Professor Andrew Thompson has been appointed Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

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

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 has confirmed.

Professor Thompson, a historian of modern empire at the University of Exeter, will lead the organisation’s work to fund researchers in a wide range of subjects, including ancient history, modern dance, archaeology, digital content, philosophy, English literature, design, the creative and performing arts.

The Director of the Centre for Global & Imperial History at the University, who has been acting as AHRC Interim Chief Executive, will also transition to become the first Executive Chair of AHRC following changes to the way the UK’s research councils operate 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.”

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 Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter, said: “We would like to wish Andrew all the best in this role. He was instrumental in setting up our Centre for Imperial and Global History, the largest research centre of its kind in the UK, which has international links around the globe. We look forward to his ongoing outstanding research at the University of Exeter.”

Professor Andrew Thorpe, Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Executive Dean for Humanities at the University of Exeter, said: “This is a great day for the AHRC, and the whole UK arts and humanities community should welcome this appointment. Professor Thompson has proved himself to be a powerful advocate for our subjects for many years, and we know that he will be a staunch supporter as we move forward. The arts and humanities can, and should, make a crucial contribution to the 21st-century world, and Andrew is one of the very best articulators of that reality. We have very much enjoyed working with Andrew at Exeter, and we now look forward to working with him in his new role.”

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.

Professor Andrew Thompson is an expert on the effects of empire on British private and public life during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. He has also written on Anglo-Argentine relations, colonial South Africa, transnational migrations and migrant remittances, and public memories and the legacies of empire. Professor Thompson's latest project is on international humanitarianism. His new book linked to this research, which will be published by Oxford University Press, is called Humanitarianism on Trial: How a global system of aid and development emerged through the end of empire. He has also been given access to previously unseen archives of the United Nations and the International Red Cross; the outcome of this research is a forthcoming article on Nelson Mandela, Political Detention on Robben Island and Apartheid in South Africa.


Date: 27 March 2017

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