Dr Paul Thompson, Chairman, British Council
Dr Paul Thompson
Tuesday 05 September 2023


The British Council is pleased to announce that Dr Paul Thompson has been appointed as their new Chair, with effect from January 2024.

He succeeds Stevie Spring CBE who ended her term as Chair in December 2022. Sarah Sands, who is currently Acting Chair, will return to her role as Deputy Chair in January 2024.

Paul is a leading authority in educational and cultural institutions. His extensive leadership spans the Royal College of Art (RCA), Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York, and the UK’s Design Museum.

During his time at the RCA, Paul led a substantial curriculum reform and under his leadership, RCA created the world’s first STEAM higher education institution. He also created the annual £1m Sir Frank Bowling Scholarship Fund to support Black and Caribbean diaspora students. Securing the RCA’s future academic vision, Paul oversaw the opening of a new £140M campus development designed by Herzog de Meuron and funded by a £54m government grant.

He is a Trustee of the Victoria and Albert Museum; Board Member of Creative UK and Chair of its     Creative Education & Careers Working Group; Chair of Chelsea Physic Garden; a former Board member of Universities UK and Chair of its Specialist Institutions Forum. An Adjunct Professor at the Institute for Global Health Innovation at Imperial College London Paul also      served on the Ashmolean Museum’s governing body at the University of Oxford from 2012-2018. 

Dr Paul Thompson said:

“Throughout my career I have worked closely with the British Council’s expert staff across Asia, the Gulf and North America. I have huge regard for the institution’s role in promoting UK ‘soft power’ and our world- class universities and am delighted to be joining Scott and the Board of Trustees.” 

British Council Chief Executive Scott McDonald said: 

“I am delighted Paul will be joining us as Chair. Paul’s impressive track record leading world-renowned institutions, combined with his passion for arts and culture and education, will be of huge benefit to the British Council as we deliver on our mission of supporting peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. I look forward to welcoming Paul and working closely with him in the coming years.

“I am hugely grateful to Sarah Sands and Stevie Spring for everything they have done in their time as Acting Chair and Chair.”

James Cleverly, Foreign Secretary said: 

“I am pleased the British Council trustees have elected Paul Thompson as the next Chair of the British Council. Paul brings extensive experience to the role, including from his time as Vice-Chancellor of the Royal College of Art. I am also very grateful to Sarah Sands for her work and contribution to the British Council during her time as Acting Chair.” 


About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education and the English language.  We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2021-22 we reached 650 million people.

See also