Governance & Strategic Planning

Standing Orders of the University Court

Approved by the Court on 12 May 2014, minor revision 6 February 2017.

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1.3 Any Standing Order may be amended or repealed after due notice has been given at an ordinary meeting of Court provided that at least two thirds of the members present and voting so decide.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. 187: Composition of the University Court as amended by University of Edinburgh Ordinance No 192: Local Authority Membership of the University Court and shall consist of twenty-two members.

Membership is as follows:

  • Rector
  • Principal
  • One Assessor nominated by the Chancellor
  • Four Assessors nominated by the Senate
  • Three Assessors nominated by the General Council
  • One Assessor nominated by the City of Edinburgh Council
  • One Assessor nominated by the Non-Teaching Staff
  • Two fully matriculated students nominated by the Students' Representative Council (now EUSA)
  • Up to eight 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 General Council will elect its Assessors for a period of four years in accordance with the University of Edinburgh Ordinance 210: Election of Chancellor and General Council Assessors and Chairing of General Council Meetings: arrangements for the election will be determined from time to time by the Business Committee of the General Council.

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 Non-Teaching Staff Assessor will be elected for a period of up to four years by and from among University staff not eligible to be part of the membership of Senate: this exclusion includes members of staff such as readers, senior lectures and lecturers able to be appointed to Senate. The arrangements to conduct the election of Non-Teaching Staff are approved by Court.

2.9 The Students’ Representative Council (now EUSA) will annually nominate two fully matriculated students to be members of Court: this is normally two of the elected EUSA sabbatical officers.

2.10 The eight 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. The Vice-Convener of Court shall be included as one of the eight co-opted members of Court but a separate recruitment will be undertaken to appoint to this position. The Vice-Convener of Court’s recruitment process will also be managed by the Nominations Committee in accordance with arrangements approved from time to time by Court: the position of Vice-Convener of Court is similar to that of Chair of institution.

2.11 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 and the General Council. If an existing member of Court is appointed Vice-Convener of Court the previous appointment on Court does not apply to eligibility to be reappointed to a further term of office as Vice-Convener of Court.

3. Rector and Vice-Convener of Court

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

3.2 The Vice-Convener of Court 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 Vice-Convener of Court 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:

- support and promotion of the seven principles advocated by Lord Nolan’s Committee;

- 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, including those holding the position of Vice-Convener of Court, 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. 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 Vice-Convener of Court or following a written request presented to the University Secretary signed by at least five members of Court specifying the purpose of the meeting. 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’ Representative Council (now EUSA). 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 exception 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.

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.

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.