One of the Council's more important responsibilities is to bring to the attention of the Principal, the Board and/or the Senate its views on "matters affecting the well-being and prosperity" of the University. Such matters ordinarily arise during the Annual Meeting, an all-day session on a Friday in May.
Every three years, or when there is a vacancy, the Council selects a Chancellor, who holds the highest non-administrative office in the University. The Chancellor presides at all Convocations and all meetings of the University Council. The Chancellor's term is for three years, is renewable, and may be extended irregularly (if the Chancellor is willing) to accommodate the availability of a successor. A selection committee appointed and chaired by the Principal chooses the candidate for Chancellor, and the Executive Committee makes a recommendation to Council at its annual meeting. Traditionally, this recommendation is approved unanimously.
The Council is responsible for the installation of the Chancellor and for all Convocations, although it has delegated the latter function to the Senate while reserving the right to approve any fundamental change in the ceremony.
The Council frames whatever bylaws are necessary to govern the eligibility of graduates to hold membership in the Council or Board or to vote in University elections. In particular, the Bylaws of the University Council include details of procedure for nominations and elections of Councillors, Chancellors, Rectors, and Trustees elected by Council, the Graduates, the Benefactors, the Faculty, the Staff and the Students.
Annually, the Council recognizes a maximum of six "members of the Queen's family" who have made a distinctive contribution to the University by awarding Distinguished Service Awards. The call for nominations is widely published, the Executive Committee selects winners at its March meeting, and the DSAs are presented at the Council's annual dinner in May. This award carries with it honorary life membership in the University Council.
The Annual Meeting is generally devoted to exploring a single theme of current significance to the University. Such themes have included the status of women, the new information technology, strategic planning, continuing education, the undergraduate experience, admissions policy, internationalization and student financial assistance. Each of these annual discussions has provided a unique opportunity for Senators (including students), Trustees, campus resource persons and observers to exchange ideas with Queen's graduates now engaged in diverse occupations in widely dispersed parts of Canada and the world.