Heather Hancock named as first female Master of St John’s College

She will begin her role on the 1st October 2020


Heather Hancock has been appointed the 45th Master of St John's College, making her the first ever woman to take up the role since the founding of the college in 1511. She is the successor of Professor Sir Christopher Dobson, who died in September 2019 after 12 years as Master.

Professor Deborah Howard, chair of the College committee which led to the search for the new Master, said: “We are delighted to announce the election of Heather Hancock as the next Master of St John’s College. She is a highly distinguished leader who will build on the College’s international reputation as a supportive, inclusive, and ambitious academic community.”

Hancock read Land Economy as an undergraduate at St John's and she has previously served as President of the Land Society, the alumni network for Cambridge land economists. She was the first in her family to attend university and the first pupil from her Northern comprehensive school to attend Oxbridge.

She said: "I know from personal experience the life-changing impact that St John’s can deliver.

“I’m looking forward to sustaining the college’s global renown for scholarship and excellence, and to championing its pioneering work on access – such as the St John’s Studentships offered to students from lower- and middle-income households.”

Hancock has been Chair of the Food Standards Agency since 2016, before which she was a Managing Partner at Deloitte for the UK and Swiss firms. At Deloitte, she led their global services to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

In the 2013 New Year Honours, Hancock was appointed Lieutenant of the Royal Victorian Order, and she is a Deputy Lieutenant of North Yorkshire. Upon graduating from Cambridge, she began her career as a land agent, after which she joined the Government Economic Service. She was Chief Executive of The Millennium Commission, and Chief Executive of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. During her time as a trustee of The Prince's Trust, Hancock introduced programmes specifically aimed at young people in rural areas.

Dr Steve Edgley, President of St John’s, said: “Heather has an extremely impressive track record of being an innovative and inspirational leader, and she will draw on her expertise to guide the College in addressing the challenges and opportunities of academic life. Heather will undoubtedly be an exceptional ambassador for the College as we continue to strive to attract the very brightest students and researchers to St John’s from around the world.”

Hancock has had close ties with St John's for many years. She was, amongst other roles, a member of the College’s Development Committee and the St John’s College Communications Group. She is also a former President of the Johnian Society, a global network of alumni that works to support the College. In 2018, Hancock was elected as an Honorary Fellow of the College in recognition of her 'exceptional contribution' to her field.

She tweeted that it is a "privilege" to have been appointed Master of the College that is "very dear" to her.

Photo Credit: St John's College