October 2019 Senate – supplementary information

This paper provides information on how Senate operates. Please read in conjunction with Senate’s Standing Orders.

1.  Composition

Senate comprises:

Ex officio members: 

The Principal (Convener)

The Clerk of Senate

The Vice-Principals

Heads of School

Directors of Research Institutes

The Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary

Five elected academic staff members on Court

Student members:  Thirteen student members, appointed by and from the Students’ Representative Council.
Elected members:  Elected members shall be twice the number of ex-officio members, and they shall be elected by and from the academic staff of the University. Ex-officio members of Senate are not eligible to stand as elected members but are permitted to participate in votes for elected members in the College corresponding to their own academic discipline.  

Elected members

The Colleges shall appoint the following numbers of members to Senate:

College of Arts 14
College of Medical, Veterinary & Life Sciences  25
College of Science &Engineering 22
College of Social Sciences 25

The proportion of the elected membership of Senate appointed by the Colleges reflects in equal measure each College’s proportion of the total student numbers and teaching and research staff numbers in the University. Senate will review the proportions against current teaching and research staff and student numbers every three years to ensure their currency, also taking into consideration any increase in the number of members ex officio of Senate. 

A minimum of 20% of the elected members of Senate in each College shall be non-professorial members of academic staff.

All academic staff members in the University may stand for election from their College to Senate but nominations on behalf of women and other frequently under-represented groups are particularly welcome.

Nominees must be proposed and seconded by members of academic staff in their College and must confirm their willingness to stand for election.

Elections to Senate shall be by means of the plurality-at-large method. Thus, each constituent will be given a number of votes that equates to the number of vacancies. The candidates receiving the most votes will be elected in rank order to fill the vacancies available, subject to the minimum number of non-professorial members of Senate to be appointed. Where the group of candidates receiving most votes means that the minimum number of non-professorial candidates would not be achieved, the highest-polling non-professorial candidate(s) from the group of remaining candidates shall be appointed ahead of the lowest polling professorial nominees within the group of candidates receiving the most votes until the threshold number of non-professorial appointments is reached. In the event of a tie, lots will be drawn.

Elections shall be managed by the Senate Office.

Elected members of Senate who miss two or more meetings in any one academic session without providing apologies in advance of Senate meetings shall be deemed to have resigned from Senate, and a new member will be elected to commence their term of office in the subsequent academic session. 

Period of appointment of elected members

The period of appointment of elected members shall be three years. Elected staff members may stand for a second, but not a third, consecutive term. The period of appointment of an elected staff member will be extended for the duration of any substantial absence from the University, such as maternity leave or a sabbatical period away from the University. Substitutes will not be appointed during such absences.

Responsibility of members of Senate

Members appointed to Senate are individually and collectively responsible to Senate. Elected members are not appointed as College (or School, Research Institute or Subject) delegates.

2.  Senate appointments

Appointment of officers of Senate

The constituency from which the following, and any comparable appointments subsequently established by Senate, are drawn shall be members of academic staff in the University.

The associated positions are:

  • The Clerk of Senate
  • Elected Academic Staff Members on Court
  • Senate Assessors for Appeals
  • Senate Assessors for Student Conduct
  • Senate Assessors for Complaints

Unless otherwise specified under the terms of associated constitutions, the constituency from which Senate appointments to external positions, such as school governing bodies, shall be the academic body of the University.

Delegation of responsibilities to committees of Senate

Senate may delegate responsibilities to committees as it sees fit to deal with appropriate aspects of its remit.

Appointment of committees

Senate shall establish such committees as it sees fit to assist it to fulfil its duties. Current committees of Senate are listed below:

Research Planning & Strategy Committee

Education Policy & Strategy Committee

Student Experience Committee

University Ethics Committee for Non-clinical Research

Senate Business Committee

Honorary Degrees Committee

Senate Appeals Committee

Senate Conduct Committee

Senate Conduct Appeals Committee

Academic Standards Committee

Academic Dress Committee

Gifford Committee

Military Education Committee

The Committees listed here – hitherto committees of the Council of Senate – shall be formally reappointed as committees of Senate at the first meeting of Senate on 10 October 2019. On appointment as committees of Senate, they shall retain their prior remits, compositions and memberships until revised by Senate either directly or on the recommendation of the committees themselves (Committees are required to consider on an annual basis whether their compositions and remits remain appropriate).

Joint Senate/Court Working Group

Occasionally the Principal - either on their own initiative, or having received advice from the Senate or Court - may decide that an issue is of sufficient importance to the academic work of the University that a formal Joint Senate/Court Working Group should be established. The Group would have a remit to consider the matter and to formulate recommendations to Senate and Court, and its establishment would require the approval of both bodies.

3.  Meetings of Senate

Senate shall determine the number of ordinary meetings it shall hold each academic year as set out in the Standing Orders.

The quorum for meetings of Senate shall be one-third of the membership of Senate as established in the 1858 Universities (Scotland) Act.

Meetings shall be convened by the Principal. In the absence of the Principal, meetings shall be convened by the senior Vice-Principal or another Vice-Principal (excepting the Clerk of Senate).

In the event that a vote is held, the Convener shall have a deliberative and a casting vote.

It shall be open to all members of Senate to attend meetings of Senate, and all members of Senate will receive the papers for the meetings of Senate. Other persons who are not members of Senate may attend meetings of Senate by arrangement with the Senate Office, but may not participate in the discussions except by invitation from the Convener.

Extraordinary meetings of Senate may be called by the Principal in consultation with the Clerk of Senate, or on the submission to the Director of the Senate Office of a motion signed by a minimum of fourteen members of Senate[1].

Outwith meetings

The Principal and Clerk of Senate may act on Senate’s behalf on any urgent matter between ordinary meetings of Senate. A record of action taken will be provided to the next ordinary meeting of Senate.

Proposal of agenda items

Items may be proposed for the Senate agenda by any member of Senate. Proposed items will be considered by the Senate Business Committee. In the event that the Business Committee decides not to add proposed items to the agenda, it shall provide its reasons for its decision to the member submitting the proposal.


[1] Arrived at on the basis that fourteen members represent c. 10% of the membership of Senate.