Rector of the University of Glasgow

The (Lord) Rector of the University of Glasgow is one of the most senior posts within the institution, elected every three years by students. The theoretical role of the rector is to represent students to the senior management of the university and raise issues which concern them. In order to achieve this, the rector is the statutory chair of the Court, the governing body of the university.

The tower of the University of Glasgow above Kelvingrove Park

The position's place in the university was enshrined by statute in the Universities (Scotland) Act 1889, which provided for the election of a rector at all of the universities in existence at the time in Scotland (being St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Edinburgh). Students of the University of Dundee also elect a rector.

The latest rectorial election was concluded on the 26th of March 2024, and featured four candidates: Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, Susan McCabe, Paul Sweeney MSP, and Lady Rita Rae, who was seeking re-election.[1] Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah, who received over 80% of the votes, was consequently installed as rector on the 11th of April 2024.[2]

Former rectors


Students have not always voted for working rectors; anti-apartheid activists Winnie Mandela (1987–1990) and Albert Lutuli (1962–1965) were elected on the understanding that they would be unable to undertake the position's responsibilities, while Mordechai Vanunu (2005–2008) was unable to fulfil his duties as he was not allowed to leave Israel and Edward Snowden (2014–2017) was not expected to fulfill his duties due to an ongoing self-imposed exile in Russia. However, other recent Rectors have been elected on the presumption they will be working rectors, e.g. Ross Kemp (1999–2000), who resigned from the post after the Students' Representative Council voted to request his resignation, such was the extent of student dissatisfaction with his performance. At the Rectorial election in February 2004, no nominations for the post of rector had been received. Upon the end of Greg Hemphill's term, the university was left without a rector for the first time in the position's history. The University Senate set another election date for December, when Mordechai Vanunu was elected. The post was left vacant for a second time at the end of Aamer Anwar's term in March 2020, with the scheduled Rectorial election postponed until March 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The previous rector was Lady Rita Rae, who was the first woman to hold the position in a standing capacity in the University's history.[3] However, during her term she faced heavy criticism from the student body due to her alleged absenteeism, which she denied.[4][5]



Until 1977, for Rectorial election purposes, the university was divided into four 'nations' based on the students' birthplace, originally called Clidisdaliae, Thevidaliae, Albaniae and Rosay, and later as Glottiana, Loudoniana, Transforthana and Rothseiana. Three of the 'nations' consisted of defined areas in Scotland, with Loudoniana consisting of students from all other places.[6]

