. The quota for a win was therefore 1901 votes.

The results in the second round were as follows:

Michael Forsyth 825 votes
Colin Fox 695 votes
Abeer Macintyre 326 votes
Alistair Moffat 1956 votes

Mr Moffat was formally declared the winner of the election by Returning Officer Dr Gillian McIntosh at the Students’ Association Building in St Andrews at 7 p.m. on Friday October 28th 2011.

Speaking after confirmation of his victory, he said:

“I am absolutely humbled, delighted and proud. We have had a wonderful week and I thank the other candidates for their fellowship. Any one of the five would have served the University very well and all deserve applause.

“The students here are nothing less than an adornment to St Andrews.

“When 600 years ago the candles of enlightenment were first lit in St Andrews, they shone light into some dark corners. Now cold winds are blowing and storms gathering out there and the candles are flickering and growing dim.

“But what is wonderful about St Andrews are its students, and with their energy and commitment, St Andrews will burn brightly again without a doubt.”

The position of Rector is an important and unique role which exists only in four Scottish ancient universities – St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen – and in Dundee. The Rector represents the students of St Andrews and takes the Chair of Court, the supreme governing body of the University.

Student teams have been on the streets of St Andrews for a week campaigning for their chosen candidates. Traditional ‘hecklings’, during which the candidates are questioned by students, were held throughout the week, with students being able to vote online from Wednesday lunchtime.  The final day saw a last minute push for votes as computerised polling stations operated across the campus for one day only.

The President of the Students’ Association Patrick O’Hare commented :

“This election has been a triumph for student democracy – a turnout of 49% is a remarkable result and demonstrates once again how much the students of St Andrews value the important position of Rector and the place of student activism.

“All the candidates in this election have been of a calibre worthy of St Andrews and I am looking forward to working closely with Alistair who I am sure will be a fantastic Rector.”

The first Rector of St Andrews was Sir Ralph Anstruther of Balcaskie, who took up post in 1859.  He was followed soon after by John Stuart Mill (1865), Field Marshall Sir Douglas Haig (1916), Sir James Matthew Barrie (1919), Rudyard Kipling (1922), Fridtjof Nansen (1925), Jan Christian (‘General’) Smuts (1931).

Decades later, the seventies uniquely saw a host of famous British personalities take on the role, with John Cleese, Alan Coren, Frank Muir and Tim Brooke-Taylor all holding the position of St Andrews Rector.  In more recent years, Sir Clement Freud was Rector from 2002 to 2006.

Mr Moffat takes up post with immediate effect and will be formally installed as Rector at a special ceremony in Spring 2012.





Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews


Niall Scott, Director of Communications, tel 07711 223062, email [email protected]

Gayle Cook, Senior Communications Manager on 01334 467227, email [email protected]

Ref: New Rector announcement 281011

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