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A rector is a senior official in an academic institution and can refer to an official holding office in a university or a secondary school. Outside the English-speaking world, a rector is someone who is the most senior official in a university. They can also be the senior-most official often referred to as the president. The most senior official in the United Kingdom and Commonwealth of Nations is, however, the chancellor, whose office is primarily titular and ceremonial. 

The term and office of a rector can be called a rectorate. This title is used mostly in universities in Europe and is also quite common in Latin American countries. It is also used in countries like Brunei, Pakistan, Macau, Russia, the Philippines, Turkey, Indonesia, the Middle Eastern countries, and Israel. In the ancient universities of Scotland, the office of the rector is sometimes known as Lord Rector. They are the third most senior official and are usually responsible for chairing the University Court.

In the case of India, the definition of the term varies vastly. For example, the heads of certain Indian boarding schools are known by this name, and sometimes, the school head or principal of a Catholic school in India is also referred to as a rector.

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