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Chancellor (Latin: cancellarius), an official title used by most of the peoples whose civilization has arisen directly or indirectly out of the Roman empire. At different times and in different countries it has stood and stands for very various duties, and has been, and is, borne by officers of various degrees of dignity. The original chancellors were the cancellarii of Roman courts of justice, ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the audience.

Table of contents
1 Government Chancellors
2 University Chancellors

Government Chancellors


The Chancellor of Austria or Bundeskanzler, is the title for the head of government in Austria. In Austrian politics the Bundeskanzler position is somewhat equivalent to that of a Prime Minister.


The Chancellor of Germany or Bundeskanzler, is the title for the head of government in Germany. In German politics the Bundeskanzler position is somewhat equivalent to that of a Prime Minister, being elected by the Bundestag, the German Parliament.

After the unification of Germany, in 1871, the Chancellor of the Reich or Reichskanzler, served not only as head of government, but also as presiding officer of the Bundesrat, the upper house of the German imperial parliament. After the collapse of the German monarchy in 1918, the German chancellor no longer presided over the upper house of parliament.


For centuries, the King of France appointed a Chancellor or Chancelier de France. During the reigns of Louis VIII, Charles X and Louis Philippe, the Chancellor of France presided over the Chamber of Peers, the upper house of the royal French parliament.


In Finland the Chancellor of Justice (Oikeuskansleri, Justitiekanslern) supervises the legality of actions taken by Government and monitors the implementation of basic civil liberties. In this special function the Chancellor also sits in the Finnish Cabinet, the Council of State.


In Sweden the Chancellor of Justice or Justitiekanslern acts as the Solicitor General for the Swedish Government. The office was introduced by Charles XII of Sweden in 1713. Historically there was also Lord High Chancellor or Rikskansler as the most senior member of the Privy Council of Sweden. There is in addition to this a University Chancellor or Universitetskansler, which leads the National Agency for Higher Education.


In Switzerland, the Federal Chancellor (Bundeskanzler, Chancelier fédéral, Cancelliere della Confederazione) is elected by the Swiss parliament. He or she heads the Federal Chancellery, the general staff of the seven-member executive Federal Council, the Swiss government. The Chancellor participates in the meetings of the seven Federal Councilors with a consultative vote and prepares the reports on policy and activities of the council to parliament. The chancellery is responsible for the publication of all federal laws.

United Kingdom

In the United Kingdom, a number of cabinet ministers hold offices containing the word Chancellor.

United States

In the United States government, the only official granted the title of chancellor is the Chancellor of the
Smithsonian Institution, a largely ceremonial office that has long been held by each Chief Justice. As the Smithsonian is an academic institution, however, its use of the title is perhaps best thought of as akin to a university's chancellor (see below).

University Chancellors

The title is frequently used — particularly in Europe — to indicate the head of a university. (Alternatively, the title rector is also popular.) Oxford and Cambridge have both been headed by a Chancellor since medieval days, although today the office is largely ceremonial, and the daily administration is in the hands of a Vice-Chancellor. Many universities in the Commonwealth follow their model.

In the United States, universities usually call their heads "presidents," but the name chancellor is sometimes seen, most commonly in a system of connected state universities. A given state's University System is often headed by a "chancellor" who serves as the system-wide chief, while individual campuses are headed by presidents. (Exceptions include the University of California system, University of North Carolina system, and the University of Wisconsin System within which the two titles are reversed.)

(The College of William and Mary uses chancellor in the British way for a figurehead leader, at present the former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. But the day-to-day head is an American-style "president," not a "vice-chancellor.")

See also List of Chancellors and Vice-Chancellors