The primary formal role ascribed to the Rector by the legislation under which the university operates (principally the Universities (Scotland) Acts 1858-1966) is to chair the university court.
In addition the Rector chairs meetings of the General Council in the absence of the Chancellor.
In recent times, Rectors have seen their role as including a function akin to that of an ombudsperson for the university community. He works closely with EUSA. The official role of the Rector was updated and approved by the Court on 31 October 2008.