Our Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors and SU Presidents have contributed to the University's development in many ways, not least leading a diverse group of students, academics and support staff in building a venerable institution in a little over fifty years. York's reputation is built on an ethos of excellence and we are indebted to all who have worked and studied here.
Chancellor, 1963 - 1967
George Lascelles, the 7th Earl of Harewood, was the University’s first Chancellor and played a key role in its early years. During his time in post, he oversaw the opening of the University in the autumn of 1963 when the first 230 students were admitted. He presided over the University’s opening graduation ceremonies and escorted the Queen round the first buildings of the Heslington campus in 1965. Born in 1923, Lord Harewood was educated at Kings College, Cambridge before being commissioned into the Grenadier Guards. He fought in Algeria and Italy and after being injured and captured, was held as a prisoner of war at Colditz. A music enthusiast, Lord Harewood devoted most of his career to opera serving as editor of Opera magazine and Director of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. He was also chairman of English National Opera and a governor of the BBC in the 1980s. His other great passion was Leeds United Football Club, which he served as president from 1961 until his death in July 2011. Even after stepping down as Chancellor, Lord Harewood remained closely involved and interested in the life and work of the University and proved a generous benefactor of historical archives and music recordings. He donated papers relating to the slave-owning history of the Lascelles family, uncovered during an inventory of Harewood House, to the Borthwick Institute, along with a unique collection of broadcast recordings by leading classical music performers of the 20th century.
Chancellor, 1967 - 1978
Lord Clark was a British author, museum director, broadcaster and a seminal art historian writing a series of books that combined scholarly insight with wide public appeal. He was writer, producer and presenter of the celebrated BBC TV art history series Civilisation which pioneered a style of documentary series combining personal narration by a leading expert with lavish photography and shooting on location. Kenneth McKenzie Clark was born in 1903 in London to a wealthy Scottish family. Educated at Oxford, he went on to work in Florence for two years with Bernard Berenson, one of the most influential arts critics of the time. He worked as fine arts curator at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum before being appointed director of the National Gallery at the age of 30, the youngest person ever to hold the post. He was Slade Professor of Fine Art at Oxford and was a founding board member and Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain when he had a major role in the art programme of the Festival of Britain. Lord Clark was appointed Chancellor at York in 1967 and on his retirement in 1978, he presented two major works by Sydney Nolan, one of Australia’s best known painters and print makers. Lord Clark was made a life peer in 1969.
Chancellor, 1979 - 1990
Lord Swann, former Governor and Chairman of the BBC, served as Chancellor at the University of York for over ten years until his death in 1990 aged 70. Born Michael Meredith Swann, he studied at Cambridge where he went on to lecture in zoology after war service with the British Army. During a distinguished scientific career, he carried out research on cell physiology and fertilisation, nearly all the work being done on the eggs of sea-urchins. He was appointed professor of Natural History at the University of Edinburgh in 1952 before serving an eight-year term as Principal and Vice-Chancellor. He oversaw rapid expansion at Edinburgh coupled with a spell of student unrest led by Gordon Brown who had been elected Rector. Lord Swann was chairman of the BBC from 1973 to 1980 before being appointed Provost at Oriel College in Oxford. During the eighties he undertook many public duties including Chairmanship of the Committee on the Education of Children from Ethnic Minorities. In the House of Lords, he sat on the cross benches and worked tirelessly in support of higher education. He was knighted in 1972 and made a life peer, becoming Lord Swann, in 1981.
Chancellor, 1991 - 2004
Dame Janet Baker is one of the most celebrated musicians Britain has ever produced. The mezzo-soprano opera, concert and lieder singer enjoyed a successful international career performing with some of the world’s leading opera companies and orchestras before retiring from the stage in 1984 and the concert platform in 1989. Born in Hatfield in South Yorkshire, her father was an engineer who sang in a male voice choir and members of her family worked at Bentley pit in Doncaster. She was educated at York College for Girls and Wintringham Girl’s Grammar School in Grimsby. She made her stage debut with the Oxford University Opera Club in 1956 going on to win national attention later that year when she came second in the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Competition. Her Covent Garden debut came in 1966 and she went on to win growing admiration as a highly expressive artist with audiences around the world before her final performance at Glyndebourne in 1982. Dame Janet was awarded an OBE in 1970 and a DBE in 1976. In 1994 she became a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour and is a Commander of the French Order of Arts and Letters. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University in 1984 and served as Chancellor from 1991 to 2004. As well as carrying out official duties, she visited the Department of Music whenever she could to give vocal master classes to students.
