Stephen Toope to step down as Cambridge v-c next year

Canadian cites challenge of being separated from family during pandemic

September 20, 2021
Stephen Toope

Stephen Toope has said he will step down as vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge next year, citing the challenge of being separated from his family in Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Professor Toope will have completed a five-year term at the head of the institution when he departs in September 2022.

He said that “the upheaval of Covid has led me to reassess my own years ahead from a personal perspective”.

“As an expat living far from home, being separated from my children and grandchildren by closed borders has been hard. Being near my own family and friends is more important than ever,” Professor Toope said.

“It remains of course an extraordinary experience to serve this great university as its vice-chancellor, and a tremendous honour to work with colleagues across the collegiate university and beyond – one that I am proud and enthusiastic to continue for another full year.”

Prior to succeeding Sir Leszek Borysiewicz at Cambridge, Professor Toope – an expert in international law – was vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia and director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

At Cambridge, Professor Toope made major efforts on widening access, overseeing the creation of the university’s first foundation year, and launched the Cambridge Zero campaign which will see the institution aim to achieve “net zero” emissions from its investments.

He has had to contend with the impact of the Covid crisis, which took a heavy toll on Cambridge’s finances, while he also pivoted the institution towards greater use of online learning and contended with a backlash from academics over proposed free speech reforms.

Professor Toope said that he took “a great deal of pride in our accomplishments” against the backdrop of the pandemic, which “kept the university on track and safe during its hardest years since World War II”.

Lord Sainsbury of Turville, Cambridge’s chancellor, said that he “totally understand[s] and fully respect[s] Professor Toope’s decision, taken for the best of reasons, to complete his term of office in September 2022”.

“I know this is not a decision he will have made lightly, but he can do it in the knowledge that he has left his mark on the university, and contributed to making it an even better place to study, work and undertake research,” Lord Sainsbury said.

“His leadership throughout the pandemic has been essential to getting Cambridge through the biggest crisis of our times, and I am grateful for his dedication and commitment over the past four years.” 

Cambridge said that the process to recruit a new vice-chancellor would begin soon.

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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