The beginning of the 17th Century saw the emergence of the Senatus Academicus (or 'The Principal and the Professors of the College of King James the Sixth') as the senior body within the University. At this time it contained the Principal of the College and 4 Regents. By 1760 The Senatus Academicus contained 18 professors besides the Principal. In the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858 the governance of Edinburgh University passed from Edinburgh Town Council to the Senatus Academicus, the University Court in connection with a General Council. Now the Senatus Academicus consists of the Principal, the professors, heads of departments, and a number of readers, lecturers and other teaching and research staff.
The Senatus Academicus superintends and regulates the teaching and discipline of the University and has the power to promote research. The Senatus elects four Assessors, of whom at least one must be a professor and at least one a non-professorial member of the teaching staff, to the University Court. Degrees are conferred on the recommendation of the Senatus, by the Chancellor, the Principal and Vice Chancellor, a Vice Principal, or senior professor present. The Principal is President of the Senatus, with deliberative and also a casting vote. There are thirteen student Associate Members. The Senatus meets six times annually.
The principal records of the Senatus are its minutes which run continuously from 1733 (EUA IN1/GOV/SEN/1). These are well indexed.