by Craig Mahood
University of Stirling Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Gerry McCormac, will receive a Knighthood for services to education and the economy in the New Year Honours.
Professor McCormac has served in the posts at the University for over ten years and was recently elected as Convener of Universities Scotland.
McCormac is to be knighted for leadership in higher education as well as the continuing contribution that the university makes to the economy.
Professor McCormac will be made a Knight Bachelor which will be confirmed at an investiture at a later date.
Speaking about his inclusion in the Honours list, Professor McCormac said: “I feel very honoured to receive this recognition and am indebted to the staff and students at the University of Stirling whose hard work and dedication have made the university what it is today.
“I’m immensely proud of everything that we have achieved over the past decade and the progress that we’ve made.
McCormac added that “Stirling is an international university with a pioneering spirit and a global reputation for high-quality teaching and research. Most importantly, it is a place where ability – not background – is valued.
“Our successes are testament to the tireless work of our wonderful campus community – our passionate and dedicated staff, our talented students and our inspirational alumni. The enormous challenges posed by coronavirus over the past 10 months have shone a light on the togetherness, resilience and unwavering support of our community – and this honour reflects their efforts.
“I would like to express my gratitude to all of those who have supported – and continue to support – the University.
“On a personal note, I would also like to thank my family, close friends and colleagues for their support, which is truly appreciated.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon praised all those included on the New Year Honours list for their ‘lasting contribution to communities’
Ms Sturgeon said: “The New Year Honours list highlights the exceptional contributions of the people of Scotland whose outstanding service and dedication has made a lasting contribution to communities the length and breadth of our country.
“Their service, in fields ranging from the arts, education and sport to charity, community and science, has benefited people right across society.
“The response to the coronavirus pandemic this year has seen countless people bravely and selflessly go above and beyond their usual duties. It is right that many of them are being honoured, and we continue to be incredibly grateful for their actions during this period.
“I also want to extend my congratulations to emergency service personnel who have been awarded The Queen’s Fire, Police or Ambulance Service Medals. Our emergency services deserve our continued gratitude for helping to keep people and communities across Scotland safe every day of the year and, of course, especially in these unprecedented times.”
The university now generates around £380million per year for the Scottish economy, with Stirling students expected to generate a further £400million throughout their working lives.
The regeneration of the Stirling campus lead by Professor McCormac – £40million in residence, £20million in sports redevelopment and £21million in research – has also been recognised in his Honour.
In the decade that Professor McCormac has served the University, they have been awarded two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes and UK Sports University of the Year in 2020.
The University’s international presence has also seen a significant improvement under Professor McCormac’s guidance.
The university has ranked inside the top 20 in the UK in the latest National Student Survey during McCormac’s time in charge.
Criticised by students
by Harry Williamson
McCormac has proved to be a controversial figure among Stirling students, and has faced criticism in recent years.
Most recently, McCormac and the rest of university management were criticised for charging students up to £400 to leave university accommodation at the start of the first lockdown with little prior warning.
Students further accused McCormac and management of not prioritising student safety by reopening accommodation at the start of the semester, putting those in accommodation at risk from COVID-19.
The Principal’s frequent pay rises have been a source of repeated controversy, earning over £250,000 amid staff strikes and rising accommodation rents. Although some earnings do go towards the Vice-Chancellor’s fund.
McCormac has been the focus of student protests, including the Logie Lecture Theatre occupation in 2018 and the occupation protest of the university’s management offices in 2019, in which saw 13 students suspended. Protesters criticised the principal over striking lecturers, high rents and mental health services.
Initial reactions of Stirling students to the news McCormac’s knighthood have not been positive.