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18th March 2024

Exeter Fellow Professor Conall Mac Niocaill sworn in as University Proctor

Exeter College’s Giuseppe Vernazza Fellow in Earth Sciences, Professor Conall Mac Niocaill, has been formally sworn in as the University of Oxford’s Junior Proctor for the next 12 months at a ceremony in the Sheldonian.

The Senior Proctor, Junior Proctor and Assessor are senior officers of the University whose roles encompass advocacy and scrutiny. They oversee student matters and uphold the University’s statutes and policies throughout its governance and administration. The Proctors’ and the Assessor’s roles are mainly: ensuring that the rules, regulations and standards of the University are observed (including a major part in ensuring the fair and proper conduct of University examinations and in enforcing conduct regulations); scrutinising potential departures from those rules, regulations and standards, both when they are necessary (such as alternative examination arrangements) and when redress is required (for example in relation to complaints by University members – the Proctors have the power to call on any University member to help in their enquiries and to provide a remedy where appropriate); and serving on a wide range of University committees.

The role of Proctor is thought to date back some 800 years, whereas the role of Assessor was created in 1960, with a special concern for policies on student health, welfare and financial issues. Oxford’s Colleges are on a rota so that, every year, three of them each choose one of their Fellows to serve full-time for 12 months; two colleges choose the Proctors and the third chooses the Assessor.

Professor Mac Niocaill was elected as Exeter’s candidate to serve as Proctor by the College’s Governing Body and, in a ceremony on 13 March, was sworn in as Junior Proctor after being formally put forward by Rector Professor Sir Rick Trainor. Professor Mac Niocaill will serve alongside Professor Thomas Adcock, Senior Proctor and a Fellow of St Peter’s College, and Professor Benjamin Bollig, Assessor and a Fellow of St Catherine’s College. Professor Mac Niocaill will also be aided by his nominated Pro-Proctors, Exeter’s Chaplain and Welfare Lead, the Reverend Andrew Allen, and Professor Proochista Ariana, the founding director of the Masters in International Health and Tropical Medicine (IHTM) based in the Centre for Tropical Medicine and Global Health. ‘Junior’ versus ‘Senior’ Proctor status is determined by which nominee obtained their MA first, although the roles carry equal authority and status.

The ceremony was presided over by Oxford’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Martin Williams, and was witnessed by Fellows and the heads of Exeter, St Peter’s and St Catherine’s Colleges, as well as members of the wider University and distinguished guests. Afterwards Rector Trainor and Professor Mac Niocaill led a procession of Exeter Fellows back to College, where a celebratory lunch was held in Hall. Among the guests were Emeritus Fellows Dr Helen Spencer, who served as Exeter’s last Assessor, in 2012-13, and Dr Dermot Roaf, who was sworn in as Proctor fifty years earlier to the day.

Members of Exeter College before the admission ceremony

Members of Exeter College gather ahead of the ceremony (photo by John Cairns)

Rector Trainor formally puts forward Conall Mac Niocaill to be Proctor

Rector Trainor formally puts forward Professor Mac Niocaill to be Junior Proctor (photo by John Cairns)

The outgoing and incoming Junior Proctors swap hoods

The outgoing and incoming Junior Proctors ceremonially swap hoods (photo by John Cairns)

Professor Mac Niocaill becomes Junior Proctor

Professor Mac Niocaill addresses the audience having been sworn in as Junior Proctor (photo by John Cairns)

Professor Conall Mac Niocaill and Revd Andrew Allen

Professor Mac Niocaill will be assisted by two Pro-Proctors, including Exeter Chaplain and Welfare Lead, Revd Andrew Allen (right)

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