Governance & Strategic Planning

Standing Orders of the University Court

Standing Orders

Approved by the Court on 12 May 2014, last updated on 15 June 2020.

1. University of Edinburgh Court

1.1 The Court of the University of Edinburgh is constituted in terms of the Universities (Scotland) Acts 1859 to 1966 and secondary or subordinate legislation: Ordinances, Resolutions and SIs/SSIs. It is the University’s governing body and is the legal persona of the University.

1.2 Any Standing Order may be suspended at any meeting of the Court provided that least two thirds of the members present and voting so decide.

1.3 Any Standing Order may be amended or repealed after due notice has been given at an ordinary meeting of Court provided that at least two thirds of the members present and voting so decide.

1.4 A copy of the current Standing Orders shall be provided to all members of Court on appointment and on each occasion that an amendment is approved to the Standing Orders.

2. Membership

2.1  The membership of Court shall be in accordance with University of Edinburgh Ordinance No. 211: Composition of the University Court and shall normally consist of twenty-three members and a maximum of twenty-five members.

Membership is as follows:

  • Rector
  • Principal
  • Senior Lay Member
  • One Assessor nominated by the Chancellor
  • Two Assessors nominated by the Senate
  • One Member elected by the academic staff from among their own number
  • Three Assessors appointed by Court who are members of the General Council
  • One Assessor nominated by the City of Edinburgh Council
  • One Member elected by the professional services staff from among their own number
  • One Member nominated by a Trade Union from among the academic staff
  • One Member nominated by a Trade Union from among the professional services staff
  • Two Members nominated by the Students’ Association from among the students of the University
  • Normally seven and a maximum of nine Co-opted members

2.2 The Rector is elected every three years by students and staff in accordance with University of Edinburgh Ordinance No 197: Rectorial Election: the election shall be conducted in accordance with arrangements approved by Court.

2.3 The Principal is an ex officio member of Court: the Curators of Patronage nominate to the office of Principal.

2.4 The Chancellor will nominate their assessor for a period of up to four years.

2.5 Senate will elect its Assessors for a period of up to four years in accordance with the provisions of the University (Scotland) Act 1966 and arrangements agreed by Senate.

2.6   The  Court will appoint three Assessors from among the membership of the General Council for a period of four years in accordance with the University of Edinburgh Ordinance 211: Composition of the University Court following an open advertisement and recruitment process overseen by a joint Court-General Council Selection Panel. The Selection Panel will include three Court representatives, including the chair, to be appointed by Nominations Committee and three General Council representatives.

2.7 The City of Edinburgh Council will nominate a member of the Council for a period of no greater than four years.

2.8  The Professional Services Staff Member will be elected for a period of up to four years by and from among University staff who are professional services staff (i.e. who are not academic or research staff) and therefore includes all members of staff who are not represented on Senate The arrangements to conduct the election of the Professional Services Staff Member are approved by Court.

2.9  The Academic Staff Member will be elected for a period of up to four years by and from among University staff who are academic or research staff and therefore includes all members of staff who are represented on Senate. The individual elected will also become a member of Senate if they are not already a member. The arrangements to conduct the election of the Academic Staff Member are approved by Court.

2.10  The Trade Unions will nominate one member from among the academic staff of the University and one member from among the professional services staff of the University, both for a period of up to four years.  

2.11  The Students’ Association will annually nominate two matriculated students to be members of Court: this is normally two of the elected Association sabbatical officers, including the President. The Students’ Association will consider equality and diversity implications, including gender balance, when nominating the two members.

2.12  The Senior Lay Member will be appointed in accordance with section 8 of the Higher Education Governance (Scotland) Act 2016 for a period of three years. The appointment may be extended for a further and final period of three years by agreement of the Court on the recommendation of the Nominations Committee, without recourse to a further election. The arrangements to conduct the recruitment and election of the Senior Lay Member are approved by Court.

2.13  The normally seven and up to nine co-opted members of Court shall be appointed by Court following an open and transparent recruitment process managed by the Nominations Committee in accordance with arrangements approved from time to time by Court for a period of up to four years. 

2.14  Members of Court only in exceptional circumstances are likely to be re-appointed beyond two consecutive periods of office subject to the regulations applying in respect of the elections held by the Senate.   All bodies entitled to appoint members of Court are asked to consider the equality and diversity of the Court’s membership, including gender balance, when making an appointment.

3. Rector and Senior Lay Member

3.1  The Rector shall preside at meetings of Court and in the absence of the Rector the Senior Lay Member shall preside and if neither the Rector nor the Senior Lay Member is present then a lay member of Court will be nominated by those present to preside at that meeting.

3.2  The Senior Lay Member is similar to chair of institution and in order to provide clarity, Court has agreed a Statement on the Roles of the Rector and the Senior Lay Member setting out the responsibilities of each position.

4. Resignation and removal of members

4.1 On joining Court, all members require to confirm that they are familiar with the University’s agreed Code of Conduct and understand their obligations under it. This includes:

- acting in accordance with the Nine Principles of Public Life in Scotland;

- understand their obligations in respect of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002;

- declaring any potential conflicts of interest;

- as a trustee of a charity they require to declare that they are not disqualified from acting in this capacity in terms of the Charities and Trustee Investment (Scotland) Act 2005; and

- compliance with the University’s Anti-Bribery and Corruption Policy.

