Chancellor (education)

Chancellor (education)

A chancellor (United States) or vice-chancellor (Commonwealth) is the chief executive of a university. Other titles are sometimes used, such as president or rector.

In most Commonwealth (or former Commonwealth) nations, the term "chancellor" is usually used for a titular (figurehead) non-resident head, often with a Pro-Chancellor as practical chairman of the governing body ("the council"), the actual chief executive of a university being the vice-chancellor.

In most of continental Europe, such as Iberian Peninsula, Scandinavia and Germany, the administrative and educational head of the university is the rector. Some countries have a "great chancellor" (gran canciller) as a titular figure.




In Australia, the chancellor is chairman of the university's governing body; thus, as well as having ceremonial duties, the chancellor participates in the governance of the university (but not its active management). The chancellor is assisted by a deputy chancellor (known as the pro-chancellor in some universities). The chancellor and deputy chancellor are frequently drawn from the senior ranks of business or the judiciary (it is one of the few jobs considered compatible with judicial service). Some universities have a visitor, who is senior to the chancellor, university disputes could be appealed from the governing board to the visitor (as is still the case in the UK), but nowadays such appeal is generally prohibited by legislation, and the position has only ceremonial functions. (In fact, little function at all, since the visitor will rarely attend university functions, unlike the chancellor and deputy chancellor, who frequently preside at functions such as graduations.)

Macquarie University in Sydney, in particular, is noteworthy in having the unique position of Emeritus Deputy Chancellor, a post created for John Lincoln on his retirement from his long-held post of deputy chancellor in 2000. The new position is not merely an honorary title, as it also retains for Lincoln a place in the University Council.

Canada, England & Wales, Hong Kong and Scotland

Canadian and Scottish universities have a titular chancellor similar to those in England and Wales, with day-to-day operations typically handled by a principal. In Scotland, for example, the Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh is Anne, Princess Royal, whilst the current Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen is Lord Wilson of Tillyorn.

In Canada, the vice-chancellor usually carries the joint title of "President and Vice-Chancellor" or "Rector and Vice-Chancellor". Scottish principals generally carry the title of "Principal and Vice-Chancellor."

In Scotland the title and post of rector is reserved to the third ranked official of university governance. The position exists in common throughout the five ancient universities of Scotland with rectorships in existence at the Universities of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh. The University of Dundee is also considered to have ancient status as a result of its early connections to the University of St Andrews. The position of Lord Rector was given legal standing by virtue of the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889.

Rectors appoint a rector's assessor, effectively a deputy or stand-in, who may carry out their functions when they are absent from the university. The Rector chairs meetings of the university court, the governing body of the university, and is elected by the matriculated student body at regular intervals (usually every three years to enable every undergraduate who obtains a degree to vote at least once). An exception exists at Edinburgh, where the (Lord) Rector is elected by both students and staff. For example, the current Rector of the University of St Andrews is Kevin Dunion OBE the current Scottish Information Commissioner whilst the current Rector of the University of Aberdeen is Stephen Robertson of Scotland the What? fame.

In Hong Kong, the Chief Executive of Hong Kong (and before 1997, Governor of Hong Kong) acts as the chancellor of all public universities. Day-to-day operation is in the hands of either a vice-chancellor (older and established institutions) or a president (in newer institutions), depending on the institution.


In Germany, the chancellor is the head of the university's administration and leader of the non-scientific staff. The highest representative and leader of the scientific staff is called rector or president or chairperson of the board, depending on the university's constitution.

Turkey, Russia and Ukraine

In Turkey, Russia, and Ukraine, the chancellor is the head of the university and is called "rector". Some universities in Russia have figurehead "presidents".


In India, almost all universities have a chancellor as their titular head whose function is largely ceremonial. The governor of the state, appointed as the union's representative of state by the president, acts as the chancellor of the university. The de-facto head of the university is the vice-chancellor. His equivalent for engineering institutes is the director, even for those engineering institutes that are university equivalents, like the Indian Institutes of Technology.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland the four universities all have a chancellor as their figurehead leader. However day-to-day operations of the universities are under the directorship of a president (a provost in the case of Trinity College, Dublin). The National University of Ireland's constituent universities do not have a chancellor each, rather, the president of each constituent university has the title of Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the NUI. In Dublin City University and the University of Limerick, the chancellor is also the chairman of the university's governing authority.


In Malaysia, the chancellor position is given to dignitaries such as royalty or prominent politicians by universities to represent the universities in the political arena. For example, the chancellor of University of Malaya, the oldest university in Malaysia is Sultan Azlan Shah of Perak, the ninth Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. His Majesty's eldest son, Raja Nazrin Shah is a pro-chancellor at the same university.

The chancellor of Universiti Putra Malaysia is the current Sultan of Selangor, Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah, while the current Yang di-Pertuan Besar of modern Negeri Sembilan, Tunku Muhriz is the chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, the wife of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was appointed as the new chancellor of Open University Malaysia to take over the role from the first chancellor, the late YBhg Datin Paduka Seri Endon Mahmood (Abdullah Badawi's first wife).

