The following address to the Rector on behalf of the University Court was presented by Kathleen Patrick, Senior Member of Court at the Rectorial Installation on Tuesday, 3rd March, 2009.
Principal, Rector, Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the senior member of the University Court present today I have the pleasure, Rector, of welcoming you on behalf of the Court to your role as its President.
The office of Rector is a venerable one. For centuries it was vested in a senior academic within the University who was elected by a small group of his peers and, intermittently, senior students. On 2nd August 1858, however, a major change was instituted. On that date Royal Assent was given to the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 which laid the foundations of the system of governance which exists today. Of particular significance for St Andrews in relation to this afternoon’s ceremony the Act created the University Court as the overall governing body of the University, chaired by the Rector, with a membership drawn partly from the academic community and partly from external sources. It also stipulated that the Rector must no longer be a member of the academic staff and must be elected for a three-year term only by the matriculated students of the University. Students have zealously guarded their exclusive right to elect the Rector ever since.
For the past 150 years St Andrews has had a succession of distinguished Rectors – politicians, writers, explorers, entertainers and others who have made their marks on society and on the University. In more recent years in particular Rectors have been working rectors, playing an active part in chairing the Court and in working with and for the students in many aspects of life at the University. The role is important and demanding in terms of time and commitment and it is a mark of the calibre of candidates put forward by the students that so many Rectors have been successful in fulfilling the duties laid upon them and earned the trust and respect of those with whom they have been involved. Some have even been immortalised in the annual Kate Kennedy procession.
Rector, you come to chair the Court at an exciting and challenging period of the University’s history. We are approaching the 600th anniversary of its foundation and we shall be making decisions that will shape its wellbeing as it enters its 7th century. As a graduate of St Andrews you know how much this University means to its students, and, therefore, to its alumni. With your office in the town and your home in the East Neuk you also have an awareness of town-gown relations which is not readily apparent to someone from further afield. And in your professional life you have acquired the skills of effectively handling complex issues in a variety of fora both national and international. These are all advantages which will stand you in good stead as you chair the Court and work with the students. You have already shown a steady hand on the tiller as you chaired your first two meetings of the Court since your election. I hope that you will enjoy your period of office and on behalf of Court wish you well in it.