Chancellor, 2004 - 2015
Greg Dyke, former Director-General of the BBC, has been Chancellor of the University of York since 2004. A former student at York, he graduated with a degree in Politics in 1974 and was awarded an honorary doctorate by the University in 1999 for his contribution to industry and to public services. He admits that his time on campus changed his life and he has always been grateful to the University for admitting him as a mature student with only one 'E' at A-level. Before taking up a place at York, Greg Dyke worked as a newspaper journalist and after graduation, began a long television career with London Weekend Television working as a producer, senior editor and Director of Programmes before rising to Managing Director, then Group Chief Executive in 1991. As Chairman/Chief Executive of Pearson Television from 1994, he built the largest independent production company outside the US and was the first Chairman of Channel 5. He took over as Director-General of the BBC from John Birt in 2000. His achievements included the launch of four new digital television stations, five new digital radio stations and the introduction of Freeview. He left the BBC in January 2004 in controversial circumstances after the publication of the Hutton Report. As a result, groups of BBC staff staged walk outs and paid for a full page newspaper advert expressing dismay over his departure. He published “Greg Dyke: Inside Story” in 2004, is Chairman of Brentford Football Club and is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society and the National Film and Television School.
Chancellor, 2015 - 2022
Professor Sir Malcolm Grant is currently chairman of NHS England, which has responsibility for holding and investing the NHS budget to secure continual improvement in the quality of the health and healthcare for the population of England. He served for 10 years as President and Provost of UCL, from 2003-2013, a role which he describes as quite simply the greatest job in higher education; and was previously Pro Vice Chancellor of Cambridge and Professor and Head of Department of Land Economy. He is a Fellow of Clare College Cambridge.
Past roles have included service as chairman of the Russell Group, chairman of the Local Government Commission for England, and chairman of the Agriculture and Environment Biotechnology Commission. He has been a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
Vice-Chancellor, 1962 - 1973
Eric John Francis James (1909-1992). James was a teacher at Winchester College for twelve years before becoming High Master of Manchester Grammar school in 1945. He was a member of the University Grants Committee from 1949 to 1959 and on the Central Advisory Council for Education from 1957 to 1961. James's contribution to education was recognized when he was knighted in 1956. In 1959, he was made a life peer, becoming Baron James of Rusholme.
Lord James was invited to become the first Vice-Chancellor of the newly founded University of York in 1962, which was formally opened in October 1963. As Vice-Chancellor at York, Lord James had a formative influence in the architectural and academic planning of the new university and was a strong advocate of its collegiate system. James wanted students to feel as though they were part of a small close-knit community and supported student representation on key University committees.
He was asked to conduct the 1971 report on the Education and Training of Teachers, which concluded that teaching should become a graduate profession. After retiring as Vice-Chancellor in 1973, James was Chairman of the Headmaster's Conference, a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission 1973-76, and its Chairman 1976-79.
Vice-Chancellor, 1973 - 1978
Morris Carstairs was a psychiatrist who received international recognition for his work. His main interests were psychiatry and anthropology and he spent two years living in an Indian village to research behavioural patterns among its different groups. Prior to his appointment at York, he was President of the World Federation on Mental Health and a professor of Psychology at the University of Edinburgh.
Dr Carstairs was Vice-Chancellor at the University of York from January 1973 to the summer of 1978. He was unable to start his post full time at York until the first of January 1974 as he had prior engagements to fulfil with the World Health Organization. Carstairs' time at York was marked by the economic recession of the 1970s. Plans for the University's expansion and the development of new subjects were unable to be completed as a result. After leaving York, Carstairs moved to India where he returned to teaching and research.
