A LONG-SERVING trade unionist and equality campaigner is bidding to become only the second female Rector of Edinburgh University in its history.
Ann Henderson, who graduated from the university with an MA in Sociology and Social Administration in 1978, is one of just two candidates for the role, which involves representing the interests of students and staff in university decision making.
The election takes place on 26-27 February. Nearly 50,000 students and staff are eligible to take part.
It is 30 years since TV presenter Muriel Gray was elected the first female Rector in 1988. Previous Rectors include William Gladstone, David Lloyd George, Sir Winston Churchill, Gordon Brown and Sir David Steel.
Ms Henderson said: “It’s long overdue that there should be another woman holding this position. It’s quite embarrassing given that Edinburgh University has quite a good record in profiling women in fields such as science and politics.
“And it’s shameful that it has not had more than one woman rector. This is the anniversary of some women over 30 gaining the vote, so it seems an appropriate time to put that right.”
Ms Henderson was until recently assistant secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), but has also worked in the Scottish Parliament and was among the first female train drivers in Scotland. “When I started in the railways in the 1980s, there was a presumption it wasn’t a job for women,” she said.
Ms Henderson said among issues she would take up as Rector were the cost and suitability of housing for students, fair pay, fair pensions and job security across all grades of staff, and greater support for students and staff with caring responsibilities.
Rival candidate Marco Bauder graduated in Politics and Social & Economic History in 2015 and is active with TeachMUN, a student-led educational charity that goes into schools to engage young people with political topics. He named housing and fees as key issues, along with mental health and student welfare.
And he said he wanted the university to do more to support and promote student initiatives like First Aid Africa, which sends volunteers to sub-Saharan Africa in the summer, as well as he housing co-operative that manages accommodation.
The main formal role of the Rector is to chair the university court, which is the institution’s highest decision-making body. Both candidates are keen to boost turn-out in the election. Just over ten per cent of those eligible voted in the previous election in 2015.
A university spokeswoman said: “The role of Rector at the University of Edinburgh is unique. Elected by staff and students, the Rector presides at court to ensure all voices are heard in our decision-making processes. We look forward to a challenging and engaging election campaign period.”