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).

Current Rector: Ann Henderson

Ann Henderson University Rector

Ann Henderson was born and brought up in Edinburgh. She graduated from Edinburgh University in 1978, MA Sociology and Social Administration. Subsequently Ann gained a Diploma in Youth and Community Work at Manchester Polytechnic. She was actively involved in the student community, including volunteering with Children’s Holiday Venture at Edinburgh, Women’s Group membership, and as a member of the Student Representative Council. After a sabbatical year with Manchester Area NUS, and a year on the NUS Executive, Ann moved back to Scotland.

Her employment has included fifteen years in the rail industry in Glasgow, working in a local railway station and then as a train guard, going on to become one of Scotland’s first female train drivers, whilst also taking on a trade union representative role. In 1996 Ann took up a community development post working with women in Castlemilk, Glasgow, before moving back to Edinburgh in 1999.

Ann is currently working as a researcher in the Scottish Parliament, having also worked there 1999 – 2007, for various MSPs in the Labour Group. She took up a senior post at the Scottish TUC in 2007 until late 2017, working with many different trade unions, Scottish Government, Parliament and supporting the STUC Women’s Committee. Ann was elected to the Scottish Labour Party Executive in 2017.

Ann’s commitment and experience was reflected in her appointment in 2008 as Scotland Commissioner to the Women’s National Commission. She continues to be actively involved in women’s groups, with a particular interest in labour movement women’s history, in campaigns for equality and social justice, and in local community activity, including her local bowling club in Edinburgh.


Enquiries to the Rector are handled by Melissa Dowdeswell.

Melissa Dowdeswell

Contact details

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

  • 2018 Ann Henderson (current)
  • 2015 Steve Morrison 
  • 2011 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