Vice-Chancellor, 1979 - 1993
Berrick Saul became Vice-Chancellor on the 2nd January 1979. Previously Acting Principal of the University of Edinburgh, Saul was educated at West Bromwich School, attended the University of Birmingham and became professor of Economics at the University of Edinburgh. After leaving York in 1993, Professor Saul became Chairman of UCAS and Vice-Chairman of the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. The Berrick Saul building on campus, opened in 2009, was named in his honour.
Under Professor Saul, the University was to continue to develop although it was careful to limit its rate of expansion in terms of student numbers. The 1980s necessarily saw a period of financial re-entrenchment and adjustment for the University. Nonetheless, the collegiate system was reinforced and judicious investment in research personnel and growth in the University's research outputs meant that its national standing in the league tables began to emerge. In supporting this growth and investment the Science Park was established. York's vision was that of a top class university in both teaching and research while remaining relatively small.
Vice-Chancellor, 1993 - 2002
Professor Cooke joined the University in October 1993 from University College London, where he had held the positions of Vice-Provost, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, and Professor and Head of the Department of Geography. Prior to his arrival at York, he had also received The Back Award of the Royal Geographical Society (1977) and The John Wiley Award of the British Geomorphological Research Group (1987). He was awarded a Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society, approved by HM Queen Elizabeth II, in 1994.
As Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cooke embarked upon a programme of investment and development, built on a foundation of financial strength. Major developments were made in relation to the University fabric, with widespread campus building refurbishment and the construction of Market Square and the Raymond Burton Library. These physical developments took place against a background of increasing student numbers and a greater focus on postgraduate study. In his final year as Vice-Chancellor (2002), Professor Cooke received a knighthood for his services to higher education, an achievement he hoped his colleagues felt they could ‘share some of the credit for’. Upon his retirement as Vice-Chancellor, Professor Cooke cited the raising of the quality and standards of teaching and research, investment in infrastructure, and the improvements in the relationship between the University and the City, as particular collective achievements.
Since his retirement, Professor Sir Ron Cooke continues to live in York. In 2005 he received an honorary degree from the University, and the following year was awarded the title of Honorary Freeman of the City of York. His connection to the University was honoured with the naming of the Ron Cooke Hub, officially opened on 22 July 2011, on the University’s Heslington East Campus.
Vice-Chancellor, 2002 - 2013
Brian Cantor was Vice-Chancellor at the University of York from 2002 to 2013. He studied at Manchester Grammar School and Christ's College, Cambridge. He is acknowledged as a world authority on materials manufacturing and is a former Vice-President of the Royal Academy of Engineering.
While Vice-Chancellor at York, Cantor was tasked with developing the University's international strategy, as well as expanding the campus. This led to the development of a new campus, Heslington East, creating places for an additional 5,000 students, as well as a raft of other building and redevelopment projects across the University.
During Cantor's Vice-Chancellorship, York was named the University of Year (2010), the best UK university under fifty years old (2012), and was invited to join the prestigious Russell Group. Nouse names the highlight of his career leading the croquet team to victory against Lancaster during Roses 2013.
Cantor was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2013 New Year Honours, for services to higher education.
Vice-Chancellor, 2014 - 2018
Koen Lamberts was Vice-Chancellor at the University of York from 2014 to 2018.
Born in Hasselt, Belgium, he holds undergraduate degrees in Philosophy (1985) and Psychology (1987) and a PhD in Experimental Psychology (1992) from the University of Leuven.
Following a research appointment at the University of Chicago, he became a lecturer at the University of Birmingham in 1992. He was Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Warwick from 2000 to 2013. At Warwick, he served as Faculty Chair for Science, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research (Science & Medicine) and Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost.
Professor Lamberts has a track record of experimental research into cognitive processes in perception, memory and decision making, and of mathematical and computational modelling of these processes. He has collaborated with commercial and industrial partners in applied research that has focused on consumer behaviour and product design. He was a recipient of the British Psychological Society’s Cognitive Award (1996) and of the Experimental Psychology Society Prize (1997).
