Dr Paul Thompson became Chair of the British Council Board of Trustees in January 2024. Dr Thompson is a leading authority on art and design, having worked at the intersection of culture and education for three decades. Throughout his leadership of three international institutions – the Royal College of Art, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and the UK’s Design Museum – Dr Thompson has championed the best of design and fostered a positive environment for artists and innovators to flourish.
He has been Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art since 2009. Prior to this, Dr Thompson was Director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York (2001–2009).
As Director of the Design Museum in London (1993–2001), Dr Thompson was responsible for increasing the museum’s sustainability and popularity with audiences. Prior to becoming Director, he was Curator of Contemporary Design, and then Chief Curator.
Dr Thompson is a Board Member of Creative UK and Chair of the Creative UK Creative Skills & Futures Network; Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London; Executive Committee Member of SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities & the Arts for People and the Economy); Chair of Trustees at the Chelsea Physic Garden; Trustee of The Conran Foundation; he served as a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum from 2009-2023 and on the Ashmolean Museum’s governing body at the University of Oxford from 2012–2018. He completed a PhD in Modern European Thought at the University of East Anglia in 1987.