A master (more generically called a head of house or head of college) is the head or senior member of a college within a collegiate university, principally in the United Kingdom.[1][2] The actual title of the head of a college varies widely between institutions.

The role of master varies significantly between colleges of the same university, and even more so between different universities. However, the master will often have responsibility for leading the governing body of the college, often acting as a chair of various college committees; for executing the decisions of the governing body through the college's organisational structure, acting as a chief executive; and for representing the college externally, both within the government of the university and further afield often in aid of fund-raising for the college.[3] The nature of the role varies in importance depending on the nature of the collegiate university. At loosely federated universities such as the University of London, each college is self-governing and the head of a college acts much like a vice-chancellor. At more centralised universities where colleges are not independent institutions, a college head will have much less power and responsibility.

University of London

Inasmuch as the colleges of the University of London operate as semi-autonomous universities, sharing certain student services and administrative facilities but undertaking independent teaching and research, the heads of these colleges have almost the same level of responsibility as a vice-chancellor of a non-collegiate university.

However, in addition to governing their own institutions, the heads of the colleges of the University of London are ex-officio members of the university's Collegiate Council, one of two major decision-making bodies in the central university.[4]


Although the head of a college is often called the Master, many different titles are used. Despite these differences, the actual title used by a head of a college holds little practical significance.

Title Main institution College etc. within the main institution, to which the title applies
Chief Executive University of London Institute of Cancer Research (held jointly with the title of President)
Dean University of Oxford Christ Church
University of London London Business School
Director University of London Courtauld Institute of Art, London School of Economics, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and SOAS (held jointly with the title of Principal)
Faculty Dean Harvard University All houses
Head Princeton University All colleges
Yale University All colleges. Changed from "Master" on 27 April 2016 [5]
University of Roehampton All colleges
University of the Arts London All colleges
Magister Rice University All colleges. Changed from "master" in 2017
Master University of Oxford Balliol College, Pembroke College, St Benet's Hall, St Catherine's College, St Cross College, St Peter's College, University College
University of Cambridge Christ's College, Churchill College, Clare College, Corpus Christi College, Darwin College, Downing College, Emmanuel College, Fitzwilliam College, Gonville and Caius College, Jesus College, Magdalene College, Pembroke College, Peterhouse, St Catharine's College, St Edmund's College, St John's College, Selwyn College, Sidney Sussex College, Trinity College and Trinity Hall
Durham University Grey College, Hatfield College and University College.
University of London Birkbeck
University of Kent All colleges
Mistress University of Cambridge Girton College
President University of Oxford Corpus Christi College, Kellogg College, Magdalen College, St John's College, Trinity College and Wolfson College
University of Cambridge Clare Hall, Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish College, Murray Edwards College, Queens' College and Wolfson College
University of London Institute of Cancer Research (held jointly with the title of Chief Executive) and University College London (held jointly with the title of Provost)
National University of Ireland All constituent universities and recognised colleges
Principal University of Oxford Brasenose College, Green Templeton College, Harris Manchester College, Hertford College, Jesus College, Lady Margaret Hall, Linacre College, Mansfield College, St Anne's College, St Edmund Hall, St Hilda's College, St Hugh's College and Somerville College
University of Cambridge Homerton College and Newnham College
Durham University Collingwood College, John Snow College, Josephine Butler College, St Aidan's College, St Chad's College, St Cuthbert's Society, the College of St Hild and St Bede, St John's College, St Mary's College, Stephenson College, Trevelyan College, Ustinov College and Van Mildert College
University of London Heythrop College, King's College London, Queen Mary, the Royal Academy of Music, the Central School of Speech & Drama, Royal Holloway, the Royal Veterinary College, St George's and SOAS (held jointly with the title of Director)
University of York Constantine College, James College, Langwith College, Vanburgh College
Lancaster University All colleges
Provost University of Oxford Oriel College, Queen's College and Worcester College
University of Cambridge King's College
University of Dublin Trinity College
University of London University College London (held jointly with the title of President)
Rector University of Oxford Exeter College and Lincoln College
University of Notre Dame All halls
Warden University of Oxford All Souls College, Keble College, Merton College, New College, Nuffield College, St Antony's College and Wadham College
University of Cambridge Robinson College
University of London Goldsmiths
Bristol University

In the case of the more ancient colleges, these titles are translations from the original Latin: thus "provost" was originally praepositus, and "warden" was originally custos.

See also


  1. ^ "Oxford Glossary". University of Oxford. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  2. ^ "Glossary". University Governance. University of Cambridge. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  3. ^ Anthony Archer (February 2015). "Oxford Heads of Houses: roles and trends in recent appointments". Bridgewater Leadership Advisory. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 24 March 2015.
  4. ^ "Collegiate Council". University of London. Archived from the original on 2 April 2015. Retrieved 31 March 2015.
  5. ^ Salovey, Peter (27 April 2016). "Decisions on Residential College Names and "Master" Title". Office of the President Yale University. Retrieved 24 April 2020.