A reluctant royal host

October 25, 2012

At the age of 24, Richard Evans probably did not know much about the running of a university, but one would have thought that the passage of time would have given him the hindsight to realise that Tom Cottrell, despite being vice-chancellor, could not unilaterally have taken the decision to invite the Queen to visit the University of Stirling 40 years ago ("A right royal rumpus", 11 October).

That decision was taken in conjunction with senior staff. In fact, Cottrell had to be persuaded that it would be advantageous for the university to show off its beautiful campus and its award-winning architecture. It was therefore desperately sad that the actions of a few academics and some well-organised students should have had such a disastrous result. The Tom Cottrell I knew would not have been the slightest bit interested in winning a gong (unlike Evans). He disliked the ceremonial side of his job and disdained the use of any title other than that conferred by his DSc.

As far as disciplinary proceedings against students were concerned, he was reluctant to pursue them; however, the sackloads of mail that arrived at his house daily from unhappy taxpayers demanded action. Even more importantly, the fact that headmasters of schools were by then refusing to sign Universities and Colleges Admissions Service forms for Stirling was a cause of great anxiety for all those staff who had worked tirelessly to set up this new institution.

Stephanie Tytler, Former staff member, University of Stirling

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