The Rector

The primary role of the Rector is to preside at the University Court.

The Rector also chairs meetings of the General Council in absence of the Chancellor.

They work closely with students and the Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA).

University Rector Simon Fanshawe

Current Rector: Simon Fanshawe

Simon Fanshawe OBE is a diversity consultant, broadcaster and author. He is the co-founder of Diversity by Design which supports organisations to truly diversify their senior people. His latest book “The Power of Difference” was published in December 2021 by Kogan Page. It is the Chartered Institute Management’s Book of 2023. He was voted the second Most Influential Thinker in 2022 by HR Magazine and inducted into their Hall of Fame in 2023.

He is currently on the Board of Powerful Women and is Chairman of Hexagon Housing Association. He was previously Chairman of Sussex University, a non-exec director of Housing & Care 21, a Governor of the Museum of London and on the Board of Brighton Dome and Festival.

He has long been involved in campaigns for equality and positive social change and has served on the Board of companies and organisations in the private and charity sectors for over thirty-five years. He was a co-founder of Stonewall and of the Kaleidoscope Trust.

He was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to Higher Education and made an Honorary Doctor of the University of Sussex for services to diversity and human rights.


Enquiries to the Rector can be made to:

Previous Rectors

The position of Rector has a long and prestigious lineage. Originally created in the 19th century by the Universities Scotland Act 1858, the role has developed over time.

The position of Rector was initially filled by eminent politicians and military figures in the 18th and 19th centuries, including Sir Winston Churchill and the Right Honourable W E Gladstone.

In recent years rectors have come a broader range of Scotland’s public and cultural life, including television presenter Muriel Gray and the first Green politician Robin Harper MSP, all of whom have had some connection with Edinburgh.

Photo gallery

Photographs of Rectors from as far back as 1920.

List of previous Rectors

  • 2024 Simon Fanshawe (current)
  • 2021 Debora Kayembe
  • 2018 Ann Henderson
  • 2015 Steve Morrison 
  • 2012 Peter McColl
  • 2009 Iain Macwhirter
  • 2006 Mark Ballard
  • 2003 Tam Dalyell MP
  • 2000 Robin Harper MSP
  • 1997 John Colquhoun
  • 1994 Dr Malcolm Macleod
  • 1991 Donnie Munro
  • 1988 Muriel Gray
  • 1985 Archie MacPherson
  • 1982 David Steel (now Sir David Steel)
  • 1979 Dr Anthony Ross
  • 1975 Magnus Magnusson
  • 1972 Dr Gordon Brown
  • 1971 Jonathan Wills
  • 1968 Kenneth Allsop
  • 1966 Malcolm Muggeridge
  • 1963 James Robertson Justice
  • 1960 Joseph Grimond
  • 1957 James Robertson Justice
  • 1954 Sir Sydney A Smith
  • 1951 Sir Alexander Fleming
  • 1948 Alastair Sim
  • 1945 Viscount Cunningham of Hyndhope
  • 1939 Sir J Donald Pollock, Baronet
  • 1936 Sir Herbert John Clifford Grierson
  • 1935 Viscount Allenby
  • 1932 General Sir Ian Hamilton
  • 1929 The Rt Hon. Sir Winston Churchill
  • 1926 The Rt Hon. Sir John Gilmour
  • 1923 The Rt Hon. Stanley Baldwin
  • 1920 The Rt Hon. David Lloyd George
  • 1917 Earl Beatty
  • 1914 Earl Kitchener of Khartoum
  • 1911 The Earl of Minto
  • 1908 The Rt Hon. Geo. Wyndham
  • 1905 The Rt Hon. Richard Burdon Haldane
  • 1902 Sir Robert Bannatyne Finlay
  • 1899 The Marquess of Dufferin & Ava
  • 1896 Lord Balfour of Burleigh
  • 1893 The Rt Hon. J P B Robertson
  • 1890 The Rt Hon. G J Goschen
  • 1887 The Marquess of Lothian
  • 1883 Earl of Iddlesleigh
  • 1880 Earl of Rosebery
  • 1877 The Marquess of Hartington
  • 1874 Earl of Derby
  • 1871 Sir W Stirling Maxwell
  • 1868 Lord Moncrieff
  • 1865 Thomas Carlyle
  • 1859 The Rt Hon. W E Gladstone

Related links

Membership of University Court