4.2 Court will expect an appointed or elected member of Court who is in gross or persistent breach of the Code of Conduct to resign and reserves the right to draw such a situation to the attention to the individual or the body electing/nominating the individual.

4.3 Such a breach may occur through persistent absenteeism, medical or legal impediment such as a criminal conviction or and behaviour deemed to be opposed to the good standing of the University and its values.

4.4 In respect of co-opted members, the University of Edinburgh Ordinance No. 200 grants Court specific powers to remove a co-opted member in accordance with the process set out in Resolution No. 28/2000. The Nominations Committee on the request of member of Court or the University Secretary will consider any such matter in the first instance prior to consideration by Court.

Meetings of Court

5.1 The meetings and proceedings of Court shall be conducted in accordance with its Standing Orders.

5.2 Ordinary meetings of Court shall be held at least five times in each academic year. Meetings may be held in person or virtually by the means of videoconference, teleconference or other means.  The dates of meetings shall be notified to Court no later than its penultimate meeting in the previous academic year and published on the University’s website and any other such manner as determined by Court. Meetings shall be scheduled so as to permit the annual cycle of business, the details of which will vary from time to time, to be conducted expeditiously and effectively.

5.3  Special meetings of Court may be called following a decision of Court or by the Senior Lay Member or following a written request presented to the University Secretary signed by at least five members of Court specifying the purpose of the meeting. Special meetings may be held in person or virtually by the means of videoconference, teleconference or other means.  Except in exceptional circumstances members of Court will be given notice of the intention to hold a special meeting not less than five working days before the date of the special meeting. The lack of receipt of such a notice on any member will not affect the validity of a special meeting.

5.4 Any ordinary or special meeting of Court may be adjourned until another date and time as agreed by Court.

5.5 Proceedings are not invalidated as a result of a vacancy in membership of Court.

5.6 The University Secretary and other senior members of the University will be invited to attend ordinary and special meetings of Court and receive papers unless otherwise determined by Court.

6. Conduct of Meetings

6.1  In accordance with the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889 seven members of Court shall be a quorum. This number, in accordance with the University of Edinburgh Ordinance 201, must include at least two members who are neither employees of the Court nor members nominated by the Students’  Association.  If at any meeting the attention of the Rector, or in the absence of the Rector the individual presiding at the meeting in terms of 3.1, is drawn to the fact that a quorum is not present, those in attendance may provisionally deal with such unopposed business as the Rector, or in the absence of the Rector, the individual presiding, may judge to be of a non-contentious character; but such business shall not in any case include the approval of the minute of any previous meeting or item reserved for Court approval as set out in the agreed schedule. All other business shall be deferred until the next ordinary meeting.

6.2 The Rector, or in the absence of the Rector the individual presiding at the meeting in terms of 3.1, shall have a deliberate and a casting vote in the case of equality in accordance with the Universities (Scotland) Acts.

6.3 No business shall be transacted at any meeting of Court other than that specified on the agenda. Court may consider non-contentious or urgent business with the consent of the individual presiding at the meeting and the majority of members present. A request to include an additional item should be raised at the start of any meeting to enable the required agreement to be obtained.

6.4 Any member wishing to place an item on the agenda for an ordinary meeting of Court should notify the University Secretary in writing at least 10 working days before the date of the meeting to enable that item to be included on the agenda for the meeting.

6.5 The agenda and supporting papers for ordinary meetings will be made available to members five working days before the meeting of Court: only in exceptional circumstances will late papers be made available and no later than two days before the meeting.

6.6 All decisions on actions or questions arising from issues being discussed at a meeting will be agreed by a majority of the members present and voting and will normally be reached by consensus without the requirement for a formal vote.  All decisions will continue to be operative and binding until the Court agrees to rescind or vary that decision.

6.7 A formal vote on any issue may be undertaken either via a show of hands or through a secret ballot at the request of any member of Court and duly seconded by another member of Court. The University Secretary will be responsible for ensuring the proper conduct of such a formal vote. The decision will be agreed by a majority vote.

6.8 Agendas, papers and the minutes for non-reserved Court items are published after meetings, unless publication would damage the effective operation of Court business and subject to any disclosure restrictions under the terms of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 and other relevant legislation.

6.9 All Court members will normally participate in all Court business. In highly exceptional circumstances, items may be declared ‘reserved.’ The presiding Court member, in consultation with the University Secretary, will determine if any items are to be designated ‘reserved’ and will define the group of members permitted access to the information.

7. Minutes

7.1 The University Secretary will be responsible for ensuring the preparation of the Minute of each meeting of Court, a draft minute will circulated to members as soon as possible after the meeting.

7.2 The names of members and other individuals present at a meeting will be recorded in the minute of the meeting and the minute will be published.

7.3 The minute will be submitted for approval at the next ordinary meeting of Court.

8. Committees

8.1 The Court may appoint Standing Committees of its own number or others and define their powers, and determine the membership and the quorum of such Standing Committees, and abolish existing Standing Committees. Standing Committees will report to Court in accordance with their terms of reference as approved by Court or as Court may determine from time to time. The Court may also appoint members to Joint Committees responsible to both the Senate and the Court.