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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A chancellor (USA) 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 other countries, as for example Spain, they are sometimes styled "Great Chancellor"(Gran Canciller), and are also titular figures. In these countries, the rector is usually the administrative and educational head of a university.



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, and is generally the state Governor (or, for Catholic universities, a Bishop). Once upon a time, 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 a place in the University Council for Lincoln.

Canada, Hong Kong and Scotland

Canadian and Scottish universities have a ceremonial Chancellor similar to those in the United Kingdom, with day-to-day operations typically handled by a Vice-Chancellor. In Canada, the Vice-Chancellor usually carries the joint title of "President and Vice-Chancellor" or "Rector and Vice-Chancellor"; Scottish Vice-Chancellors generally carry the title of "Principal and Vice-Chancellor."

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 or a President, depending on the institution.


In Germany, the chancellor is the head of the university's administration and leader of the non-scientific staff. Highest representative and leader of the scientific staff is a rector or president, depending on the university's constitution.


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 (and also tenth Yang di-Pertuan Agong), Tuanku Jaafar is the chancellor of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia.

Datin Seri Jeanne Abdullah, the wife of the current 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 national university (University of the Philippines) designates the head of its autonomous universities as the Chancellor. The autonomous universities make up the 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 figure head 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.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, all universities and some institutes have a chancellor as their titular head whose function is largely ceremonial. The de-facto head of the university is the Vice-Chancellor. His equivalent for the president in some institutes.


In Ukraine chancellor is normally the figure head of the university. He is called as "rector".

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 campuses. There are also some university systems, such as the University of Illinois and University of California systems, in which those two titles are reversed. At Rutgers, 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.

Chancellors or presidents are normally the functional chief executive officers of their universities. There are some exceptions: for instance, the College of William and 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") and the Archbishop of Washington serves as Chancellor, a ceremonial position but one which does technically require the archbishop to represent the university before the Holy See.

Outside universities, the title is sometimes used to designate other education officials, such as the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education, the chief executive officer of the municipally-run public schools in that city.

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.



In the Republic of Ireland the president of a university (called the provost in the case of Trinity College Dublin) is essentially the chief executive officer of the university (with the chancellor being a purely ceremonial role). They are usually assisted in this regard by the university registrar.

Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka, the title of president is equivalent to that of vice-chancellor and therefore is essentially the chief executive officer of the university.

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.


In Wales, the title of president rather than chancellor is given to the ceremonial head of constituent institutions of the University of Wales (which has a single chancellor for the whole federal body) and also of Cardiff University, which retained the usage when it left the University of Wales.

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 is 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 current Vice Chancellor Alan Gilbert uses Precident as his main title. The Rector of Imperial College is it's chief executive.

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 are administered by the vice-chancellor, the highest paid official of the university. In deemed universities and institutes of national importance, the head of the institution is called the director general or director.

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 college 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. Carlos Azpiroz Costa), OP, while the vice-chancellor 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.


In Sweden, vice-chancellor (vicekansler) is 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 the village of Sewanee). The chancellor is the most senior Episcopalian Bishop of the owning Dioceses of the University. The chancellor neither resides at the university nor holds administrative power; the Bishop holds ceremonial office only.


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.


See also: Ancient university governance in Scotland

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, and the Memorial University Campus - Sir Wilfred Grenfell College also have principals.

See also



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