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Governance of the University of St Andrews

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Title: Governance of the University of St Andrews  
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Subject: Quaestor (University of St Andrews), University of St Andrews, History of the University of St Andrews, Hamilton Hall (University of St Andrews), Gershom Carmichael
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Governance of the University of St Andrews

The governance of the University of St Andrews is laid down in a series of Acts of Parliament (the Universities (Scotland) Acts) enacted between 1858 and 1966.

In common with the other Ancient universities of Scotland, there are three bodies responsible for governance, as determined by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858. This Act created three bodies: the General Council, University Court and Academic Senate (Senatus Academicus).


  • General Council 1
  • University Court 2
    • Senior Governor 2.1
  • Academic Senate 3
  • Office of the Principal 4
  • Faculties 5
  • Teaching, Learning and Assessment Committee 6
  • Student Participation 7
  • See also 8

General Council

The General Council is a standing advisory body of all the graduates, academics and former academics of the University. It meets twice a year and appoints a Business Committee to transact business between those meetings. The most important jobs it performs is in appointing two Assessors to the University Court and electing the University Chancellor.

University Court

Under the University (Scotland) Act 1858 the University Court is the supreme governing body of the University, having responsibilities for the finances and administration of the University. Its twenty-three members come from within the University, the local community and beyond. It also has the power to review decisions of the Academic Senate. There is a handbook for members available here.

The Court is chaired by the Rector who is elected by all the matriculated students of the University.

As of April 2006 the membership of the Court was:

This was laid down in Court Ordinance No. 121 and approved by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom May 22, 2002.

Senior Governor

It is recognised that the Rector, when present, will preside over meetings of the Court but will not otherwise normally be involved in Court business in the way that a company chairman might be. Given this special status of the Rector, the Court appoints one of its lay members to preside at Court meetings in the absence of the Rector. The appointee - known as the Senior Governor - is responsible for appointing an alternate president to act at a meeting when neither the Rector nor the Senior Governor can be present. They have a more active role in the business of court. They have become de jure the working President of the Court.

Appointed in June 2007, the current Senior Governor is Professor Ewan Brown. Professor Brown is an alumnus of the University.

Academic Senate

The Senatus Academicus is the supreme academic body under the presidency of the University Principal. It consists of all professors, deans of faculties, heads of school, a number of elected non-professorial members of staff, and four student members. Another function of the Senate is the discipline of students. Under the Sponsio Academica the Senate has the power to expel a student should they bring the University into disrepute. However, the full Senatus Academicus has not met for many years and in this sense has ceased to play any role in the university government. Much of the Senate's business is delegated to a smaller body, the Academic Council.

Office of the Principal

The Principal is the chief executive of the University and is assisted in that role by several key officers.

The current make of the Office of the Principal is:

  • Principal: Dr Louise Richardson
  • Deputy Principal and Vice-Principal(Research): Professor Christopher Hawkesworth FRS
  • Master of the United College: Professor Neville Richardson
  • Proctor: Professor Peter Clark
  • Vice-Principal (Governance and Planning): Professor Ronald Piper
  • Vice-Principal (Learning and Teaching): Professor Pat Wilmer
  • Vice-Principal (External Relations): Stephen Magee
  • Quaestor and Factor: Derek Watson
  • Special Advisor to the Principal: David Corner - It is unclear if former Deputy Principal Corner holds this position. He was appointed under former Principal Brian Lang and served at his pleasure.


The University is divided into four Faculties - Arts, Divinity, Science, Medicine - each one governed by a Faculty Council comprising all permanent members of academic staff in each school in the Faculty (members of cross faculty schools may attend either or both Faculty Councils). These Faculty Councils, in association with the Senatus Academicus, are ultimately responsible inter alia for the approval of new undergraduate and postgraduate courses and for overseeing monitoring of the progress of students. The Deans of Faculties and other faculty officers, including those responsible for postgraduate matters, are elected by the Faculty Councils.

The Faculty Councils meet once annually, towards the end of each academic year

Teaching, Learning and Assessment Committee

The routine business of the Faculties is conducted throughout the year by the Teaching, Learning and Assessment (TLA) Committee, a standing committee reporting to Senate, and by the Faculty Business Committees. The Faculty Business Committees, comprising the Faculty officers and any other co-opted members, meet in advance of each TLA committee to dispatch routine affairs and review issues arising from the implementation of policy or course proposals, highlighting issues which may need discussion in the wider forum of the TLA.

Student Participation

There is ample scope for student participation in University government, at both undergraduate and postgraduate level.

All matriculated students of the University have the right to vote in the election of a Rector who holds office for a three-year period and chairs the University Court. The Rector appoints an Assessor who is also a member of the University Court and is usually a student.

In addition, the University Court includes in its membership the President of the University of St Andrews Students' Association, as President of the Students' Representative Council (SRC) and the Director of Representation.

There are student representatives on the Senate and the Academic Council. Students also have representatives on a wide range of University committees. The SRC itself exists to represent students on all matters and is the recognised channel of communication between students and the University authorities.

See also

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