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Act 4, 1979 (IV) – Act anent Constitution for the Free Church College. 23rd May 1979. (As amended by Act 19, 1986 (XIX) – Act anent College Finances – amending Act IV 1979; Act 16, 1995 (XVI) – Act anent Institution of College Board; Act 43, 2006 (XLIII) – Act anent Role of the Principal of the College; and Act 16, 2019 (XVI) – Governance of ETS).)

The General Assembly direct that the high qualifications traditionally required of students training for the Free Church ministry be maintained, and, accordingly, that the Free Church College be retained in its present form or as near to it as circumstances will permit.

The General Assembly approve a Constitution for the Free Church College and enact in the following terms:-



As the Free Church of Scotland is in continuous descent from the Free Church of 1843, so is the Free Church College heir to the theology, principles and traditions of the Disruption Church and of the Colleges instituted in the period of her early evangelical fervour. Although professors and a Principal were appointed to undertake the training of the students who had joined the Disruption Church, no formal constitution was considered for some years, until the New College in Edinburgh was completed. Act V, 1852, is the basic piece of General Assembly legislation but is not in itself a complete constitution, and various Acts had to be passed at later dates in order to regulate some aspects of the College’s life and activities. The constitution framed in this document is not an independent charter for the College: it is inclusive of existing legislation and is incorporated in an Act of the General Assembly of the  Free Church of Scotland (Act 1979).


1. The Free Church of Scotland College is a non-residential College, Reformed, Evangelical and Presbyterian. Its aim is to produce a fully equipped ministry, prepared in all the disciplines of the Reformed tradition.

2. The College is not an independent body corporate: it is under the exclusive control of, and is responsible to, the Free Church of Scotland acting through its General Assembly and committees appointed by that Assembly.

3. Doctrinally, the College is committed to an unswerving loyalty to the inspired Word of God contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, and an unqualified acceptance of the Westminister Confession of Faith. Academically, it is loyal to the Disruption policy of maintaining a high standard, comparable normally to that of the universities, in its curriculum, teaching and examinations.


1. The number of professorial chairs in the College and the subjects attached to them are determined by legislation enacted from time to time by the General Assembly of the Free Church. All professors must be ordained ministers of the Free Church of Scotland, and must be appointed by the General Assembly of that Church, and inducted to their Chairs, in accordance with the Church legislation in force at the time of their appointment.

2. The duties of the professors are, in general, to teach their subjects conscientiously and competently in accordance with the requisite standards and with the curriculum approved by the General Assembly and published in the College Calendar; to co-operate with each other, formally in Senatus and informally in the daily life of the College, so as to promote its internal welfare and its external prestige; and by their labours in their chosen fields of study to edify the Church and to defend the faith.

3. Each professor shall, at the time of his appointment and at other times as circumstances may require, prepare programmes of studies for his classes within the framework of the College curriculum and in consultation with the Senatus and the relevant standing committee of the General Assembly, the aim of such consultation being to ensure that a proper balance is preserved within the curriculum and to avoid unnecessary duplication of effort. At the end of each session he shall furnish the appropriate Committee with a record of class-work covered, objectives and achievement in research and any work published by him.

4. Charges of heresy or immorality against any professor shall be dealt with in accordance with the principles and practice of the Free Church in relation to such charges against ministers. Charges of failure to comply with academic duties shall be considered by the Senatus and referred, if necessary, to the appropriate Standing Committee of the Church or to the General Assembly to whom he is ultimately responsible.

5. Each professor is entitled to adequate accommodation, furniture and equipment for teaching purposes, and to a retiring room with its necessary furnishings. Changes of accommodation or furniture and equipment should not be made without his knowledge and consent. In the organisation of his own department in his teaching and studies he enjoys traditional academic freedom within the framework of the College standards and the curriculum.

6. In his academic work, both in his teaching and in his studies, each professor is expected to maintain, during his tenure of office, the standards of application and achievement expected of him by the Church which appoints him, by the students who look to him for instruction, and possibly used by outside bodies to judge the performance of the College as a whole.

7. The Professors, being ministers of religion and the senior members of a theological College, are called to promote, by all suitable means, the spiritual life of the students under their charge.


