The office of the Chancellor has existed since the foundation of the University, although there is no comprehensive definition of the powers of the modern Chancellor. The most authoritative definition comes from the return made by the University to the Commissioners of 1826 which states:
The Chancellor is head of the University. He is consulted on all public matters relative to its welfare, and he is also Conservator of its privileges. The power of conferring degrees is vested in him: this he may exercise either personally when present or by his depute when absent, with the advice of the doctors and masters of the University.
The Chancellor is the ordinary President of the General Council and appoints an assessor on the University Court. From an early date in the history of the University, it has been customary for the Chancellor to appoint a Vice-Chancellor to confer degrees in his absence. Once elected, a Chancellor holds office for life.
The Rt Hon Lord Campbell of Pittenweem
The present Chancellor is The Rt Hon Lord Campbell of Pittenweem CH CBE PC QC. Lord Campbell is a former leader of the Liberal Democrats and the former British record holder for the 100 metres sprint. He has been the University Chancellor since 2006.