The Court's principal role is to oversee the management of the revenue, property and other resources of the University. It approves the mission and strategic vision of the University, and has a number of corporate and legal responsibilities.

Staff Election

Election of Staff Members to the University Court
Information for Staff and Candidates

The composition of the Court, the University’s governing body, is changing and from later this year will include two positions for members of staff elected by staff – one for academic colleagues and one for non-academic colleagues. This is a new opportunity for staff to bring their perspective to influence how the University is governed at the highest level. As the University is a charity and the Court is considered the board of charitable trustees, it is also an opportunity to gain experience as a charity trustee.

The following information is provided as guidance on how staff can put themselves forward for election and on who can vote in the two elections. It also provides information on the role of Court and what being a member of Court involves. Staff who wish to submit a nomination should, however, ensure they have read the nomination and election rules before submitting the nomination form. Nominations close on Friday 28 July at 12 noon.

What is the role of Court?

The Court is the University’s governing body and is responsible for setting the University’s strategy and ensuring its financial sustainability. Its business regularly includes considering key issues such as budgets, staffing policy, estates and capital projects, the institution’s academic and business plans, monitoring performance against strategic targets, and ensuring the University meets the interests of stakeholders, including students, staff, alumni, local and national communities and funding bodies.

What is the role of a Court member?

Each member of Court is a governor of the University and a charitable trustee, who is responsible collectively with all members for ensuring the Court meets its responsibilities as mentioned above. The role of a Court member is:

  • To ensure that the University’s finances are well managed and its long-term financial viability;
  • To oversee the academic, corporate, financial, estate and human resource functions that are delegated to the Principal and Senior Management Team;
  • To ensure that Court conducts itself in accordance with accepted standards of behaviour in public life;
  • To offer constructive challenge and support to the Senior Management Team;
  • To act fairly and impartially in the interests of the University as a whole using independent judgement and maintaining confidentiality as appropriate.

You can read more about the role of the Court and the role of a Court member here

What is the time commitment?

The expected time commitment is around ten days per year. This includes attendance and preparation time for four meetings of the Court each year. Members of Court may, with their agreement, serve on sub-committees of the Court and this would be in addition to the ten days.

Who is eligible to stand for election?

There will be two vacancies for staff members to be elected to Court:

  • one vacancy for a member of academic staff elected by academic staff (being academic, teaching and research staff);
  • one vacancy for a member of non-academic staff elected by non-academic staff (being professional and support staff).

All candidates must be employed members of staff as at 28 July 2017 and may stand only in the category of staff of which they are a member eg academic staff may only stand for the academic staff position. Zero hours, temporary services and honorary staff are not eligible to stand or vote in the elections. If you are unsure about which category you are eligible to stand or vote in please contact

The Court is committed to ensuring its membership reflects the diversity of the University’s community and, in particular, to addressing the current gender imbalance in its membership and increasing the number of female members of Court. In support of this and the Court’s wider commitment to diversity in its membership, members of staff at all levels and from all backgrounds are encouraged to consider this opportunity to join the Court.

How do I stand for election and when do nominations close?

Nominations close on Friday 28 July at 12 noon and are made through the nomination form or by request to

Potential candidates should read the form and the nomination rules (see above). The form needs to be signed by the candidate, a proposer and a seconder who must both be members of the same staff constituency eg professional services and support staff may only be a proposer and seconder for candidates for the election of to the non-academic staff position. Electronic copies of a completed and signed nomination form will be accepted by the closing date but a hard copy must be provided within 7 days of the close of the nomination period.

All nominees are required to confirm that they have read the nomination and election rules and that they are not disqualified from serving as a charitable trustee under Scottish Charities Law. If you need to check this, guidance is available in the nomination form and at:

How will the Election be conducted?

There will be two separate elections: one for each of the two positions and these will be carried out through electronic voting through the “first past the post system”. If the number of nominations exceeds the number of vacancies, a ballot of the relevant staff constituency will be held. Candidates can if they wish provide an election statement of 250 words and a photograph which will be made available to the electorate when voting opens.

Where only one nomination is received for a vacancy, that candidate will declared to be duly elected and no ballot will issued.

If an election is required, voting is expected to open on Friday 25 August to noon on Friday 15 September. Staff eligible to vote must have been in post as at 28 July 2017.

Where a member of staff is unable to vote electronically, the University will offer alternative arrangements to ensure they can cast their vote.

How long is the appointment for?

The period of office of is three years to 31 July 2020 and is expected to begin on 1 October 2017. This is, however, subject to approval by the Privy Council of the new composition of Court and might change. In future elections it is expected that the normal start date for the term of office will be 1 August 2017.

Members elected will be able to be nominated for re-election, subject to a limit of three periods of office of three years whether served continuously or not, but would not be able to return to serve on Court in another position after that maximum of period of office for a period of three years.

What if I leave the University or change role?

If you cease to be an employee of the University you will also cease to be eligible to stand or vote in the election. If you are elected to Court but then cease to be an employee you would also cease to be a member of Court and a new election for the vacancy would be required.

If your employment classification changes from “academic” to “non-academic” (or vice versa) for the purposes of the election you would cease to be eligible to stand or vote in that category of election but would be eligible to stand in the other category as applicable. If you are already elected to Court, you would cease to be a member of Court in that capacity and a new election for the vacancy would be required.

Further Information

Further information on the role of being a member of Court and the nominations/election process is available from Bruce Purdon, Clerk to the Court, or



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.

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.

Defintions 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

Further information on the Skills Register of Court Members is available here: Skills Register 2017

Governor Role Description

Experience and attributes 

The Court is made up of 28 governors, of whom ten are executives of the University or members of Senate. 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 selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. 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.

Agenda & Minutes

Court Minutes, Agenda 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 here following the meeting of Court to which it relates. Court papers (redacted where confidentiality restrictions apply) are made available here and in the Library for public 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

Minutes of Meeting

All documents are in PDF format

Draft Ordinances & Resolutions


Notice of Ordinances and Resolutions for Comment

There are no Ordinances or Resolutions available for comment.

Draft Ordinances and Resolutions recently closed for comment

The following draft Ordinances or Resolutions have recently closed for comment.






Approved Ordinances and Resolutions

The following draft Ordinances or Resolutions have recently been approved.

Resolution 286 [Tenth Amendment to Schedule A to University Court Ordinance No.111 [Election of Readers and Lecturers to the Senatus Academicus]