Nomination of candidate for Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge

Professor Deborah Prentice, the Provost of Princeton University, has been nominated as the next Vice-Chancellor of Cambridge.

An eminent psychologist, Professor Prentice has been Provost at Princeton since 2017 with primary responsibility for all academic, budgetary and long-term planning issues. 

Professor Prentice joined Princeton as a lecturer in psychology in 1988 and was appointed assistant professor of psychology the following year, after completing a PhD at Yale. She was appointed associate professor in 1995 and professor of psychology in 2000. She became the Alexander Stewart 1886 Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs in 2012 and chaired the Department of Psychology for 12 years until her appointment as Dean of Faculty in 2014. 

Her academic expertise is the study of social norms which govern human behaviour – the impact and development of unwritten rules and conventions and how people respond to breaches of those rules. She has edited three academic volumes and authored more than 50 articles and chapters and she has specialised in the study of domestic violence, alcohol abuse and gender stereotypes.

The University Council has formally nominated Professor Prentice and the appointment now goes forward for approval by the Regent House, the body comprising academic and senior administrative staff of the University and Colleges. The appointment is for a seven-year term from 1 July 2023.

The current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen J Toope, departs on 1 October and in the meantime the Acting Vice-Chancellor will be Dr Anthony Freeling, currently President of Hughes Hall, Cambridge.

Professor Prentice said: “It is a huge honour to be nominated to lead such a renowned institution. I welcome the challenge of helping Cambridge write the next chapter of its long and proud history. Higher education around the world faces many challenges but I firmly believe there are also great opportunities to demonstrate how our leading universities can together harness their expertise to solve global problems. I hope that I can play some part in leading that dialogue.”

Professor Pippa Rogerson, Master of Gonville & Caius College, who chaired the advisory committee on the Vice-Chancellor’s recruitment, said: “We were privileged to be able to meet and consider an exceptionally strong field of applicants from around the world. Professor Prentice was an outstanding candidate from the start and we had no hesitation in putting her forward for consideration by the University Council.”

The Council interviewed three candidates in person on 20 September before agreeing to nominate Professor Prentice. Mark Lewisohn, deputy chair of Council, said: “In making its nomination, Council is confident that the University will be gaining a highly experienced and formidably talented academic and leader who will be able to guide Cambridge through the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

Professor Toope said: “As I step down as Vice-Chancellor, I am delighted to know the University is appointing a successor of such academic distinction, and with an experience of leadership at all levels of university life that will stand her in good stead at Cambridge. I am confident that Professor Prentice will bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to Cambridge, and I look forward to seeing our world-leading university continue to flourish under her guidance.”

Dr Freeling said: “I look forward to passing on the baton from Professor Toope to Professor Prentice, and to working closely with Professor Prentice as she prepares to take on the leadership of our University later this academic year.”