A detailed remit for the Court does not exist. The various Acts of Parliament conferring powers and responsibilities on the Court do not set out specific duties in a comprehensive way, although most of the legislation relevant to the University is contained in a single text, The Acts, Ordinances and Resolutions of the University of Aberdeen, 1858-1990, which may be consulted on application to the Clerk to the Court.)

The main functions of the Court are set out in its Statement of Primary Responsibilities. These can be summarised, however, as:

  • To approve the mission and strategic vision of the University, including institutional and longer-term academic and business plans, and key performance indicators, and to ensure that they meet the interests of stakeholders, including students, staff, alumni, local and national communities and funding bodies.

The high level articulation of Court’s role and that of the Policy and Resources Committee (formerly the Operating Board) agreed by Court in June 2017 is:

“the role of Court is to develop and agree strategy and the Operating Board [now Policy and Resources Committee] should monitor the delivery of that strategy.”


In support of this, the Court has agreed a revised schedule of delegation which sets out business reserved to Court for decision and matters delegated to the Policy and Resources Committee by Court. This is available here.

Some powers of the Court are exercised by making an Ordinance or approving a Resolution.

The University (Scotland) Act 1966 sets out the regulations by which the University Court has powers to make new Ordinances/Resolutions or amend existing Ordinances/Resolutions. In each case, consultation with the Senate, General Council and the wider public (by means of public notice of the draft Ordinance or Resolution on the University website for eight weeks for an Ordinance or four weeks for a Resolution) is required. Draft Ordinances or Resolutions for comment are published on the separate tab above on this page.

The Court of the University will then consider any comments received at a meeting after the stipulated period has expired. The University will then seek approval of the final version of the Ordinance from the Privy Council. A Resolution can take effect as soon as it is approved by the Court following the required consultation; an Ordinance can take effect only from the date on which it is passed by Her Majesty in Council.

Legally, the University Court is a body corporate, with perpetual succession and a common seal.

Definitions of Court Terms

  • As a body corporate, the Court is recognised in law as owning a legal personality separate and distinct from the personality of its members, and hence as capable of owning property, entering into contracts, employing staff, and suing and being sued.
  • Perpetual succession signifies the Court's power to appoint its own members (subject to statute) without further reference to any external authority.
  • The Common Seal represents the Court's authority to secure or guarantee its undertakings. The University Seal, together with signatures of Court members continues to be used to endorse formal legal documents on behalf of the University.
  • An Ordinance is a further definition or stipulation of existing powers, as prescribed by Acts of Parliament - for example, amendment of the composition of Court, Senate, etc. This requires the consent of the Privy Council.
  • A Resolution represents the elucidation of a power which is within the Court's own competence to enact - for example, the creation of a new Chair.
Composition & Membership


The composition of the Court numbers 25 members and is formally set out in Ordinance 145, approved by Her Majesty in Council on 19 July 2017. It may be summarised as: the Rector, the Principal, the Senior Governor, one person elected by academic staff, one person nominated by non-academic staff, one person nominated by a trade union from among the academic staff, one person nominated by a trade union from among the support staff, four assessors elected by the Senate, two students nominated by the Students’ Association, and twelve independent members appointed by the Court (who may not be members or staff or students) of whom at least four will be members of the General Council.

For further information on the formal composition of Court see: Ordinance No 145

While members of the Court are drawn from different "constituencies" no member of the Court is present as a "representative" of any particular sectional interest. Mandates are not recognised but, of course, each member brings his or her particular background and expertise to the work of the Court. All members are equal and free to express an opinion or cast a vote in the best interest of the institution as a whole.

Membership of the Court

Further details of the Court membership are available here: Court Membership

Members of Court may be contacted via the Clerk to the Court:

Further information on the Skills Register of Court Members is available here: Skills Register 2021

Governor Role Description

Experience and attributes 

The Court is made up of 25 governors, nine are members of staff. It is important to ensure that across this membership there is a wide range of skills and experience.

 However, the key attributes required of members are:

  • Significant experience of leadership and management at a senior level in either the public or private sector, preferably gained over a number of years’   service across a range of large and complex organisations;
  • An ability to evaluate and monitor the performance of the University in a constructively critical manner, whilst mindful of the boundary between governance and management;
  • A commitment to the highest standards of governance;
  • The ability and the courage to exercise independent judgement;
  • A commitment to furthering the values of higher education and the mission of the University of Aberdeen in particular.  


Each governor is responsible, collectively with all members of Court, for the strategic leadership and governance of the University. That translates into more specific responsibilities of which the following are key:

  • To ensure that the Court exercises efficient and effective use of the resources of the University, maintains its long-term financial viability, and safeguards its assets, and that proper mechanisms exist to ensure financial control and for the prevention of fraud;
  • To exercise oversight in respect of the academic, corporate, financial, estate and human resource functions delegated to the authority of the Principal as chief executive;
  • To ensure that Court conducts itself in accordance with accepted standards of behaviour in public life, embracing duty, selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability and stewardship, openness, honesty, leadership and respect. Members must at all times regulate their personal conduct as members of the Court in accordance with these standards;
  • To establish constructive and supportive but challenging working relationships with the University employees with whom they come into contact, whilst recognising the proper separation between governance and executive management;
  • To act fairly and impartially in the interests of the University as a whole using independent judgement and maintaining confidentiality as appropriate.

Governors may also be asked to serve on Committees of Court or University and complaints and appeals panels by mutual agreement, and to play a role in liaising between key stakeholders and the University and in fund raising.

Governor roles are unremunerated but expenses are paid. Directors and Officers Liability Insurance is in place.

Court Minutes, Agendas and Papers

It should be noted that minutes will be published after they have been approved at the following Court meeting and are therefore not liable to be amended. Whilst it wishes to make minutes as widely available as possible, the University is concerned not to inhibit discussion at its committees, and therefore occasionally minutes may have sections removed (redacted) for reasons of confidentiality. In these instances, a note will be inserted indicating that the minute has been edited on the grounds of confidentiality.

We regret that minutes prior to September 1998 are not currently available online. If you wish to see minutes before September 1998 then please contact the Clerk in the first instance on 01224 272093.

The Court agenda is made available prior to the meeting of Court to which it relates. Court papers (redacted where confidentiality restrictions apply) are made available here for consultation following the meeting to which they relate or on request to the Clerk to Court.

Clerk of the Court: Mr Bruce Purdon
Telephone: 01224 273949
Fax: 01224 273984


22 November 2022

4/5 October 2022


28 June 2022

22 March 2022

23 November 2021

29 September 2021

  • 24 March 2020 - Meeting Cancelled.  Papers considered by circulation of the Court were: Papers.
Draft Ordinances and Resolutions
Notice of Ordinances and Resolutions for Comment

There are no Ordinances or Resolutions currently open for comment.

Draft Ordinances and Resolutions recently closed for comment

Any Draft Ordinances or Resolutions that have recently closed for comment will appear here.

Approved Ordinances and Resolutions

Resolution 303 [Procedure for Removal of Members of the University Court] was approved by the Court on 23 November 2021.