Our Chancellors, Vice-Chancellors and Students' Union Presidents have contributed to the University's development and success over the last 60 years.

These figures have led a diverse group of students, academics and support staff in building a venerable institution. York's reputation is built on an ethos of excellence and we are indebted to all who have worked and studied here.



Lord James of Rusholme

Vice-Chancellor, 1962 to 1973

Eric John Francis James (1909-1992) 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 四虎影院 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, Lord James was Chairman of the Headmaster's Conference, a member of the Royal Fine Arts Commission 1973 to 1976, and its Chairman 1976 to 1979.

Dr Morris Carstairs

Vice-Chancellor, 1973 to 1978

Professor Morris Carstairs

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 四虎影院 from January 1973 to the summer of 1978. He was unable to start his post full time at York until 1 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.

Professor Berrick Saul

Vice-Chancellor, 1979 to 1993

Berrick Saul became Vice-Chancellor on 2 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 continued 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.

Professor Sir Ron Cooke

Vice-Chancellor, 1993 to 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 Campus East.

Professor Brian Cantor CBE

Vice-Chancellor, 2002 to 2013

Brian Cantor was Vice-Chancellor at the 四虎影院 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, Professor 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 as 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.

Professor Koen Lamberts

Vice-Chancellor, 2014 to 2018

Professor Lamberts 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).

Professor Charlie Jeffery

Vice-Chancellor, 2019 to present

Professor Jeffery became Vice-Chancellor and President at the University in September 2019. He joined us from the University of Edinburgh where he had been Senior Vice-Principal since 2014. He was a Member of Council of the Economic and Social Research Council from 2006 to 2012 and Chair of the Political Studies Association of the UK from 2009 to 2012.

In Edinburgh and now in York he has worked to bring together the University with local authorities, businesses, other universities and colleges to promote inclusive economic development, and to open up access to university study and economic opportunity to people from disadvantaged backgrounds - both in the UK and internationally.

Professor Jeffery is Chair of the N8 Research Partnership (a collaboration of the eight most research intensive universities in the North of England), a member of the Partnership Board of key organisations in the City of York, the York Central Steering Board, and the Humber and North Yorkshire Integrated Care Board. He lives in York with his family.


Lord Harewood

Chancellor, 1963 to 1967

Lord Harewood

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.

Lord Clark

Chancellor, 1967 to 1978

Lord Kenneth Clark

Lord Clark was a British author, museum director, broadcaster and seminal art historian who wrote a series of books that combined scholarly insight with wide public appeal. He was a 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 a 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 printmakers. Lord Clark was made a life peer in 1969.

Lord Swann

Chancellor, 1979 to 1990

Lord Swann

Lord Swann, former Governor and Chairman of the BBC, served as Chancellor at the 四虎影院 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 1980s 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.

Dame Janet Baker CH DBE

Chancellor, 1991 to 2004

Dame Janet Baker

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 masterclasses to students.

Greg Dyke

Chancellor, 2004 to 2015

Greg Dyke

Greg Dyke, former Director-General of the BBC, was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University in 1999 for his contribution to industry and public services and served as Chancellor from 2004 to 2015. He graduated from the University with a degree in Politics in 1974, stating his time on campus changed his life and 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, he 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 walkouts 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.

Professor Sir Malcolm Grant

Chancellor, 2015 to 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 to 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 the 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).

Dr Heather Melville OBE

Chancellor, 2022 to present

Dr Heather Melville, our current Chancellor, is Senior Managing Director at the global CEO advisory firm Teneo, where she supports businesses to build more sustainable, diverse and inclusive practices, and leads the UK arm of its Diversity, Equality and Inclusion practice. She also holds a number of Trustee positions; on the Board of the Chair of Chartered Management Institute (CMI) and of its Women’s Advisory Committee, Enfield Enterprise; a Patron of Women in Banking & Finance (WIBF); and was a member of the PwC Colour Brave Charity Committee.

In 2017, she was awarded an OBE for her services to female entrepreneurs, diversity in business and gender equality.

In July 2019, she was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Portsmouth for her contribution to Diversity in Business. In the same year, she secured a place on The Financial Times’ prestigious ‘EMpower Top 100 Minority Leaders’ list, which showcases 100 carefully chosen BAME professionals from the UK and US.

Prior to her appointment as Chancellor, she has been an active supporter of the 四虎影院 for many years. She presented at the 2019 York Festival of Ideas, built strong connections with our Staff Racial Equality Forum (SREF), and helped promote doctoral study for graduates from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds as part of the UKRI-funded Yorkshire Consortium for Equity in Doctoral Education (YCEDE).

Key figures

John West-Taylor OBE

The University's first Registrar

John West-Taylor

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 四虎影院 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.

Sir Donald Barron

Former Chairman of the University Council

Sir Donald Barron served as Treasurer of the York Academic Trust, the group that campaigned successfully for the 四虎影院 to be established. Educated at George Heriot’s School in Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh, 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. 

Sir Andrew Derbyshire

Project architect for the University

Credit: RIBA Collections

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 四虎影院 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. 

Photo credit: RIBA Collections

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 
 Patrick O'Donnell 
 Pierrick Roger