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

Date: 27/03/2017


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

Professor Andrew Thompson
Professor Andrew Thompson

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 Andrew 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. The researchers we support have a vital role to play in providing new and challenging thinking around sustainable development and tackling world poverty, the role of the creative industries in securing the UK's cultural as well as economic future, and what it means to be human in a rapidly globalising world where technology is too easily seen as an end in itself rather than the servant of society."

"I'm immensely proud of the work that Arts and Humanities Research Council staff do to sustain the world class research in the UK's universities and flagship cultural institutions - our galleries, libraries, archives and museums. The arts and humanities represents almost a third of the UK research community, and the AHRC has a vital role to play in supporting the next generation of researchers, championing the role of core disciplines from which interdisciplinary research is built, and telling the story of the impact of the curiosity-driven research we are proud to fund."

"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. Historical awareness, religious and intercultural understanding, linguistic ability, ethical and philosophical reasoning, and literary sensibility -- these are indispensable forms of knowledge without which society would be adrift. We look forward to a future where we are able to collaborate ever more closely with the other Research Councils, whether that be in the fields of the digital, medical or environmental humanities, and where 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.


For further press information please contact Mike Collins, Head of Communications, at the Arts and Humanities Research Council, on 07590 463751 or

Notes for Editors

  1. The Arts and Humanities Research Council funds world-class, independent researchers in a wide range of subjects: history, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, languages, design, heritage, area studies, the creative and performing arts, and much more. This financial year the AHRC will spend approximately £98 million 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 and contributes to the economic success of the UK but also to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe. You can find out more information via or following us on Twitter at @ahrcpress, on Facebook at Arts and Humanities Research Council, or Instagram at @ahrcpress.
  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 has also worked 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. The outcomes of this research were 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. He is also Chair of the Research Councils UK (RCUK) Research, Innovation & Strategy Advisory Board and is the RCUK Chief Executive Champion for Global Challenges Research Fund and the Newton Fund. He is also the Co-Lead, with Hilary Reynolds (Executive Director for RCUK), of the RCUK Equality & Diversity Strategy. Find out more about Professor Andrew Thompson
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