Human rights lawyer elected Rector

Prominent human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe has been named as Rector of the University.

Debora Kayembe
New Rector Debora Kayembe

Ms Kayembe, who came to the UK as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, has made her home in Scotland since 2011.

She has served on the board of the Scottish Refugee Council, and is a member of the office of the prosecutor at the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Court Bar Association.

In 2019, she became the first African to have her portrait erected on the wall of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, honouring her achievements and contributions.

Ms Kayembe recently launched the Freedom Walk campaign, a civil rights movement promoting social reforms, racial justice and community harmony.

Ms Kayembe will take up her role on 1 March. She becomes the third woman to fill the role since it was created in 1858, following in the footsteps of Muriel Gray and outgoing Rector Ann Henderson.

University Court

The Rector plays a presiding role at the University Court, the University’s governing body.

They also chair meetings of the General Council in absence of the Chancellor and work closely with students and the Students’ Association.

Established in law by an 1858 Act of Parliament, the position of Rector has a long and prestigious lineage.

This year marks 162 years since William Gladstone first took up the post as Rector at the University.

Previous Rectors include eminent politician Sir Winston Churchill, television presenter Muriel Gray and former Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

I am delighted and deeply honoured to be elected as the first person of colour to hold the position of Rector of the University of  Edinburgh. I am fully aware of the importance of my role at such a critical time.  We are facing so many challenges: from the Covid-19 pandemic to the battles for racial justice and the reckoning from the past in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and the birth of the Black Lives Matter Movement. Respect for the values of humanity and kindness lies at the heart of all my work and I look forward to working with  staff, students, and the whole University community, to ensure that everyone is valued." 

Debora Kayembe Lawyer , Linguist and Human Rights Campaigner 

I am delighted to welcome Ms Kayembe to the University of Edinburgh. The position of Rector has a long and prestigious lineage, with rectors coming from a broad range of public and cultural life. I very much look forward to working with our new Rector as we navigate our way through the Covid-19 pandemic and build a bright future for the entire University community.

Professor Peter MathiesonUniversity of Edinburgh Principal and Vice-Chancellor

Related links 

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