Recently, UCSI in Kuala Lumpur has given recognition to Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Dr. Abdul Rahman Arshad as its first chancellor.

The Philippines

In the Philippines, the De La Salle University and the University of the Philippines designate the head of its universities as the chancellor. The universities make up a system, whose head is designated as the president. The chancellor designates the different vice-chancellors for different areas of concern of the university: academic affairs, finance, and community affairs, among others.


In Pakistan chancellor is normally the figurehead of the university, who is normally the provincial governor where that university exists. Day to day business of the university is run by the vice chancellor.


Chancellor is a titular position in Bangladesh, always held by the incumbent President of Bangladesh under the Private Universities Act 1992.[1] The position in public universities is not fixed for the president under any acts or laws (since the erection of a state university in Bangladesh requires an act to be passed in itself),[2] but it has been the custom so far to name the incumbent president of the country as chancellor of all state universities thus established.

Day to day business of the university is run by the vice chancellor. He has a deputy called the pro-vice chancellor.


In Nepal, universities have a chancellor as ceremonial head. The de facto head of the university is the vice-chancellor. The chancellor is primarily responsible for attending the convocation programmes and accepting the resignation and appointment letter of a new vice-chancellor. Generally, the Prime Minister is considered as the chancellor and in his absence the minister of education acts as the chancellor.

United States

In the United States, heads of universities are typically called either "president" or "chancellor," depending on the preference and statutes of the university. A state's university system may also be headed by a "chancellor" who serves as system-wide chief, with presidents governing individual institutions. There are also some university systems, such as the University of Illinois, the University of Massachusetts, and the University of California systems, in which those two titles are reversed. At Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, which is a single, unified, university with three campuses, the chief officers of the two smaller campuses at Camden and Newark are now called chancellors, a renaming from "provost". (Rutgers University itself has a President as the chief officer.)

Chancellors or presidents are normally the functional chief executive officers of their universities. There are some exceptions: for instance, the College of William & Mary uses chancellor in the British sense, as a figurehead leader, but the actual executive of the school is the "president," not a "vice-chancellor." The Catholic University of America is headed by a President (formerly "rector"), with the Archbishop of Washington serving as chancellor, a ceremonial position but one which does require the archbishop to represent the university before the Holy See.

The title is sometimes used in K-12 education in a sense similar to superintendent of schools, particularly in urban school districts. The New York City Schools Chancellor is the chief executive officer of the New York City Department of Education, which runs the city's manages the public school system (the largest in the United States). The leader of the District of Columbia Public Schools system is also referred to as the chancellor.

University president

University president is the title of the highest ranking officer within the academic administration of a university, within university systems that prefer that appellation over other variations such as chancellor or rector. The relative seniority varies between institutions.

Northern Ireland

In Northern Ireland, the president is the chief academic and administrative officer of the university and is usually also the vice-chancellor of the university.

United States

In some state university systems, the chancellor has authority over all universities in the system, and therefore ranks higher than the presidents of individual universities within the system. In other state university systems, the president has authority over multiple campuses, each of which is headed by a chancellor who is under the authority of the president.


A "vice-chancellor" (commonly called a "VC") of a university in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, India, Sri Lanka other Commonwealth countries, and some universities in Hong Kong, is the chief executive of the University. In Scotland, Canada and Ireland the chief executive of a university is usually called principal or president with vice-chancellor being an honorific associated with this title, allowing the individual to bestow degrees in absence of the chancellor.

Strictly speaking, the VC is only the deputy to the chancellor of the university, but the chancellor is usually a prominent public figure who acts as a ceremonial figurehead only (e.g., the Chancellor of the University of Cambridge for 36 years was Prince Philip), while the vice-chancellor acts as the day-to-day chief executive. An assistant to a vice-chancellor is called a pro-vice-chancellor or deputy vice-chancellor — these are sometimes teaching academics who take on additional responsibilities. In some universities (e.g. in Australian universities: Deakin University, Macquarie University), there are several deputy vice-chancellors subordinate to the vice-chancellor, with pro-vice-chancellor being a position at executive level ranking below deputy vice-chancellor.

There are a few exceptions within England. For example the Charter of the University of Manchester provides for the vice chancellor to also use the title president, and the first vice chancellor Alan Gilbert (2004–10) used president as his main title. The Rector of Imperial College is its chief executive.


The executive head of an Australian university is the vice-chancellor, who serves as the university equivalent of a Chief Executive Officer.[3] The vice-chancellor is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the university and reports directly to the University Council, which the chancellor heads.[4] Assisting the vice-chancellor, the roles of deputy vice-chancellors and pro vice-chancellors have emerged to better manage the administrative overhead of the position.[5]

Canada and Scotland

Canadian university vice-chancellors almost always carry the title of "President (or equivalent) and Vice-Chancellor": likewise, in Scotland, they hold the position of "Principal and Vice-Chancellor", as do a few Canadian universities such as Queen's and McGill. In the Scottish practice the one individual may have two sets of official robes, reflecting a continuing division of responsibilities between the two posts.


