The Chancellor of the University is an honorary title, held for life. The actual administration is the responsibility of the Vice-Chancellor, who is elected for a four year term. The current Chancellor is Chris Patten, who has been in post since 2003. He took over from Lord Roy Jenkins of Hillhead, who passed away in early January 2003. In the election at which Lord Patten was appointed, notorious Oxford man Howard Marks (convicted drug smuggler and Mr Nice, graduate of Balliol) threatened to stand but was not nominated.
The 1987 election of the Chancellor was a festive occasion, drawing graduates from all over the country. The colleges laid on hospitality, friendships were renewed, and a glittering array of public figures queued outside the Sheldonian in a variety of academic regalia. Those present included Michael Heseltine, who went round twice – not to double his vote, but in order to give the press plenty of opportunity to photograph him! Expect a similar round of gathering and parading at the next election, whenever that may be.
The only other time when Convocation comes into its own is for the election of the Professor of Poetry. Congregation quietly adjusted the University Statutes after World War II, because their proposed reforms were being steadily voted down by elderly graduates.
The Clarendon Building once housed the University administration, including Proctors on the ground floor and Police Force of Marshal and Bulldogs in the basement. Now it is the place to go if you need to replace your Bodleian Library card. The Clarendon Building and the Examination Schools were occupied in 1970 by undergraduate revolutionaries, inspired by the 1968 student revolts in France and Italy. Things were relatively quiet in the revolution department until the recent Tuition Fees changes, which in the 1990s resulted in student occupations of both the Examination Schools and the University’s Magdalen Street offices.