Cambridge picks Princeton provost Deborah Prentice as next v-c

Psychologist will become first American to lead institution when she succeeds Stephen Toope

九月 26, 2022
Deborah Prentice
Source: Princeton University

The University of Cambridge has nominated Deborah Prentice, the provost of Princeton University, as its next vice-chancellor.

Professor Prentice, a psychologist who has spent all her 34-year academic career at the New Jersey institution, is set to become the first American to lead Cambridge.

Subject to approval by Regent House, the body comprising academic and senior administrative staff of Cambridge and its colleges, she will succeed Stephen Toope in July 2023.

Professor Prentice, who as provost since 2017 has been responsible for all academic, budgetary and planning issues at Princeton, was one of three candidates interviewed by Cambridge’s university council.

Pippa Rogerson, master of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, who chaired the advisory committee on the recruitment process, said the panel had been “privileged to be able to meet and consider an exceptionally strong field of applicants from around the world”.

“Professor Prentice was an outstanding candidate from the start and we had no hesitation in putting her forward for consideration by the university council,” Professor Rogerson said.

Professor Prentice, who is set to be appointed to serve a seven-year term, said that it was “a huge honour to be nominated to lead such a renowned institution”.

“Higher education around the world faces many challenges, but I firmly believe there are also great opportunities to demonstrate how our leading universities can together harness their expertise to solve global problems. I hope that I can play some part in leading that dialogue,” she said.

Having completed a PhD at Yale University, Professor Prentice joined Princeton as lecturer in psychology in 1988 and developed a specialism in the study of domestic violence, alcohol abuse and gender stereotypes. She chaired the department of psychology for 12 years before being appointed dean of faculty in 2014.

With her appointment, Cambridge is taking a different approach to its long-time rival, the University of Oxford, which looked close to home to find its incoming vice-chancellor, Irene Tracey, warden of Merton College, Oxford, since 2019. She will succeed Dame Louise Richardson next year.

But it is a hunting ground in which Cambridge has operated before, having appointed Dame Alison Richard, Yale’s provost and a British anthropologist, as vice-chancellor in 2004.

Professor Toope, a Canadian, was vice-chancellor of the University of British Columbia and director of the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs before joining Cambridge.

He is stepping down after five years at the end of this month, having cited the challenge of being separated from his family in Canada during the Covid-19 pandemic as the reason for his departure.

In the interim, Cambridge will be led by Anthony Freeling, currently president of Hughes Hall, Cambridge.

Mark Lewisohn, deputy chair of Cambridge’s council, said of the appointment of Professor Prentice: “In making its nomination, council is confident that the university will be gaining a highly experienced and formidably talented academic and leader who will be able to guide Cambridge through the many opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.”

chris.havergal@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

Both these institutions are riddled with cronyism and do not stop people from being on interview panels for friends and other close contacts. They need to bring in urgent recusal rules to crack down on it. They need to make it gross misconduct for any person to be on an interview panel and not recuse when a person known to them is being interviewed for a job. Too many second rate graduates who hang around in weak college teaching posts beating world leading external candidates with dozens upon dozens of top peer reviewed publications and major reserach impact.
I meant both Cambridge and Oxford, not Cambridge and Princeton. I am sure Princeton does not allow friends to interview friends for jobs and must have firm recusal rules in place. Cambridge got hammered in REF due to this nonsense, notwithstanding the huge handicap it gets in REF from the psychology of that name. The biggest threat to Oxbridge in the 21st century is that it cannot just keep trading on the name and the fact it gets the best students, it needs to start hiring objectively with recusals in place and hiring the really best research stars. It also needs to resist affirmative action at all costs as the historic social situation in the UK does not call for it, or we'd have to also give it to the Chinese given the Opium Wars.