The University's first Registrar
John West-Taylor was a young Cambridge graduate when he was appointed Secretary to the Academic Development Committee of York Civic Trust in 1951, the body formed to plan and present the case for a university to be established in York. A keen supporter of the academic cause, his appointment marked the start of an association with the University which continued throughout its lengthy planning and development stages. He was appointed Secretary of the Academic Planning Board and then Registrar in 1961, a position he held for nearly 20 years. As registrar, he oversaw the development of the University as an academic community, the historic registration of the first students and the physical development of the site.
A knowledgeable lover of art and architecture, he read music and history at Trinity Hall, his studies being interrupted by war service for three years when he served as a pilot with the Fleet Air Arm.
He was awarded the OBE in 1975 and his contribution to establishment and development of the University of York was marked by the award of an honorary degree of Doctor in 1989. He died in 1991 aged 67 leaving his wife Catherine and a daughter and two sons.
Former Chairman of the University Council
Sir Donald Barron served as Treasurer of the York Academic Trust, the group that campaigned successfully for the University of York to be established. Educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh and Edinburgh University, he served as Chairman of Rowntree Mackintosh from 1966 to 1981 and Chairman of the Midland Bank retiring in 1987 at the age of 66. He was also chairman of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and served as Treasurer and then Chairman of the University Council for a number of years during the 1980s. He was a member of the University Grants Committee from 1972 to 1981. Sir Donald’s contribution to the University was marked by the award of an honorary doctorate in 1986.
Sir Donald died in January 2016, aged 94. Read an obituary.
Project architect for the University
Sir Andrew Derbyshire was the first project architect for the University, and played a crucial part in its development. He was later to say that the ten years that he was involved in the development of the University of York were the happiest of his professional life.
He had a strong philosophical approach to design, which he brought to the University. This informed the emerging design principles: creating a community living and working together, buildings on a human scale, and the provision of a beautiful landscape.
Sir Andrew died on 3 March 2016, aged 92. Read an obituary.
Students' Union Presidents
1963/64 Pradip 'Pip' Nayak
1964/65 Dave Mahony
1965/66 Tony Banks
1966/67 David Willis
1967/68 Julian Friedman
1968/69 Jon Taylor
1969/70 John Randall
1970/71 Nigel Strange
1971/72 Kevin Heymann
1972/73 Steve Sheppard
1973/74 Mike Mosley
1974/75 Paul Hodges
1975/76 John Roberts
1976/77 Richard Burden
1977/78 Phil Harris
1978/79 Andy Lovelady
1979/80 Mike Barnes
1980/81 Simon Bryceson
1981/82 Richard Lerner
1982/83 Gethin Jones
1983/84 Tim Edmondson
1984/85 Jonathan Slater
1985/86 Russell George
1986/87 Felicity Huxely-Williams
1987/88 Ben Rich
1988/89 Andy Wood
1989/90 Amanda Kleeman
1990/91 James Minton
1991/92 David Wheeldon
1992/93 Benjamin Drake
1993/94 Fleur Anderson
1994/95 Lee Findell
1995/96 Jago Parker
1996/97 Fergus Drake
1997/98 Jenny Wood
1998/99 Claire Ainsley
1999/00 Helen Woolnough
2000/01 Ben Youdan
2001/02 Ffion Evans
2002/03 Tom Connor
2003/04 Chris Jones
2004/05 James Alexander
2005/06 Mickey Armstrong
2006/07 Rich Croker
2007/08 Anne Marie Canning
2008/09 Tom Scott
2009/10 Tim Ngwena
2010/11 Tim Ngwena
2011/12 Tim Ellis
2012/13 Kallum Taylor
2013/14 Kallum Taylor
2014/15 Sam Maguire
2015/16 Benjamin Leatham
2016/17 Millie Beach
2017/18 Alex Urquhart
2018/19 James Durcan
2019/20 Samara Jones
2020/21 Patrick O'Donnell
2021/22 Patrick O'Donnell
2022/23 Pierrick Roger