Staff news

Debora Kayembe installed as Rector

Human rights lawyer Debora Kayembe has officially been installed as University Rector.

Short highlights of the ceremony, which took place at the University’s Playfair Library on 21 June, can be viewed here: 


Video: Debora Kayembe installed as Rector
Installation of Debora Kayembe as Rector of the University of Edinburgh. A short highlight of the ceremony, which took place at the University’s Playfair Library on 21 June, is available here.


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 is the third woman to fill the role since it was created in 1858, following in the footsteps of Muriel Gray and Ann Henderson.


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 aftermath of 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

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 163 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.


Full video of the ceremony can be viewed here:

Debora Kayembe installed as Rector | The University of Edinburgh


Related links

The Rector

University Court