List of rectors

17th-century University of Glasgow rectors
Years Name Nationality Biography
1648–1650 Robert Ramsay   Scotland Clergyman
1690–1691 David Boyle   Scotland Lord Clerk Register
1691–1718 Sir John Maxwell of Nether Park   Scotland Commissioner for Renfrewshire in the Scottish Parliament
18th-century University of Glasgow rectors
Years Name Nationality Biography
1691–1718 Sir John Maxwell of Nether Park   Scotland Commissioner for Renfrewshire in the Scottish Parliament
1718–1720 Mungo Graham of Gorthie   Scotland Commr. justiciary for Highlands
1720–1723 Robert Dundas, of Arniston, the elder   Scotland Lord President of the Court of Session
1723–1725 James Hamilton of Aikenhead   Scotland
1725–1726 Sir Hugh Montgomerie of Hartfield   Scotland
1726–1729 George Ross   Scotland Master of Ross, 13th Lord Ross
1729–1731 Francis Dunlop of Dunlop   Scotland
1731–1733 John Orr of Barrowfield   Scotland
1733–1738 Colin Campbell of Blythswood   Scotland
1738–1740 George Bogle of Daldowie,   Scotland Glasgow Tobacco Lord
1740–1742 John Graham of Dugalston   Scotland
1742–1743 John Orr of Barrowfield   Scotland
1743–1746 George Bogle of Daldowie   Scotland
1746–1748 Sir John Maxwell of Pollock   Scotland
1748–1750 George Bogle of Daldowie   Scotland
1750–1753 Sir John Maxwell of Pollock   Scotland
1753–1755 William Mure of Caldwell   Scotland
1755–1757 John Boyle   Scotland The 3rd Earl of Glasgow
1757–1759 Patrick Boyle, Lord Shewalton   Scotland
1759–1761 James Milliken of Milliken   Scotland
1761–1763 The 15th Earl of Erroll   Scotland Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland
1763–1764 Thomas Miller   Scotland Lord Glenlee, Lord Advocate
1764–1767 William Mure of Caldwell   Scotland
1767–1768 Dunbar Douglas   Scotland The 4th Earl of Selkirk
1768–1770 Sir Adam Ferguson of Kilkerran   Scotland
1770–1772 Robert Ord   Scotland
1772–1773 Lord Frederick Campbell   Scotland Parliamentarian, Lord Clerk Register
1773–1775 Charles Schaw Cathcart,   Scotland 9th Lord Cathcart, General (British Army), Ambassador to Russia
1775–1777 Sir James William Montgomery   Scotland Lord Advocate, Chief Baron of Exchequer
1777–1779 Andrew Stewart of Torrance   Scotland
1779–1781 The 7th Earl of Lauderdale   Scotland Scottish representative peer
1781–1783 Henry Dundas   Scotland Lord Advocate
1783–1785 Edmund Burke   Ireland Philosopher
1785–1787 Robert Graham of Gartmore   Scotland Parliamentarian, former student
1787–1789 Prof. Adam Smith   Scotland Professor of Moral Philosophy, author of The Wealth of Nations, former student
1789–1791 Walter Campbell of Shawfield   Scotland
1791–1793 Thomas Kennedy of Dunure   Scotland
1793–1795 William Mure of Caldwell   Scotland
1795–1797 William McDowell of Garthland   Scotland
1797–1799 George Oswald of Auchencruive   Scotland
1799–1801 Lord Succoth   Scotland Lord Justice General
19th-century University of Glasgow rectors
Years Name Nationality Biography
1799–1801 Lord Succoth   Scotland Lord Justice General
1801–1803 Lord Craig   Scotland
1803–1805 Robert Dundas of Arniston   Scotland Lord Advocate, Chief Baron of Exchequer
1805–1807 Henry Glassford of Dugalston   Scotland
1807–1809 Archibald Colquhoun of Killermont   Scotland Lord Advocate
1809–1811 Archibald Campbell of Blythswood   Scotland
1811–1813 Lord Archibald Hamilton   Scotland parliamentarian
1813–1815 General The 1st Baron Lynedoch   Scotland Previously styled, up until May 1814, as General Sir Thomas Graham
1815–1817 Lord Boyle   Scotland Lord Justice Clerk
1817–1819 The 4th Earl of Glasgow   Scotland Prominent Scottish peer
1819–1820 Kirkman Finlay   Scotland Lord Provost of Glasgow
1820–1822 Francis Jeffrey   Scotland Senator of the College of Justice, former student
1822–1824 Sir James Mackintosh   Scotland Jurist
1824–1826 Henry Brougham   Scotland Lord Chancellor 1830–1834
1826–1829 Thomas Campbell   Scotland Poet, former student
1829–1831 The 3rd Marquess of Lansdowne   England Chancellor of the Exchequer
1831–1834 Henry Thomas Cockburn   Scotland Senator of the College of Justice
1834–1836 Lord Stanley   England a later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1836–1838 Sir Robert Peel   England 2nd Bt., the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1838–1840 Sir James Graham   Scotland 2nd Bt., Home Secretary
1840–1842 The 2nd Marquess of Breadalbane   Scotland parliamentarian, former Grand Master Mason of the Grand Lodge of Scotland
1842–1844 Fox Maule   Scotland parliamentarian and a later Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland
1844–1846 Andrew Rutherfurd   Scotland Lord Advocate
1846–1847 Lord John Russell   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1847–1848 William Mure of Caldwell   Scotland classical scholar, parliamentarian
1848–1850 Thomas Babington Macaulay   England Parliamentarian
1850–1852 Sir Archibald Alison, 1st Bt.   Scotland Institutional legal writer
1852–1854 The 13th Earl of Eglinton   Scotland a former (and a later) Lord Lieutenant of Ireland
1854–1856 The 8th Duke of Argyll   Scotland parliamentarian
1856–1859 Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton   England writer and politician
1859–1862 The 8th Earl of Elgin   Scotland Viceroy of India 1862–1863
1862–1865 The 3rd Viscount Palmerston   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1865–1868 Lord Glencorse   Scotland Lord President of the Court of Session
