The role of the Vice-Chancellor

The Vice-Chancellor is the senior officer of the University. The role of the Vice-Chancellor is to provide strategic direction and leadership to the collegiate University, and to position and represent the University internationally, nationally and regionally.

The Vice-Chancellor chairs Council and other principal University bodies, and nominates deputies to chair others. He or she works closely with the Colleges to ensure a coherent vision across all the constituent parts of the University, and works with Council, Congregation, the Academic Divisions and the Conference of Colleges to ensure that the governance, management and administration of the collegiate University are efficient and effective.

The Vice-Chancellor is also involved in securing and continuing the growth of the University's financial base, and takes a principal role in the University's fundraising, including the development of relations with alumni. He or she also carries out important ceremonial and civic duties, including matriculation and degree ceremonies.

Originally, the Vice-Chancellor was the temporary commissary or deputy of the Chancellor, exercising all  Chancellor’s powers in his absence. From the early 16th century, the Vice-Chancellor became the chief executive officer of the University. He was usually a Fellow of one of the colleges or a Canon of Christ Church, and was elected by Convocation, although from 1569 onwards he was nominated by the Chancellor.

The Laudian Code of 1636 decreed that the Vice-Chancellor must be a head of a college and by convention Heads of House were nominated in order of seniority. The Franks Commission (1966) decreed that the Vice-Chancellor was to be elected by Congregation (on the nomination of a committee consisting of the Chancellor or Vice-Chancellor, and representatives of Council, Congregation and the Colleges) from among the members of Congregation, and was to serve for four years. The first Vice-Chancellor to be elected under the new arrangements was Alan Bullock, founding Master of St Catherine’s, who served from 1969 to 1973.

Under the changes in governance which came into effect in October 2000 – as a result of the Commission of Inquiry chaired by Sir Peter North – the Vice-Chancellor no longer has to be recruited from the current membership of Congregation and serves for up to seven years. Any suitably qualified person is eligible for appointment as long as he or she can serve the full period before reaching retirement age. Dr John Hood, who became Vice-Chancellor in 2004, was the first person in the history of the University to have been selected from outside the institution.