“Let’s have a good old chat in Aikmans”.
Abeer MacIntyre? Where’s she from again? Yes, that’s right. She’s the friendly face from BBC Breakfast Scotland. Abeer has enjoyed a glittering career at the top of BBC Scotland, but she’s more than a broadcaster: she’s been praised for investigative journalism too. In the 1990s, she told us what was going on in the world as we ate our coco pops, and now she wants to be our Rector.
“I really didn’t have to think very long about the opportunity to run as Rector – to be associated with such a prestigious and fantastic organisation as St Andrews was instantly attractive to me.”
For the past two years, Abeer has been extensively involved with the charity ‘Mary’s Meals’. Founded in 2002, it has grown from its first feeding operation of two hundred children in Malawi, to a world-wide campaign, providing free school meals and feeding over five hundred thousand children daily.
“One of the things that makes me a strong candidate was that my work at Mary’s Meals means that I spend every single day of my professional life fighting for people to have the right to education and access to education. Put very simply, we feed the world’s poorest children everyday but make sure it’s in a place of learning, and that the food attracts them. We know that education is their route out of poverty. So this issue about fighting to persuade decision makers and governments to invest in the young population is core to my beliefs, my principles and my professional life.”
Abeer has enormous involvement in inspiring fundraising and project work but with all that commitment, surely there’s a considerable time constraint?
“I think my professional record shows that I don’t do anything by halves. I have never held a job or a position where it hasn’t become a way of life for me. If I passionately believe in it, which is certainly the case here, I will give it everything I’ve got. Practically speaking I manage my own diary, so without a shadow of a doubt I will be able to meet the demands expected of me.”
The stand was quick to notice that Abeer is, indeed, the only female candidate running to be Rector and, should she be elected, would be only the second female Rector in the University’s history.
“It is something very much in my mind and I think it would be a wonderful opportunity, as the University celebrates its 7th century, to have a woman sitting in that post, to show that the community is forward-thinking and make a statement that the university is open and diverse. But to be honest with you, I’m not in favour of positive discrimination either. I truly think St Andrews should pick the best candidate that represents them properly.”
Abeer considers herself to be a “people person first and foremost, not an institutional person”, however, as Rector, Abeer would be obliged to chair the ancient court of the University. What approach would she take to the issue of university governance when it comes to mediating between the needs of students and the position of the university?
“My journalistic skills, honed over two decades mean that I have talked to people at the absolute highest level. I’m not at all intimidated to be in an environment like that. I’ve spoken to people from all walks of life and I’m very practised at engaging with people at whatever level suits them. I then would be very anxious to ensure that there isn’t a disconnect between what the students are feeling, thinking and need and what the Court is actually discussing and making decisions on.”
Abeer’s personality and warmth has carried a great deal of her campaign – and if Alistair Moffat is the ‘Dad’ of the campaign then Abeer surely fits the bill as the ‘Mum’ of the elections. But, can she really keep Louise in line? How cutting would Abeer be in Court, especially in light of the explosive tuition fees issue:
“I absolutely would not be silent in those meetings, and I’m not sure what the etiquette is but I’d go in there absolutely adamant that the students of St Andrews will be properly heard and represented. I mean that really sincerely.”
For more information on Abeer MacIntyre’s campaign, visit her website.
Written by Alex Holroyd & Lizzie Stone, understand writers