The University was established by Royal Charter in 1957. The University's legal status is that of a chartered corporation and an exempt charity, and it is regulated by the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
The Charter is the University's principal governing document. It provides a high level, overarching statement of the University's founding purpose and constitution. It requires the University to have a Council, a Senate, a Court, an Alumni Association and a Students' Union. It also makes provision for the University to make appointments to a number of senior 'officer' positions. In practical terms the most important of these positions is that of the University's 'President and Vice-Chancellor', whose seniority and role is equivalent to that of a chief executive.
More information on the rules and practical framework within which the University conducts its business is then set out in the University's Statutes and Ordinances. Operationally, the Ordinances are the longest and most detailed of these three key governance documents.
The University cannot alter, amend or replace any part of the Charter or the Statutes without the consent of the Privy Council. Changes to the Ordinances can be approved by the University's own governing body, the Council. There are strict rules governing how proposals to make changes to the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances must first be considered and commented upon by various bodies inside the University, before they are put forward for final approval.