|Administrative History||When the University of Birmingham was established by royal charter in 1900, the Senate was designated as the supreme academic authority within the institution. It reported to University Council but was responsible for the government, management, and operation of the curriculum, teaching, and examination; the award od degrees, diplomas and certificates, and of fellowships and scholarships; and the discipline of students and undergraduates. The Faculties passed recommendations for new staff appointments, nominations for scholarships, and changes to the curriculum to Senate for approval before they were then passed on to Council. Senate membership initially consisted of the Principal, Vice-Principal, the Deans of all the Faculties, and all the Professors of the university. Senate usually met once a month during term time and was chaired by the Principal. This title was changed to Vice-Chancellor and Principal following a revision of the Charter in 1927. By 1920 a full time Registrar had been appointed, who acted as secretary of Senate and of other bodies and committees dealing with the academic governance of the university. |
Representation of academic staff on the Senate gradually increased during the first half of the twentieth century, and by 1945 Senate membership also included non-professorial Heads of independent teaching departments, the University Medical Officer, Librarian, the Senior Tutor to Women Students, the Director of Physical Education, the Director of Extra-Mural Studies, and three other members of the teaching staff elected by members of both professorial and non-professorial staff. In the years following the end of the Second World War, steady growth in the amount and complexity of academic business led to devolution of immediate responsibility in a wide range of matters to the Boards of Faculties, and to Senate committees like the Senate Executive, established as a steering committee in 1947, and the Committee of Principals and Deans. In practice, the Senate was still dominated by professors, and at the time of the 1968 dispute between members of the student body and the university authorities there was still no student representation on the Senate, though there were student seats on the Lodgings committee, Open Lectures committee, Overseas Students committee, and the Works of Art Senate committees. In response to demands for greater student representation on University committees, set out in The Student Role, and the focus of the 1968 protest, a Review Body was established in 1970 to consider changes to the University constitution. Following the Review Body report, the distinction between the role of University Council, responsible for finance and organisation, and the Senate, responsible for academic matters, was reinforced by enhancing the Senate's specific executive authority in the academic sphere. The first meeting of the reconstituted Senate under the revised charter and statutes was held on 10 December 1975. Further powers were given to Senate, and it was now the final approving body for the award of all degrees, diplomas, certificates, and other academic distinctions of the University. The size of the Senate was reduced and membership was now made up of members ex officio and elected representatives of professors, non-professors and students. The Academic Executive committee was established as a body with delegated powers to take decisions on the schedule of routine academic matters, replacing the Senate Executive committee. By this point Senate usually met four times a year, during term time.
The academic reorganisation which resulted in the abolition of the Faculties in 1998 meant that decisions immediately affecting staff and students were taken at School level, with Senate having overall responsibility for academic policy matters. The Academic Board was reconstituted with formal responsibilities delegated by the Senate for policy development matters previously undertaken by a number of university committees and quality control functions previously undertaken by Faculties. In the early 2000s there was some discussion about reducing the size of Senate, as it was seen as too large to be effective. Members were concerned, however, to preserve an elected element and to maintain the Senate's 'parliamentary' function as an academic assembly. Senate maintains its function as the principal academic body of the University, responsible to Council for the overall academic policies of the institution; the regulation of the academic work of the University in admissions, teaching, assessment, and research; for academic awards of the University including Honorary Degrees; and for the control and regulation of the conduct, discipline and academic progress of the Registered Students of the University. Membership consists of the Vice-Chancellor, Provost and Vice-Principal, Pro-Vice-Chancellors, Heads of College, College Directors of Education and Research and Knowledge Transfer, another member nominated by the Head of College from the College Board, four academic members of staff from each College, the Vice-President of the Guild of Students (Education and Access) and five other student members, up to four other members who may be co-opted.
Source: Eric W. Vincent and Percival Hinton, 'The University of Birmingham: Its History and Significance', Birmingham 1947; Eric Ives, Diane Drummond, Leonard Schwartz, 'The First Civic University: Birmingham 1880-1980, An Introductory History', Birmingham 2000; University of Birmingham website http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/university/governance/senate/index.aspx Accessed April 2015
|Custodial History||Senate 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 University Senate until 2017|