In India most central and state level universities have a titutar head called chancellor who is either an eminent person appointed by the Government of India (in central universities) or provincial governor (in state universities). The de facto head of a university is the vice-chancellor, the highest paid official of the university. Next in command are more than one pro-vice chancellor in charge of academic as well as administrative and financial affairs. In deemed universities and institutes of national importance, the head of the institution is either called director general or director, the latter designation being more commonly used in academic organisations in the subcontinent. A director of a centrally funded educational body normally holds the rank of a joint secretary of the Government of India.


The President of Bangladesh is the titular chancellor of all universities in Bangladesh, public or private. The vice chancellor is the executive head, and his deputy, the pro-vice chancellor holds a full time administrative office.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka all the government universities are administered by the vice-chancellor.

Republic of Ireland

In the Republic of Ireland, day-to-day operations of the universities are under the directorship of a president (a provost in the case of Trinity College Dublin). However, the president of each constituent university of the National University of Ireland also has the title of pro-vice-chancellor of the NUI.


In the Philippines, in the University of Santo Tomas the day-to-day head of the university, as mandated by his duty as the Prior Provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province, the Dominican province that has majority control over the university.

As said earlier, the vice-chancellor or the "Grand Vice Chancellor of the University of Santo Tomas" is only the deputy to the chancellor of the university, but the chancellor is usually a prominent public figure who is not always in the country (e.g., the Chancellor of University of Santo Tomas is the current Master of the Order of Preachers, the current being Very Rev. Fr. Bruno Cadoré, OP, while the rector acts as the day-to-day chief executive. The current vice chancellor of UST is the Prior Provincial of the Philippine Dominican Province, Very Rev. Fr. Quirico Pedregosa, OP. The current rector of the university is Rev. Fr. Rolando V. dela Rosa, OP.


In Sweden, the rektor (rector) is the head of a Swedish university, but the word vice-chancellor (vicekansler) is often used as the English translation of rektor. The vice-chancellor (vicekansler) is also an honorary title given to the rectors at the universities of Lund and Uppsala.

United States

In the United States, a vice-chancellor is an assistant to a chancellor, who is generally the (actual, not merely ceremonial) head of one campus of a large university which has several campuses. The head of the entire university is the president (the equivalent of a Commonwealth vice-chancellor), the chancellor is in charge of one campus, and a vice-chancellor is one of the chief assistants. Some systems, such as the California State University and Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, invert this ranking so that the chancellor is the head of the entire university.

At the University of the South, the vice-chancellor is the administrative head of the university (as well as mayor of the town of Sewanee). The chancellor is a Bishop of one of the 28 southeastern Episcopal Dioceses which own the University, and is elected by the members of the Board of Trustees. The chancellor neither resides at the university nor holds administrative power; the office of chancellor is a ceremonial one.


The principal is the chief executive and the chief academic officer of a university or college in certain parts of the Commonwealth.

A "director" is the chief executive officer of a university or other educational institution. Equivalent names in different countries are Vice-Chancellor (many Commonwealth countries), Chancellor (United States), principal (Scotland and Canada), and University President.


In Scotland the principal is appointed by the University Court or governing body of the university and will be chairman or president of the body of academics. In the case of the ancient universities of Scotland the principal is president of the Academic Senate. The principal also holds the title of vice-chancellor but their powers with regard to this position extend only to the awarding of degrees, as both the vice-chancellor and chancellor are titular posts.


Queen's University and McGill University in Canada have principals instead of presidents, as a result of their Scottish origins. In addition the Royal Military College of Canada also has a principal.

South Africa

In South Africa the Higher Education Act 101 of 1997 defines the principal as "the chief executive and accounting officer of a public higher education institution".[6] The definition allows for the alternative nomenclatures of vice-chancellor and a rector, and these terms are in widespread use (the term vice-chancellor is more common in English-medium universities, whilst the term rector tends to be used in Afrikaans-medium universities). The exact name in a particular university will be defined by the Institutional Statute. The same act defines the chancellor as the titular head of an institution.

See also


  1. ^ "The Private University Act, 1992". Südasien-Institut. Retrieved 6 April 2011. 
  2. ^ "Ministry of Education - Law/Act". Ministry of Education, Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh. Retrieved April 6, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Vice-Chancellors at Australia's universities". Universities Australia. Retrieved 7 November 2011. 
  4. ^ Toncich, Dario (2008). Study and Learning in the Australian University System. Dario Toncich. pp. 60–70. ISBN 1876665025. 
  5. ^ McMillan, David (1968). Australian universities: a descriptive sketch. Taylor & Francis. p. 33. 
  6. ^ "Higher Education Act 101 of 1997". 2010-07-04. Retrieved 2010-07-04. 

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