The Court is the governing body of the University, and is sometimes compared to the Board of Directors of a company. Its powers have been defined over a number of years, commencing in 1858 when the Court was first established, and are set out in a series of Acts of Parliament, the Universities (Scotland) Acts 1858-1966, and subsidiary regulations and ordinances.
The Court has ultimate responsibility for the deployment of resources in the University and for the strategic plans of the institution. It also has a monitoring role in relation to the overall performance of the University, and it holds the Principal accountable for the effective and efficient management of the University. It is responsible for the well-being of staff. With the Senate, it is responsible for the well-being of students and for the reputation of the University. The Court has 25 members and meets in full session five times a year.
Code of Conduct
This Code of Conduct applies equally to all members of Court. The Court endorses the seven principles of public life as defined by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (see following page). In practical terms, these principles require that the Court and its members should observe the highest standards of integrity, objectivity and honesty in the transaction of all its business.
Members of Court should:-
- make all reasonable efforts to attend every meeting of Court. In the event of unavoidable absence, a member should inform the University Secretary or clerk prior to the meeting;
- read the papers to be considered by Court (normally circulated to members on the Wednesday prior to each meeting), consider their contents and seek any additional information or necessary clarification from the University Secretary, the convener of the committee concerned or the author of the paper;
- ensure, through the Convener, that their views relevant to an item under discussion are heard by Court;
- always bear in mind the best interests of the University;
- declare any personal or business interests which may conflict with their responsibilities to the University; leave the meeting and not participate in the decision-making process if there is a conflict of interest;
- participate in ensuring that discussions are held and decisions taken in an honest, open and objective manner and that taking sectional positions is avoided;
- when a consensus decision cannot be reached, vote objectively and dispassionately. If a member votes against a motion which is carried by the majority of those present, he/she should subsequently support the decision or, exceptionally, ask that his/her dissent is recorded. In extreme circumstances, for example if the matter is felt to be one of conscience or principle, a member may resign from the Court; and
- bring the same qualities of honesty, openness and objectivity to any work they have agreed to undertake on Court Committees or on working parties established by Court.
NINE principles of public life
Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.
Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.
In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.
Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.
Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.
Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.
Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
These principles were set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life
The Scottish Code of Good HE Governance also refers to the Nine Principles of Public Life in Scotland, which, in addition to the above, refer to Duty and Respect
Holders of public office have a duty to act in the interests of the public body of which they are a Board member and to act in accordance with the core tasks of the body.
Holders of public office must respect fellow members of their public body and employees of the body and the role they play, treating them with courtesy at all times.