1. The Senatus is defined in Act V 1852, as “consisting of the Principal and Professors” and has as its membership those categories of person set out in Act 16, Class 2, 2019 paragraph 1.2.

2. The same Act vests in the Senatus “the ordinary discipline of the College” and “ the regulation of the Library subject to such rules as the Assembly may lay down according to the laws of the Church”. References to the Senatus in later legislation are few, and do not add materially to the foregoing.

3. In practice its powers and responsibilities as a corporate body have been exercised mainly in the ordering of academic life and in fulfilling its original function of maintaining the ordinary discipline of the College. Like the professors who compose it, it is ultimately responsible to the General Assembly but it has joint and/or parallel responsibility with the Training of the Ministry Committee and its successors and the College Board. Its relations with that Committee or any other committees are prescribed by Assembly legislation. In matters within its competence it transacts business, or acts as a channel of communication, with outside institutions and parties.

4. The responsibility for maintaining doctrinal and academic standards which lies with the Principal and professors severally attaches to them corporately in the Senatus.

5. The Principal is required to provide leadership and is hereby given the authority to take emergency action, appropriate to the office, subject to such action being reported to the relevant body at the earliest opportunity. He shall be a member ex-officio of the Training of the Ministry Committee and the Stewardship and Policy Committee.

6. The general supervision of the routine administration of the College, both in its internal affairs and in external relations with the Church, the General Trustees and the Committees, in so far as it is not regulated by Assembly legislation is a natural function of the Senatus. The finances of the College are not within its direct jurisdiction or control except for:

(a) moneys explicitly bequeathed, donated or assigned to it for its exclusive use;

(b) moneys generated by activities within its competence; and

(c) accrued balances from the aforementioned sources.

The Senatus keep accounts of its use of any such funds and the accounts are subject to an annual audit by the Church auditors.

7. In the exercise of its powers and the discharge of its duties, the Senatus has, the same rights and privileges as are normally enjoyed by other bodies in the same category. It regulates its own procedures and deliberations and its mode of conducting business:  corporately, it enjoys the same degree of academic freedom as do the individual professors who compose it: it can appoint a secretary and other officers for the more efficient implementation of its decision and fulfilment of its functions.

8. In the event of a prolonged absence of a professor, the Senatus is responsible for making arrangements for carrying on his duties.

9. The “ordinary discipline of the College” originally vested in the Senatus had particular reference to the firm but benevolent disposition of order in the life and labours of the College, at all levels, and especially amongst the students. Formally, this order is expressed and upheld by means of written regulations which are known to all students, and by decisions and recommendations of the Senatus transmitted to the Students’ Representative Council or to the students as a body. Informally, order and harmonious relations are nurtured by friendly intercourse and Christian fellowship between all the members of the collegiate body. If the regulations or resolutions are disregarded or violated by a student or students, the Senatus has primary jurisdiction: in the case of disharmony between a professor and one or more of his students, the Senatus has an appellate function. Act IV, 1894 gives Free Church Students a right to appeal to the appropriate committee in a prescribed manner.

10. In matters academic, such as, for example, the conduct of examinations, and in administrative and financial affairs, the Senatus can make representations to, or transact business with, or be represented on, appropriate Standing Committees in accordance with existing Assembly legislation.

11. In the ordinary course of its duties and for special reasons within its competence, the Senatus can enter into communication or otherwise maintain relations with other theological, academic and official institutions at home or abroad: also with such public authorities as the work and welfare of the College and its staff or students may require.


1. The College exists primarily for the training of Free Church Students who are admitted in accordance with regulations and procedure laid down from time to time by the General Assembly. Students who are not of the Free Church but whose church connections and personal characteristics are acceptable to the Free Church have always been admitted to the College since Disruption times but under certain conditions which vary from time to time.

