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Duchess of Rothesay’s position as University Chancellor questioned by students

University says HRH has made ‘valuable contribution to the life and work of the University’

By: Anttoni Numminen

The Vice-Chancellor, Principal Boyne, and Chancellor, Duchess of Rothesay.

The Duchess of Rothesay’s position as Chancellor of Aberdeen University has been brought into question following a survey that indicates a majority of students may not want her to continue as head of the University.

The survey, which was run by The Gaudie between 9 and 12 March, gathered 196 responses from students and members of staff.

Just over 70 per cent of those who took part in the survey said they did not think Her Royal Highness (HRH) should remain as Chancellor of the University. Camilla is referred to as the Duchess of Cornwall when not in Scotland.

This comes as the public is increasingly discussing what the role of the royal family should be in British public life.

Most respondents were students while some members of staff also took part (4.6 per cent) but there was no breakdown of how the responses of students and staff varied.

26 per cent of respondents said they wanted her to remain as Chancellor while the remaining 3.6 per cent said they “did not know”.

Despite the suggestion that students would like someone else to hold the position of University Chancellor, it is a lifetime appointment from which the officeholder cannot be removed unless they choose to step-down.

Professor James Chalmers, Regius Professor of Law at Glasgow University, said that as the University of Aberdeen is classed as an ancient university, replacing a sitting Chancellor without their consent would be a complicated process.

“At the ancient universities, the Chancellor holds the office for life (Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 s 2) which, as there's no provision made in the Act for removing them, might mean you'd need an Act of Parliament to do that”, said Professor Chalmers.

Indeed, the Act states that “the Chancellor of each of the Universities of St. Andrew’s, Glasgow, and Aberdeen shall be elected by the other members of the general council herein-after mentioned; […] the Chancellor of each of the said Universities shall hold his office for life; the Chancellor in each University shall have power to appoint a Vice-Chancellor, who may in the absence of the Chancellor discharge his office in so far as regards conferring degrees, but in no other respect.”

The Gaudie asked for a comment from the Vice-Chancellor, Principal George Boyne but received a statement from a University spokesperson: “Since her election as Chancellor in 2013 Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Rothesay has made a valuable contribution to the life and work of the University and we are grateful for her commitment to the role."

The Chancellor’s role mainly involves handing out degrees. In January 2020 HRH handed out honorary degrees to her sister-in-law Princess Anne, footballer Denis Law and Professor Janet Derbyshire.

Clarence House, the royal household of the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall was contacted for comment, but no response was received.


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