Thank you to all those who nominated me for the position of Rector.
I welcome the opportunity to meet with students and staff across the whole University in the coming weeks.
I am keen to further develop campaigns and policies which better meet student and staff housing needs.
It is becoming increasingly expensive to live within the city of Edinburgh, often in less than suitable accommodation. This links to concerns of the wider Edinburgh community.
The next three years will see reductions and changes in a number of local authority services, decisions in which students and staff of Edinburgh University have an interest.
Good quality support for students and staff with specific health needs, meeting any caring responsibilities, and access to public transport links, are important.
The University has a strong interest in the additional resources coming to Edinburgh through the City Deal.
I am a graduate of Edinburgh University, MA Social Administration and Sociology in 1978.
Interwoven throughout and beyond my time at university I have organised and continue to campaign for equality, fairness and social justice.
While a student I participated fully in the Student Representative Council, different clubs and societies, and edited the Student newspaper.
After that I studied in Manchester, Diploma in Youth and Community Work, and worked as an NUS area organiser, before joining the NUS Executive in 1981.
Moving back to Scotland in 1982, I found work in the railway industry in Glasgow latterly as a train driver at Glasgow Queen Street.
I joined the trade union NUR (National Union of Railwaymen) in 1982, and played my part in organising and representing members across various grades and locations.
Women were, and remain, in a minority in that industry, and I was pleased to be able to contribute to policies and committee structures to make sure women’s voices and experiences were heard, and discrimination tackled.
In 1996 I joined the community work team in Castlemilk Social Work Department, Glasgow, in a Women’s Development Project, supporting and strengthening women’s groups and service provision locally.
In 1999, I took up a research post in the Scottish Parliament.
I have spent nearly two decades working in and around the Parliament, most recently in my role as Assistant Secretary of the STUC (Scottish Trades Union Congress) with responsibility for government and parliamentary liaison.
I contributed to the ESRC-funded Gender and Constitutional Change in the UK project, led by University of Edinburgh (2000-2003) and to the Women and Constitutional Futures collaborative seminars 2012-2013.
The Scottish Parliament and devolution has brought greater opportunities for civic engagement.
I am keen to support students and staff at Edinburgh University playing their full part at every level.
I have governance and public appointment experience, including being appointed to the post of Scotland Commissioner on the Women’s National Commission 2008-2010, and serving as a member of the Rail Passenger Council (Scotland) and Passenger View (Scotland).
The Rector includes the key role of chairing the most senior governing board, the University Court.
A key component is ensuring meetings include all the voices around the table, be well informed and respectful of all contributions.
There are many challenges ahead, not least in working together to improve the unacceptably low rating for University of Edinburgh in the NSS (National Student Survey), and ensuring that all students and staff study and work in a safe, respectful, and supportive environment.
Fair pay, fair pensions, and job security for all staff are a crucial part of that picture.
The priorities for students and staff require constant review, and as your Rector, I would expect to be easy to contact and to have time for regular meetings, formal and informal, to make sure that your voices are heard, and improvements made together.