1868–1871 The 15th Earl of Derby   England a former (and a later) Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs
1871–1877 Benjamin Disraeli (1st Earl of Beaconsfield from 1876)   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1877–1880 William Ewart Gladstone   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1880–1883 John Bright   England Quaker, activist
1883–1884 Henry Fawcett   England economist and parliamentarian
1884–1887 Edmund Law Lushington   England Professor of Greek
1887–1890 The 1st Earl of Lytton   England former Viceroy of India
1890–1893 A.J. Balfour   Scotland former Chief Secretary for Ireland and a later Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1893–1896 Sir John Eldon Gorst   England Solicitor-General for England and Wales
1896–1899 Joseph Chamberlain   England statesman, father of Sir Austen Chamberlain (Rector 1925–1928)
1899–1902 The 5th Earl of Rosebery   Scotland former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
20th-century University of Glasgow rectors
1899–1902 The 5th Earl of Rosebery   Scotland former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1902–1905 George Wyndham   England Chief Secretary for Ireland
1905–1908 H.H. Asquith   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1908–1911 The 1st Earl Curzon of Kedleston   England former Viceroy of India, Foreign Secretary
1911–1914 Augustine Birrell   England Chief Secretary for Ireland and poet
1914–1919 Raymond Poincaré   France President of the French Republic and a former (and later) Prime Minister of France
1919–1922 Bonar Law   Scotland Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, former student
1922–1925 The 1st Earl of Birkenhead   England Lord Chancellor
1925–1928 Sir Austen Chamberlain   England parliamentarian and statesman
1928–1931 Stanley Baldwin   England Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1931–1934 Compton Mackenzie   Scotland novelist
1934–1937 Sir Iain Colquhoun   Scotland 7th Bt.
1937–1938 Dick Sheppard   England pacifist
1938–1945 Sir Archibald Sinclair   Scotland 4th Bt., Leader of the British Liberal Party
1945–1947 Sir John Boyd-Orr   Scotland physician, nutritionist and Nobel laureate (former student)
1947–1950 Walter Elliot   Scotland politician (former student)
1950–1953 John MacCormick   Scotland lawyer and famed nationalist (former student)
1953–1956 Tom Honeyman   Scotland physician, director of Kelvingrove Art Gallery (former student)
1956–1959 Rab Butler   England became Home Secretary while rector and a former Chancellor of the Exchequer (and a later Foreign Secretary)
1959–1962 Quintin Hogg   England The 2nd Viscount Hailsham, Lord President of the Council (and a later Lord Chancellor)
1962–1965 Albert Lutuli   South Africa President of the African National Congress and Nobel Peace Prize laureate (Absentee)
1965–1968 The 1st Baron Reith   Scotland formerly the first Director-General of the BBC
1968–1971 George MacLeod   Scotland The Baron MacLeod of Fuinary; Founder of the radical Christian organisation, the Iona Community; Past Moderator of the Church of Scotland
1971–1974 Jimmy Reid   Scotland Trade union activist, his inaugural speech on social alienation was famous for its reference to the rat race
1974–1977 Arthur Montford   Scotland sports journalist
1977–1980 John L. Bell   Scotland Elected while a student at the university
1980–1984 Reginald Bosanquet   England TV newsreader
1984–1987 Michael Kelly   Scotland Lord Provost of Glasgow
1987–1990 Winnie Madikizela-Mandela   South Africa South African activist and politician
1990–1993 Pat Kane   Scotland musician, alumnus.
1993–1996 Johnny Ball   England TV presenter
1996–1999 Richard Wilson   Scotland actor
1999–2000 Ross Kemp   England actor
21st-century University of Glasgow rectors
2001–2004 Greg Hemphill   Scotland actor and alumnus
2004–2005 Position vacant
2005–2008 Mordechai Vanunu   Israel Israeli nuclear technician and whistle-blower (Absentee)
2008–2014 Charles Kennedy   Scotland former Leader of the Liberal Democrats and alumnus.
2014–2017 Edward Snowden[7]   United States computer professional/intelligence whistleblower (Absentee)
2017–2020 Aamer Anwar   Scotland Lawyer, human rights campaigner and alumnus
2019–2020 Position vacant The 2020 election was postponed for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic
2021–2024 Rita Rae, Lady Rae   Scotland Former Senator of the College of Justice
2024-present Dr Ghassan Abu-Sittah   Palestine War surgeon who operated in Gaza during the Israel–Hamas war

See also



  1. ^ "University of Glasgow - University of Glasgow Rectorial Election 2024". Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  2. ^ "UofG Rector Installed". Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  3. ^ "Lady Rita Rae appointed Rector". Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  4. ^ Horne, Marc (19 April 2024). "Lady Rae accused of being 'absentee rector' at Glasgow University". ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  5. ^ "Lady Rita Rae: An interview with the Glasgow University rector". University of Glasgow. 15 November 2023. Retrieved 19 April 2024.
  6. ^ Historical perspective for Glasgow
  7. ^ Edward Snowden elected as rector of Glasgow University