The Chancellor is the highest officer and the ceremonial head of the University. Modelled after similar positions at Scottish universities, the office was created in 1874 and first filled in 1877, although it was only enshrined in law in 1882 after a convoluted process (see Royal Charter).

The Chancellor presides over convocations, confers degrees, and chairs the annual meetings of the University Council. He or she is an ex-officio voting member of the Board of Trustees and many of its committees.

The Chancellor is also a member of the University Council Executive Committee and the Honorary Degrees Committee of the Senate.

Joint Board-Senate committees for the selection of a Principal are normally chaired by the Chancellor.

The Chancellor is appointed for a renewable three-year term by the University Council.

Chancellors since 1877:

*Indicates a building on campus named in his/her honour.