The role of the Vice-Chancellor

The University of Cambridge is looking for an exceptional individual to be its next leader, ensuring that the University continues its extraordinary contribution to global society through education, learning and research at the highest international levels of excellence. We are seeking an inspiring communicator and engaged listener, who can coalesce a diverse academic and administrative community around our most significant collective ambitions. 

The Vice-Chancellor provides academic and administrative leadership across the University. The individual will need to be a nuanced leader, who is naturally collaborative and consensual; someone who steers with a lightness of touch, yet who has a sense of purpose and measured determination. The Vice-Chancellor will be expected to motivate impactful and insightful research, further raising the University’s profile across the world, whilst at the same time maintaining the University’s strong track-record in education excellence. 

A recent, broad consultation has confirmed that the Vice-Chancellor’s first priority is to ensure the University’s position as one of the world’s very best research and education institutions is maintained and further enhanced. The individual must therefore nurture a thriving academic environment, in which all colleagues are able to perform to their highest standards. Within a community as diverse, energetic and intellectually vibrant as the collegiate University, the Vice-Chancellor will need to engage effectively with different groups, building consensus to shape the University’s future priorities. At the same time, the individual will have to ensure that those major initiatives already under way, including significant change programmes to enhance the University’s operations and services, continue with momentum to completion. The Vice-Chancellor will also be capable of balancing the vigorous independence of spirit within the academic community with the obligations of the University as an institution operating under increasingly prescribed external oversight.

The University occupies a high-profile place in the public eye, and the Vice-Chancellor will be expected to engage proactively, including with the media, as our primary ambassador. We face a shifting, global higher education landscape and increasing competition from overseas institutions, an uncertain and sometimes turbulent international context, national debates about the value of higher education, the erosion of institutional autonomy, and the prominence in the public arena of emotive topics such as freedom of expression. The Vice-Chancellor will therefore need to have the legitimacy and understanding of the multiple challenges and differing agendas to influence at many levels, not least with the UK government and other stakeholders, to ensure that the University, in all its richness, can continue to flourish.

The Vice-Chancellor will need to ensure that the University remains financially sustainable, balancing the different funding streams with the necessary investments in our people, facilities and buildings to steward the University’s assets for future generations. This will include engaging closely with the philanthropic community, building on the success of our recent fundraising campaigns and providing the environment necessary for the continued success of the Cambridge University Endowment Fund.

The Vice-Chancellor works through a highly devolved and democratic governance structure where decisions are taken collectively, and where consensus is developed through debate and consultation. The officeholder is the chair of the Council, the General Board and the Finance Committee, among other committees. The Vice-Chancellor has specific legal, fiduciary and regulatory responsibilities, including being the accountable officer for the purposes of the Office for Students.