Rector installation speeches: Welcome by the Senior Governor Sir Ewan Brown CBE FRSE

Friday 20 February 2015

Vice-Chancellor, Rector, Ladies and Gentlemen.

Rector. Catherine. On behalf of the Court of the University of St Andrews, I have great pleasure in welcoming you to your role. You have already enjoyed the privilege, as enshrined by ancient law, of chairing your first Court meeting.

The office of Rector is both venerable and cherished. For centuries it was vested in a senior academic who was elected by a small group of HIS peers and, intermittently, senior students. In 1858, a major change took place when the Universities (Scotland) Act laid the foundations for the system of governance which we have today.

Of particular significance to this ceremony, the 1858 Act established the University Court as the overall governing body of the University, to be chaired by the Rector, with a membership drawn partly from the University’s academic community and partly from the wider community. The Act also stipulated that the Rector must no longer be a member of the academic staff, and would be elected for a three-year term by the matriculated students of the University. Students have zealously guarded their exclusive right to elect the Rector ever since.

For the past 156 years this university has had many distinguished Rectors – politicians, writers, explorers, entertainers, and others who have made their mark on society and thereby attracted the attention of our students

The role of Rector is an important one, and a demanding one in terms of time and commitment in getting to know the student body and earning their respect.  It is a mark of the calibre of candidates who are elected that so many of them have performed the role with such distinction.

Catherine, you have been elected at an exciting and challenging period of the University’s history. For all that we are, in anyone’s terms, a small university clinging to the edge of Scotland, St Andrews is also world renowned with students coming here to study from all corners of the globe and academics of distinction, many of whom have much deserved international reputations. We have just finished celebrating the 600th anniversary of the foundation of the University and as Court members it is incumbent on us to take decisions that will ensure the University’s wellbeing through the next century. We face a most challenging time in the history of higher education in this country.  No doubt during your term as Rector and Chair of Court, there will be times when idealism and pragmatism will clash, but Court is the place where the long term sustainability of this University will be decided.

As a graduate of St Andrews you know how much this University means to its students and, equally, to its alumni throughout the world. In the uncertain economic and political times in which we now operate, Court is in the position where, on the one hand we must continue to provide the current body of students with an excellent educational experience, but we must also work to ensure that, for the generations of students to come, we leave a legacy that is equally excellent.

Your undoubted affection for the University and the skills you have acquired in your professional life will stand you in good stead as you chair Court and work with the students.

Catherine, I hope that you will enjoy your period of office as Rector, and on behalf of Court, I give you all our best wishes.

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