McColl reflects on tenure as Rector after defeat

Peter McColl, the 51st Rector of the University of Edinburgh, will leave the post after serving for three years, with Steve Morrison taking on the role.

Morrison triumphed in last week’s rectorial election between the two candidates, claiming 61.9 per cent of the votes cast, compared to McColl’s 38.1 per cent.

Reflecting on his tenure, McColl told The Student it was not easy, but that he thinks he has made a lot of progress and laid the framework for future change.

“I had a huge advantage in having the time and knowledge to make things happen. That allowed me to make progress on a whole range of things.

“I think I’ve delivered more than previous Rectors, and been very focused on staff and students’ interests.”

McColl said one of his key accomplishments as Rector was improving students’ access to accommodation.

He said: “The Accommodation Service is much more focused on serving students – we haven’t seen first years being put up in Pollock Common Rooms or budget hotels, which was what happened when I became Rector.”

McColl also cited the push for improved feedback as an important, if nascent, achievement.

“I’m pleased the University is making strides on teaching and feedback. There’s a lot still to do and it will need more money, but students have been asking for action on this for a long time, and now things are beginning to happen.”

In addition to fighting for reforms to benefit students, McColl said he also worked to improve conditions for University staff.

He told The Student: “Ending zero-hour contracts and getting a focus on the gender pay gap have been important achievements for staff.”

McColl is standing as a candidate for the Scottish Green Party in the Edinburgh East district in the upcoming parliamentary election.

If elected, McColl said he would continue working towards many of the same reforms he pursued as Rector.

“Education isn’t just an individual benefit, it’s a societal benefit: we need to reintroduce free education.”

He also said he would fight to protect research funding, and improve access for international students.

The Student asked McColl what advice he would offer Steve Morrison as he begins his term as Rector.

He said: “Financial concerns of students are really important. The thing that stops most students achieving what they want while at University isn’t the structure of the degree or the (very capable, forward-looking and committed) teaching staff.

“It’s that students are having to do more and more paid work, while paying ever higher rents. And if they’re international students, there’s a whole load of other barriers to overcome.

“Students need someone who can make the case on these issues – and the Rector is the person best placed to do that.”

While he will be stepping down as Rector, McColl said he will remain actively involved with the business of the University.

“I’ll be a supportive, if critical friend of the University. There are a lot of things I wanted to do as Rector in a second term, but those will have to wait!”

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