About Senate

Terms of reference

The Senate is the governing authority of the University of Sydney and has the functions conferred or imposed on it by or under the University of Sydney Act 1989 (as amended).

The Senate of the University oversees all major decisions concerning the conduct of the University, including staff appointments and welfare, student welfare and discipline, financial matters and the physical and academic development of the University. It awards all degrees and diplomas and is responsible to the Parliament of NSW.

Its terms of reference are set out as follows:


A summary of Senate's role

This summary is set out on page 2 of the Handbook for Fellows of Senate:

The Senate is the governing body of the University. It (a) acts for and on behalf of the University in the exercise of the University’s functions; (b) has the control and management of the affairs and concerns of the University; (c) and may act in all matters concerning the University in such manner as appear to the Senate to be best calculated to promote the object and interests of the University. The statutory powers and responsibilities of the Senate are defined under Section 16 of the University of Sydney Act 1989 (as amended) (and elsewhere in the Act, By-law and Rules). In this regard, the Senate should, without fettering such powers and discretions as derive from the office, undertake the following:

  • Monitor the performance of the Vice-Chancellor
  • Oversee the University’s performance
  • Oversee the academic activities of the University
  • Approve the University’s mission, strategic direction, annual budget and business plan
  • Oversee risk management and risk assessment across the University
  • Approve and monitor systems of control and accountability for the University
  • Approve significant University commercial activities
  • Establish policies and procedural principles for the University consistent with legal requirements and community expectations
  • Ensure that the University’s grievance procedures, and information concerning any rights of appeal or review conferred by or under any Act are published in a form that is readily accessible to the public
  • Regularly review its own performance
  • Adopt a statement of its primary responsibilities (please see below)
  • Make available for Fellows a program of induction and of development relevant to their role as a Fellow.

Senate's statutory powers and responsibilities

View Part 4 - Functions of Senate - of the University of Sydney Act 1989 (and elsewhere in the Act, By-law and Rules).

Statement of Senate's primary responsibilities

On 20 February 2005 Senate adopted the following statement of its primary responsibilities, without prejudice to Senate’s capacity to debate whether there are any more primary responsibilities to be added to the Statement.

This was in accordance with the then National Governance Protocols.

The Senate's primary responsibilities are:

  • appointing the Vice-Chancellor as the principal executive officer of the university, and monitoring his or her performance;
  • approving the mission and strategic direction of the university, as well as the annual budget and business plan;
  • overseeing and reviewing the management of the university and its performance;
  • establishing policy and procedural principles, consistent with legal requirements and community expectations;
  • approving and monitoring systems of control and accountability, including general overview of any controlled entities;
  • overseeing and monitoring the assessment and management of risk across the university, including commercial undertakings;
  • overseeing and monitoring the academic activities of the university.

Statement of Senate's purpose and values

Senate, on 2 December 2013, adopted a Statement of Senate's purpose and values.