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The Constitution of the University

Before the union of 1860, each of the two Universities was governed by its chancellor supported by the principal, the rector, and the Senatus Academicus or Senate.

The Universities (Scotland) Act of 1858 instituted two new administrative bodies, the University Court and the General Council (or assembly of graduates). The Court consisted of the rector (elected by the matriculated students), the principal, and four assessors nominated one each by the chancellor, the rector, the Senate, and the General Council; the Court was given authority to review all decisions of the Senate, and to appoint members of the teaching programmes and its responsibility for discipline and for administering University property and revenues, subject to the control of the Court.

The Universities (Scotland) Act of 1889 enlarged the membership of the Court to 14 by including the Lord Provost of Aberdeen and an assessor nominated by the Town Council, and by increasing from one each to four each the assessors nominated by the Senate and the General Council. The administration of University property and revenues was transferred from the Senate to the Court. The powers of the General Council were enlarged, and the Student's Representative Council was established.

The Universities (Scotland) Act of 1966 further enlarged the membership of the Court and of the Senate by making provision for the inclusion of a number of members of the non-professorial staff.

In 1975 the Lord Provost of Aberdeen and an assessor nominated by the Town Council were replaced by two assessors, one nominated by the District Council of the City of Aberdeen and one by the Grampian Regional Council. Subsequent changes made to the composition of the Court, Senate and faculties as a result of the Report in 1977 of the Committee on Internal Academic Government are outlined below.


The Chancellor is the titular head of the University, and has the function of conferring degrees on persons found qualified by the Senate. The Chancellor, who is President of the General Council, is elected by its members and holds office for life.


The Vice-Chancellor, who is appointed by the Chancellor, discharges the function of conferring degrees when the Chancellor is unavailable. The office of Vice-Chancellor has usually been, and now is, held by the Principal.


The Rector is elected by the matriculated students in accordance with regulations approved by the Senate. The election takes place on such day as may be fixed by the University Court after consultation with the Senate and the Student's Association; the arrangements for the conduct of the election are made by the Senate. The Rector takes office on the first day of the second clear month after election, and holds office for three years from that date. The Rector takes the chair at meetings of the University Court.


The Principal is both the resident head of the University, and president of the Senate. A member of the University Court and General Council, the Principal, in the absence of the Chancellor and the Rector, takes the chair at meetings of the General Council.


Vice-Principals are appointed by the University Court on the nomination of the Principal. Normally each holds office for three years.

The University Court

Membership of the court can be seen as per University Management Group (UMG) at The University Court pages.

Senate or Senatus Academicus

The Senate consists of (a) the Principal, Vice-Principals, established professors and Heads of Departments together with (if not otherwise members) the Heads of Colleges and Convener of the Academic Standards Committee (Postgraduate) and the Directors of Undergraduate Programmes, (b) Officers in key academic support roles, (c) elected personal professors, readers and lecturers, numbering not less than one-half of the total of the ex officio members, (d) the Principals, or their nominees, of those institutions whose degrees the University validates, and (e) nine student members.

The Senate is charged with the regulation and superintendence of the teaching and discipline of the University, and with the promotion of research. lt is on the authority of the Senate that all degrees are conferred. The Principal is President of the Senate; one of the Vice-Principals presides in the absence of the Principal. One-third of the Senate constitutes a quorum.

General Council

The General Council consists of (a) all graduates of the University; (b) the Chancellor of the University during his tenure of office; (c) all present and past professors and members of the University Court.' (d) all readers and lecturers who have held office in the University for a period of a year, and all former such readers and lecturers who have remained on the staff of the University until retirement. The Register of the Council is made up annually in December for the following year.

The Council holds two statutory meetings annually. It may also hold special meetings in accordance with such procedure as the Council may by rules determine.

The Council is empowered 'to take into consideration all questions affecting the well-being and prosperity of the University, and to make representations from time to time on such questions to the University Court, who shall consider the same, and return to the Council their deliverance thereon'. The Council elects the Chancellor and four assessors on the University Court.


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