Visitor

From Academic Kids

A Visitor, in United Kingdom law and history, is an overseer of an autonomous ecclesiastical or eleemosynary institution (i.e. a charitable institution set up for the perpetual distribution of the founder's alms and bounty), who can intervene in the internal affairs of that institution. These institutions usually comprise cathedrals, chapels, colleges, universities and hospitals.

The British sovereign, the Lord Chancellor, the Lord President of the Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury, peers, diocesan bishops, etc. are the most common Visitors, though any person or office-holder can be nominated. The Queen usually delegates her visitatorial functions to the Lord Chancellor. During the reform of the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge in the 19th century, Parliament ordered Visitations to the universities to make inquiries and to reform the university and college statutes. Bishops are usually the Visitors to their own cathedrals.

There is a ceremonial element to the role of Visitor, and the Visitor may be called upon to give advice where an institution expresses doubt as to its powers under its charter and statutes. However, the most important function of the Visitor (and one which has arisen more frequently in recent years) is within academic institutions, where the Visitor has to determine disputes arising between the academic institution and its members. Traditionally the courts have been exempted from any jurisdiction over student complaints as a result, but there has been much speculation that this contravenes the Human Rights Act 1998.

The position has also existed in Universities in other countries which have followed the British model, although in many countries the Visitor's role in complaints has been transferred to other bodies. For instance, the Governor of Victoria is the visitor to all Victorian Universities, but has only ceremonial duties.

In the 2004 Higher Education Act the jurisdiction of the Visitor over student complaints in UK universities was transferred to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator.

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