The Chancellor of the University of Essex is a ceremonial and ambassadorial role held by someone who shares our values our ethos and our commitment to excellence in research and education.

Dr Sarah Perry, inspirational author of The Essex Serpent, has been announced as our new Chancellor. She officially took up her role on 1 August 2023. This significant appointment marks a momentous occasion for our University as it strengthens its commitment to academic excellence, creativity and the arts, ahead of our 60th anniversary in 2024. Find out more about our new Chancellor on our news page.

Our Royal Charter

The requirement for a University Chancellor is set out in our Royal Charter, which states “there shall be a chancellor…who shall be the chief officer of the University”.

The Chancellor is the ceremonial head of the University and presides over degree ceremonies and the annual meeting of the Court, the group which meets annually to receive a report from the Vice-Chancellor on the workings and sustainability of the University since the last meeting. The duties of Chancellor include:

  • A Ceremonial role: Representing the University at graduations, receptions and events.
  • An Ambassadorial role: The University of Essex is one of the most internationally oriented universities in the UK and a significant part of the role of Chancellor is representing the University of Essex at alumni and other events both in the UK and overseas. Travel abroad to represent the University is optional.
  • A Pastoral role: Working with our students through engagement with student societies and student cultural and volunteering activities.
  • A Fundraising role: Fundraising initiatives in support of the University’s goals.

The Chancellor holds office for a period of five years which may be extended to a maximum of ten years. The Chancellor typically visits the University at least four times a year. The qualities we seek in a Chancellor include:

  • An empathy with the values of the University of Essex and our commitment to excellence in research and excellence in education.
  • An interest in a diverse staff and student body from countries around the world and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds and a commitment to promoting understanding across boundaries.
  • An interest in leading fundraising activities of the University.
  • An interest in representing the University, both within the UK and, where appropriate and necessary, through travel abroad.

Our previous Chancellors

  • John Bercow, former Speaker of the House of Commons, was our 6th Chancellor. He was appointed Chancellor in July 2017, and stood down from the role in November 2021.
  • The Right Honourable The Baroness Shami Chakrabarti, former director of Liberty, was our 5th Chancellor. She was appointed Chancellor in September 2014, and stood down from the role in 2017.
  • Andrew Phillips, Baron Phillips of Sudbury, was appointed Chancellor in April 2003 and served ten years in the role. As one of our longest serving Chancellors, Lord Phillips presided over 11 sets of graduation ceremonies during his ten years in the role.
  • The Right Honourable Baron Nolan of Brasted, PC, MA Oxf, served as our Chancellor from1997 to2002. He was also awarded an Honorary Degree in 1996 by the University.
  • The Right Honourable Sir Patrick Nairne, GCB KCB CB MC, MA LLD DU was appointed Chancellor in1983 and held the role until he stepped down in 1997., Sir Patrick was also awarded an Honorary Degree in in 1983.
  • The Right Honourable Lord Butler of Saffron Walden, KG CH, MA Hon DCL HonLLD DU HonLittD served as our very first Chancellor, holding the role from 1965 to 1982.