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Professor Andrew Thompson appointed Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council

Professor Thompson appointed Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council following a term as interim chief.


Professor Andrew Thompson has been appointed Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) following a term as interim chief, Science Minister Jo Johnson confirmed today.

Professor Thompson will also transition to become the first Executive Chair of AHRC upon the creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in April 2018, subject to Parliamentary approval of the Higher Education and Research Bill.

Announcing the appointment Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

Professor Thompson has proven himself a valuable asset to the leadership of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. His strong academic background and experience in research makes him the ideal candidate for the role, and he’ll continue to be a strong voice for the arts and humanities community when UK Research and Innovation is created.

Sir Mark Walport, UKRI Chief Executive Designate said:

UKRI needs to attract the highest quality individuals to lead the Councils and their respective communities. I am delighted that Andrew Thompson will continue his fine work at AHRC and will become the first AHRC Executive Chair in UKRI, subject to Parliament.

Sir Drummond Bone, Chair of the AHRC said:

Andrew Thompson’s appointment as Chief Executive of the AHRC is to be greatly welcomed. He has been well known for his own research for many years, and has become very highly regarded over the last few years for his work for the Council and the wider research community. At this period of significant change for the Research Councils, having Andrew in charge is a major plus for the arts and humanities community.

Professor Thompson said:

More than ever we need the insights and perspectives of the arts and humanities to navigate the great global challenges of our times. I’m immensely proud of the work that AHRC staff do to sustain world class research in the UK’s universities and flagship cultural institutions - galleries, libraries, archives and museums. We also have a wider role to play in linking researchers with the UK’s creative industries and marrying creative content with new digital technologies.

The arts and humanities should expect to have an important and influential voice in the new organisation into which the Research Councils will shortly move - UK Research & Innovation. We look forward to collaborating even more closely with the other Research Councils, whether that be in the fields of the digital, medical or environmental humanities. STEAM not STEM is the refrain.

Professor Thompson has been confirmed in the role following an open and competitive process run in 2016. His appointment as AHRC Chief Executive will run until 31 March 2018, after which it is intended that he will transition to become AHRC Executive Chair within UKRI subject to Parliamentary approval of the Bill. The Executive Chair appointment will then run until September 2020.

The role of Executive Chairs will be crucial to the ambition for UKRI to be a world-leading research and innovation organisation. Each of the nine Councils that will be part of UKRI will be led by an Executive Chair, a role which will combine the responsibilities of the current Chair and Chief Executive of each Council.

Notes for Editors

  1. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98m to fund research and postgraduate training in collaboration with a number of partners. The quality and range of research supported by this investment of public funds not only provides social and cultural benefits but also contributes to the economic success of the UK.

  2. Professor Andrew Thompson is a historian of modern empire and Director of the Centre for Global & Imperial History at the University of Exeter. He studied for his D.Phil at Nuffield College in Oxford and was later a fixed-term Tutorial Fellow in Modern History at Corpus Christi College. The major strand of his research interests have focused on the effects of empire on British private and public life during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Imperial Britain (2000) and The Empire Strikes Back (2005) and, most recently, a companion volume to the Oxford History of the British Empire series entitled Britain’s Experience of Empire in the Twentieth Century (2012). He is currently working on a project on the history of international humanitarian aid after the Second World War, including a partnership with the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva exploring the history and practice of their humanitarian principles. This is shortly to be published as a joint report: Connecting with the Past. The Fundamental Principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement - A Critical Historical Perspective. He previously co-founded Leeds University’s Institute of Colonial and Postcolonial Studies, and was also Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research at the University Leeds.

Published 27 March 2017