James Purnell to join University of the Arts London as v-c

Former culture secretary and BBC director to succeed Sir Nigel Carrington

October 23, 2020
James Purnell

Former cabinet minister James Purnell is joining the University of the Arts London as president and vice-chancellor.

Mr Purnell, who has spent the last seven years at the BBC, most recently as director of radio and education, will succeed Sir Nigel Carrington next year.

A Labour MP between 2001 and 2010, Mr Purnell served as work and pensions secretary and culture secretary in Gordon Brown’s government between 2007 and 2009.

After leaving parliament in 2010, he chaired the Institute for Public Policy Research thinktank before joining the BBC as director of strategy in 2013. He has held his current post since 2016.

Mr Purnell is also a film producer, who won Best Film at the 2012 Edinburgh Film Festival as producer of the documentary One Mile Away, which brought two gangs in Birmingham to a truce after decades of conflict.

Mr Purnell said that he “couldn’t be happier” to be joining UAL.

“UAL is already one of the world’s great creative institutions, so I will start by listening to what students, staff, governors and stakeholders seek from the next phase in our growth,” he said.

“I am especially alert to student well-being as Covid reshapes their teaching and personal experience. And UAL will play an important part in the re-establishment of the creative economy and London’s reawakening following the pandemic.”

Mr Purnell will join UAL as president-elect in March 2021 before taking over from Sir Nigel, who has led the institution since 2008, the following month.

David Isaac, chair of UAL’s court of governors, said that Mr Purnell had “a compelling vision for UAL’s future in education and culture”.

“His track record as a strategist and advocate will be vital as we diversify our student and staff body and create a heavyweight new digital capability,” Mr Isaac said.


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Reader's comments (1)

Really?! This recruitment has been going on for 6 months now. There wasn’t one person of colour/woman in the mix when Purnell decided to flounce away from the Beeb in a fit of pique - a mere 6 weeks ago?! Best white man for the job...


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