Professor Deborah Prentice nominated for Vice-Chancellor role

If confirmed, Professor Prentice will be the first American to hold the post

Professor Deborah Prentice has been nominated for the role of Vice-Chancellor at the University of Cambridge, taking over from Professor Stephen Toope. If confirmed, she will become the first American and only the third woman to hold the post

Professor Prentice was one of the final three candidates interviewed on the 20th of September, and has now been formally nominated by the University Council.

The nomination needs approval by Regent House, the governing body of the University whose members include Heads of College and other senior University staff. The recommendation from the University Council is that Professor Prentice takes on a seven-year term commencing on the 1st of July 2023.

Professor Prentice is the current Provost of Princeton University – a role that involves being both chief academic officer and chief budget officer. She originally came to Princeton as a lecturer in Psychology, before chairing the Department of Psychology for 12 years. She became Provost of Princeton in July 2017.

A social psychologist by training, Professor Prentice’s academic speciality is the study of social norms governing human behaviour. She has conducted research into topics such as gender norms, intimate partner violence and alcohol abuse, and her work includes publications such as “What women and men should be, shouldn’t be, are allowed to be, and don’t have to be: The contents of prescriptive gender stereotypes.”

Her predecessor, Professor Stephen Toope, was a legal scholar who after leaving the post of Vice-Chancellor will become the CEO and President of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, an international, interdisciplinary research organisation. 

Professor Toope announced he was stepping down from the role in September 2021, ending his term two years early. A Canadian expat who was the first non-Briton to hold the role, Professor Toope said that the “upheaval of COVID” had made separation from his family difficult and this contributed to his decision to step-down early. 

On the nomination of Professor Prentice, the current Vice-Chancellor said he was “delighted” with the choice, stating “I am confident that Professor Prentice will bring fresh perspectives and new ideas to Cambridge, and I look forward to seeing our world-leading university continue to flourish under her guidance.”

Professor Stephen Toope remains as the current Vice-Chancellor until October 1st of this year, after which point Dr Anthony Freeling will become Acting Vice-Chancellor. Dr Freeling was President of Hugh’s Hall for eight years, and has previously been a Research Director for Coca-Cola and a senior partner at McKinsey & Company, amongst other roles.

On the nomination of Professor Prentice, Dr Freeling said: “I look forward to passing on the baton from Professor Toope to Professor Prentice, and to working closely with Professor Prentice as she prepares to take on the leadership of our University later this academic year.”

Featured Image Credit: Matilda Head