Finding Number (Click this to view full catalogue structure)UB/CRT
TitleRecords of University of Birmingham Court of Governors
Extent24 volumes and 3 files
DescriptionMinutes; membership lists and attendance books; letterbook; and agendas of University of Birmingham Court of Governors. There are minutes for the entire period from the Court's first meeting in 1900 to the yearly meeting held in March 2015, with supporting papers for the yearly meetings held in March 2016 minutes for the meeting held in March 2017, and supporting papers for the meeting held in March 2018. The membership lists, attendance books, letterbook and correspondence provide an incomplete record of membership for the first part of the twentieth century, to 1940, and the letterbook contains some information about routine business relating to the agenda for yearly meetings. Loose printed circular letters consist of agendas for meetings from 1901 to 1945

Minutes of the Court of Governors provide an overview of the core functions and activities of the University through the inclusion of annual reports of Council and of the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and the annual accounts. They also provide a record of the successive appointment and resignations of senior officers, and set out details of discussion of and approval of amendments to University legislation including revisions of the charter, statutes and ordinances. Minutes of meetings of the Court of Governors from 1973 to 1976 contain detailed discussion of proposed changes to the role of Court as recommended in the report of the Review Body set up to look at the University's constitution and organisational structure. After the Court of Governors lost its function as the supreme governing body of the University in 1975, minutes of meetings reflect its supportive and promotional role, and are a good source for copies of the publication 'Court Reporter'' from 1987 which provide an overview of developments at the University as presented to a primarily non-academic Court membership
ArrangementRecords have been arranged into the following sections:
1: Minutes
2: Other records
Access ConditionsCourt minutes are subject to a fifty year closure period. Minutes will not be generally available to researchers until the closure period has expired
Finding AidsA catalogue of this collection is available on the online archive catalogue. Click on the Finding Number to display the summary contents list of the catalogue and to view the full catalogue
Access StatusPartially closed
Creator NameUniversity of Birmingham, 1900-
Administrative HistoryThe Court of Governors was instituted as the supreme governing body of the University of Birmingham. It met once a year to accept the annual report from University Council, together with the annual accounts of the University. When it was constituted in 1900 it consisted of just over one hundred and fifty members, consisting of 'life members' mostly drawn from the city of Birmingham and the surrounding Midland counties, and representative members from local government, school boards, major local schools, and regional educational associations. Local MPs and bishops also had seats. Membership was intended to demonstrate ownership of the new University by the city of Birmingham and the Midlands region, and to be a means to mobilise interest and support over the entire area. The quorum for meetings of Court was twenty, and thirty for special business meetings or special general meetings. The chairman of the Court of Governors was the Chancellor, or the Pro-Chancellor in his absence.

Membership within the University by 1945 consisted of the Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor, Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Vice Principal, the Deans of the Faculties, Professors, the Secretary, the Registrar, the Librarian, Wardens of the Halls of Residence, and six members elected by non-professorial staff. There was also representation from the Guild of Students and the Guild of Graduates, and donors to the University of £1,000 or more automatically became life members. The Court of Governors was described by Eric Vincent and Percival Hinton in their 1947 history of the University as 'representative and guardian of donors and gifts of land, buildings, endowments and chairs, scholarships and fellowships' from private benefactions by individuals and industry. Raymond Priestley, Vice-Chancellor at this time and quoted in the same history, saw the Court as 'the means through which a large body of influential people are given a slight stake in their university and an interest which, though sometimes rather tepid, is better than no interest at all'. He saw the function of the Court as providing a means by which the University could foster good relations with influential members of the local community who were, in turn, invited to play a role in the development of the institution.

As a result of the 1968 student protest over the issue of student representation on University committees, a constitutional review was initiated in 1970, chaired by Jo Grimond, the Liberal MP. The remit of the 'Review Body', as it was called, was to address the issue of student representation, but also to consider teaching standards, promotions and appointments, changes to the power structure in academic departments and in the Faculties, and revisions to the constitution affecting higher levels of government within the institution. The Review Body recommended that University Council should take over as the supreme legal authority within the institution, leaving the Court of Governors, to be renamed the Court of the University, as 'a body that focused public interest on the University', as quoted in Eric Ives 2000 history. After the revision to the University Charter in 1975 which confirmed this change, the Court functioned primarily as a supportive body, subordinate to University Council

Source: Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwartz, 'The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980, An Introductory History', Birmingham 2000; Eric W. Vincent and Percival Hinton, 'The University of Birmingham: Its History and Significance', Birmingham 1947
Custodial HistoryCourt records were transferred to Special Collections in 1989-1990 as part of a project to gather and sort the university's institutional archives. Subsequent transfers of later records were made by officers servicing the Court of the University until 2018
Archival NoteCatalogued by Helen Fisher, December 2014. Prepared in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.
Publication NoteEric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwartz, 'The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980, An Introductory History', Birmingham 2000


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