University Court
A University Court is an administrative body of a university
A university is an institution of higher education and research, which grants academic degrees in a variety of subjects. A university is an organisation that provides both undergraduate education and postgraduate education...

 in the United Kingdom
United Kingdom
The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern IrelandIn the United Kingdom and Dependencies, other languages have been officially recognised as legitimate autochthonous languages under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages...

. In England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

's Oxbridge
Oxbridge is a portmanteau of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status...

 such a Court carries out limited judicial functions; whereas in Scotland
Scotland is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Occupying the northern third of the island of Great Britain, it shares a border with England to the south and is bounded by the North Sea to the east, the Atlantic Ocean to the north and west, and the North Channel and Irish Sea to the...

 it is a University's supreme governing body, analogous to a Board of Directors
Board of directors
A board of directors is a body of elected or appointed members who jointly oversee the activities of a company or organization. Other names include board of governors, board of managers, board of regents, board of trustees, and board of visitors...

 or a Board of Trustees.


In the English
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 universities of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 and Cambridge
University of Cambridge
The University of Cambridge is a public research university located in Cambridge, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest university in both the United Kingdom and the English-speaking world , and the seventh-oldest globally...

, courts of inferior jurisdiction, administering principles of justice originally founded on the canon
Canon law
Canon law is the body of laws & regulations made or adopted by ecclesiastical authority, for the government of the Christian organization and its members. It is the internal ecclesiastical law governing the Catholic Church , the Eastern and Oriental Orthodox churches, and the Anglican Communion of...

 and civil law
Civil law (legal system)
Civil law is a legal system inspired by Roman law and whose primary feature is that laws are codified into collections, as compared to common law systems that gives great precedential weight to common law on the principle that it is unfair to treat similar facts differently on different...

, but now defined and limited by the common law
Common law
Common law is law developed by judges through decisions of courts and similar tribunals rather than through legislative statutes or executive branch action...


At Oxford University, the judge of the chancellor's court is the vice-chancellor, who is his deputy or assessor; the court has had since 1244 civil jurisdiction, to the exclusion of the king's courts, in all matters and suits wherein a scholar or privileged person of the university is one of the parties, except in actions relating to freehold. It had also, from 1290 downwards, jurisdiction of all injuries and trespasses against the peace, mayhem
Mayhem (crime)
Mayhem is a criminal offence consisting of the intentional maiming of another person.Under the common law of England and Wales and other common law jurisdictions, it originally consisted of the intentional and wanton removal of a body part that would handicap a person's ability to defend himself in...

 and felony
A felony is a serious crime in the common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors...

 excepted, but since the Summary Jurisdiction Acts this is possibly no longer exercisable, but the chancellor, vice-chancellor and the vice-chancellor's deputy are justices of the peace
Justice of the Peace
A justice of the peace is a puisne judicial officer elected or appointed by means of a commission to keep the peace. Depending on the jurisdiction, they might dispense summary justice or merely deal with local administrative applications in common law jurisdictions...

 for Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

, Oxfordshire
Oxfordshire is a county in the South East region of England, bordering on Warwickshire and Northamptonshire , Buckinghamshire , Berkshire , Wiltshire and Gloucestershire ....

 and Berkshire
Berkshire is a historic county in the South of England. It is also often referred to as the Royal County of Berkshire because of the presence of the royal residence of Windsor Castle in the county; this usage, which dates to the 19th century at least, was recognised by the Queen in 1957, and...

, where scholars are concerned, and exercise this jurisdiction under the Summary Jurisdiction Acts.

The criminal jurisdiction of Cambridge University in cases where any person not a member of the university is a party has ceased, and its jurisdiction over light women, which was founded on a charter and statute of Elizabeth, was taken away in 1894 by a private act of that year, dealing with them and applicable till then only to Oxford University, was extended to Cambridge University. Previous to 1891, women of light character, who had been convicted of consorting with or soliciting members of the university in statu pupillari, were detained in a house of correction called the spinning house, but in that year a conviction was held back.


The University Courts were first established for the ancient universities
Ancient universities of Scotland
The ancient universities of Scotland are medieval and renaissance universities which continue to exist until the present day. The majority of the ancient universities of the British Isles are located within Scotland, and have a number of distinctive features in common, being governed by a series of...

 by the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 and they are responsible for the finances and administration of each university. Each university, subject to approval by the Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Privy Council of the United Kingdom
Her Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, usually known simply as the Privy Council, is a formal body of advisers to the Sovereign in the United Kingdom...

, determines the constitution of its Court, with members coming from within each university, the local community and beyond.

At an ancient university the Court is chaired by the Rector
The word rector has a number of different meanings; it is widely used to refer to an academic, religious or political administrator...

, who ranks third after the Chancellor
Chancellor (education)
A chancellor or vice-chancellor is the chief executive of a university. Other titles are sometimes used, such as president or rector....

 and Vice-Chancellor, is elected by all the matriculated
Matriculation, in the broadest sense, means to be registered or added to a list, from the Latin matricula – little list. In Scottish heraldry, for instance, a matriculation is a registration of armorial bearings...

 students of each university. Members are also appointed by the General Council
General Council (Scottish university)
The General Council of an ancient university in Scotland is the corporate body of all graduates and senior academics of each university. They were instituted by the Universities Act 1858, but each has had its constitution and organisation considerably altered by subsequent statutes.The Act of...

, Academic Senate
Academic Senate
An Academic Senate is a governing body in some universities and colleges, and is typically the supreme academic authority for the institution.-Scotland:...

 and local authority.

At more modern universities there is usually a chairman or convenor appointed along lines similar to a Chairman of the Board
Chair (official)
The chairman is the highest officer of an organized group such as a board, committee, or deliberative assembly. The person holding the office is typically elected or appointed by the members of the group. The chairman presides over meetings of the assembled group and conducts its business in an...

 in a corporation
A corporation is created under the laws of a state as a separate legal entity that has privileges and liabilities that are distinct from those of its members. There are many different forms of corporations, most of which are used to conduct business. Early corporations were established by charter...

 or charity.

The President
A president is a leader of an organization, company, trade union, university, or country.Etymologically, a president is one who presides, who sits in leadership...

 of the Students' Representative Council is usually a member and lay members are co-opted
A co-opting or less frequently co-optation most commonly refers to action performed in a number of fields whereby an opponent is nullified or neutralized by absorption but there are other distinct senses as well....

 onto the Court.

See also

  • Ancient university
    Ancient university
    Ancient university is a term used to describe seven medieval and renaissance universities of the United Kingdom and Ireland that exist today. Six of those universities are currently located in the United Kingdom and one in the Republic of Ireland...

  • Ancient university governance in Scotland
    Ancient university governance in Scotland
    The ancient university governance structure in Scotland is the organisational system imposed by the Universities Acts, a series of Acts of Parliament enacted between 1858 and 1966. The Acts applied to what were termed the 'older universities': the University of St Andrews, the University of...

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