FOOTBALL pundit Pat Nevin and former Secretary of State for Scotland Lord Forsyth are among five candidates contesting the rectorship of St Andrews University.
The 7000-strong student population has been voting this week on who will succeed Scottish Information Commissioner Kevin Dunion in the prestigious post - polling ends this evening - and the result is expected to be announced shortly before midnight.
Also in the running are author Alistair Moffat, charity worker and former BBC Scotland presenter Abeer Macintyre and Scottish Socialist Party spokesman Colin Fox, the latter of whom finished a well beaten runner-up to Mr Dunion in 2008.
The rector acts on behalf of the students at St Andrews and presides over the University Court, the supreme governing body of the university. It is an important and unique position held only in four Scottish ancient universities - St Andrews, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen – and also Dundee.
The new rector will follow in the footsteps of many famous names including Rudyard Kipling, J.M.Barrie, Sir Douglas Haig and, more recently, John Cleese, Frank Muir, Nicholas Parsons and Sir Clement Freud. The new incumbent will hold the position for three years and, uniquely, will span the university’s 600th anniversary celebrations.
Former Scotland internationalist Pat Nevin is far from the stereotypical footballer and is renowned for his avid interest in literature, the arts and music, exemplified by his arts degree from Glasgow Caledonian University.
A television regular, he is director of the nationwide charity, Football Aid, and co-founder and campaigner for the widespread anti-racist movement in football.
His supporters claim that his impressive professional background and extensive and wholehearted involvement in various charities makes him the ideal candidate.
Lord Forsyth, a St Andrews graduate, is a member of the Privy Council and the Development Board at the Royal Society. He was knighted in 1997 and appointed to the House of Lords in 1999.
In his campaign address he said he believed that, in celebrating the university’s 600th anniversary,l it must encourage business and philanthropists to invest in the institution.
However, students opposed to him have revealed that in 1989, as Scottish Education Minister and a member of the Thatcher government, he was part of an administration which put forward a proposal to end the power of rectors at Scotland’s ancient universities.
He was eventually forced to back down after a campaign by students and when his own Conservative back bench also threatened to rebel against him.
Colin Fox, who served in the Scottish Parliament from 2003-07, said he believed that education is a right, not a privilege, and pledged to campaign for the widest possible access to education, deliver better quality and affordable accommodation and defend teaching quality by opposing cuts.
Abeer Macintyre is head of Supporter Care at the Scottish charity Mary’s Meals and an award-winning broadcaster and journalist.
She has promised to be a working rector, coupling regular visits with 21st century technology to give every student a voice in the development of the university’s future, focussing on both the student experience and transparency and dialogue between students and the administration.
Alistair Moffat, who graduated from St Andrews in 1972, previously ran the Edinburgh Fringe and built it into the largest arts festival in the world.
He hopes to bring his fund raising and wealth of other experience from the Fringe to bear on issues including the Students’ Union and Athletic Union. Earlier this year he helped successfully argue for a lower RUK tuition fee at Stirling University as Chancellor’s assessor.
Students’ Association president, Patrick O’Hare, said: ”In a difficult time for higher education and students, the role of the rector is thus more important than ever.
‘‘I have faith that the student body will elect a rector who is worthy of this institution and its students.”