2. The qualifications for the admission of Free Church students are determined by the General Assembly. Traditionally, a university degree or its equivalent has been an indispensable preliminary requirement for enrolment in the College but legislation makes allowance for special cases such as mature students who may have had other valuable training and experience. The responsibility for admitting extra-denominational (i.e., non Free Church) students is vested in the Senatus by Assembly legislation: the students must satisfy the Senatus that their spiritual and academic qualifications are such as to enable them to benefit from a course in the Free Church College. Extra-denominational students must be approved by their churches and recommended by them as suitable for theological training, and it is the responsibility of these churches to arrange for the pastoral oversight of their students while they attend college. The Senatus may, at its discretion, in addition to extra-denominational students, admit students who wish to study in a purely private capacity: Where the Senatus in exceptional cases sees cause for a student’s fees to be reduced it can make a recommendation to this effect to the appropriate Committee whose decision shall be final.

3. All the students who enter the College are understood to profess their faith in Christ and obedience to Him, and the cultivation of the devotional life is as much their responsibility as that of the professors. In their academic studies the students are expected to take full advantage of the opportunity offered to them so as by their diligence and labour to become “able Ministers of the New Testament”.

4. During their attendance at College courses all students are expected to behave with the decorum worthy of their profession and their aspirations, and to comply with the internal code of regulations of the College. By virtue of their age and their academic or other attainments they are expected to act, and can expect to be treated, not as pupils, but as junior members of the collegiate community, with certain privileges accorded to them such as a common room and other facilities or amenities within the resources of the College.  Complaints by individual students should be dealt with in the first instance, if at all possible, by a professor in private: if this procedure does not satisfy the student, he can submit his complaint to the Senatus in writing.

5. A Free Church Students’ Representative Council exists within in, the College as a recognised body. Its functions are to represent the students in matters affecting their interest as a whole; to afford a recognised means of communication between the students and the Church authorities; and to promote academic unity among the students.

6. Transcending all such organisational and administrative arrangements for order and harmony within the College is the bond of Christian fellowship and dedication to the Lord’s cause which unites teachers and taught, and the students are expected to do all in their power to enrich, as well as to seek enrichment in, the corporate life of the College.


1. The Stock of books known as the “College Library” is held by the General Trustees of the Free Church of Scotland in behoof of the Church but the oversight of it is vested in the Senatus by Act V 1852.

2. It is therefore the duty of the Senatus to frame regulations governing the use of the Library by professors, students and other parties; to make arrangements for cataloguing the books; and to distribute the different sections of the Library in such a way as to promote easy access combined with safe custody. It is customary for the Senatus to appoint one of its members as Librarian.

3. The stock of books is maintained in reasonable condition, and additions are made to it by an annual allocation to the Library from Church funds as part of the College budget. The Library is also in a position to receive bequests and donations whether of books or money. Rare or valuable books, together with manuscripts and other papers of importance are housed separately with suitable safe-guards, and can be consulted only within the College under the supervision of the Librarian.

4. Under the terms of the Churches (Scotland) Act, 1905, professors, ministers and students of the Free Church have free access to the New College Library and the use of catalogues and books therein.


1. The College owns no heritable property. The premises at 15 North Bank Street, including the part thereof occupied by the College, are held by the Free Church of Scotland General Trustees in behoof of the Church in terms of Churches (Scotland) Act, 1905, Commission Order 661. An agreement regulates the respective rights and responsibilities of the Trustees and the College.

2. All moveable property within the College provided for its use (apart from the personal effects of professors and students) is vested in the General Trustees of the Free Church of Scotland. Agreed inventories are kept up to date by the Trustees and the College.

3. The Senatus is empowered by the General Assembly to act on behalf of the College in accepting responsibility for the custody and use of moveable property in accordance with the agreement between the College and the Trustees. The assumption of this responsibility by the Senatus does not relieve professors and students of individual responsibility for the careful use of moveable property and equipment.

4. Property of historic or artistic value, such as furniture and paintings which are housed in the College though not necessarily for its ordinary use is the, subject of a special clause in the agreement between the College and the Trustees. Separate inventories are kept of such items.

5. Replacements of, and additions to, moveable property used by the College are obtained through procedures laid down in Assembly legislation or in the decisions of competent Standing Committees. New items are entered on the inventories as soon as they are delivered in the College.

6. No use can be made of the College building or property within it without the knowledge and consent of the Senatus.