The Registrary of the University of Cambridge is celebrating 500 years of history today, April 25. The job is one of the longest continuously-held offices in UK higher education.

Older than the Church of England, the office of Registrary dates back to 1506. The title of Registrary is now unique to the University of Cambridge in the Oxford English Dictionary.

The Registrary is the senior administrative officer of the University of Cambridge and manages the central University services and the non-academic business of the University. The present Registrary is Dr Timothy Mead, who manages an annual budget of approximately £27 million and is responsible for over 750 staff.

Dr Mead has been Registrary since 1997. “My role is to encourage efficient administration to further the University of Cambridge’s excellence in teaching and research. I am only the twenty-fifth Registrary since the creation of the post in 1506 and, while the job has changed a great deal over five centuries, the heart of the role has always been to support academic distinction.”

Previous notable Registraries include John Neville Keynes, the father of the economist John Maynard Keynes and a distinguished logician. The first Registrary, appointed in 1506, was Robert Hobys.

The Registrary has control of the University Chest, which predates the creation of the Registrary’s role. This is literally a chest where, before the days of banks, the monies belonging to the University were placed. Also placed in here until the 14th century were all the University’s books, often as a security against loans.

The current Chest is in the Registrary’s office and is 600 years old. It has 17 locks. The previous Chest was burnt during the Cambridge Peasants’ Revolt of 1381. Today the budget process at the University is still known as the ‘allocations from the Chest’.

The 500th anniversary of the creation of the Registrary’s role will be celebrated today with Mere's Commemoration, a sermon established by the second Registrary, John Mere, in office 1543-58. The sermon will be delivered by the Very Reverend Colin Slee, Dean of Southwark at St Bene't's Church.

The only living previous Registrary, Dr Stephen Fleet, and four previous Vice-Chancellors: Lord Broers, Professor Owen Chadwick, Sir Peter Swinnerton-Dyer and Sir David Williams will join the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alison Richard, and the Registrary for a celebration later today.

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