Arts & Humanities Research Council Executive Chair

Body: UK Research and Innovation
Appointing Department: Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy
Sector: Science & Technology
Location: Polaris House, Swindon with regular travel to London
Skills required: Change Management, International Experience
Number of Vacancies: 1
Remuneration: Base salary up to £120,000 per annum and performance related pay up to £15,000 per annum
Time Requirements: Full time


An announcement has been made on the outcome of this appointment.

Professor Christopher Smith has been appointed as the new Executive Chair of the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Date: 31/07/2020

Campaign Timeline

  • Competition Launched


  • Closed for Applications

    03/01/2020 at 09:00

  • Panel Sift


  • Final Interview Date


  • Announcement

    31/07/2020 at 13:00


Assessment Panel

Vacancy Description

UK Research and Innovation, the UK’s leading research funding agency, is seeking to appoint an exceptional and inspirational arts and humanities academic of international standing to lead the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as its Executive Chair.

The Executive Chair, working with the AHRC Council, is responsible for setting the strategic vision for AHRC and contributing to the direction of UKRI. As a visible and credible leader of both AHRC and the arts and humanities communities you will provide direction, ensuring delivery of far reaching research, skills development and infrastructure investment goals with demonstrable outputs and outcomes.

As a member of UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) Executive Committee, the Executive Chair of AHRC will be accountable to, and work closely with, the UKRI CEO.   The AHRC’s Executive Chair may also be responsible for leading and delivering one or more cross cutting areas for UK Research and Innovation.

UK Research and Innovation

Established in 2018, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is a non-departmental public body, bringing together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and Research England. UKRI is charged with maximising the value from £7 billion of the UK Government’s investment in research and innovation. This includes nearly £2bn per annum of investment which is delivered through new cross-Council collaborative and innovative initiatives. An Arms’ Length Body with a strong voice for research and innovation, both to government and internationally, UKRI is supported and challenged by an independent chair and board. UKRI is principally funded through the Science and Research Budget by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).

As well as the nine distinct Councils, UK Research and Innovation also comprises of a strategic, analytic and corporate hub to help facilitate developing multidisciplinary activity and joint working between the Councils and a stronger more joined up voice within government.

The Arts and Humanities Research Council

The AHRC works to support and promote world-class Arts and Humanities research that helps to deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world that we live in.  Arts and Humanities research is central to our ability to participate in culture in all its various forms, to address complex contemporary challenges and to create economic prosperity in which everyone can share.

The quality and range of research supported by the AHRC not only provides economic, social and cultural benefits to the UK, but contributes to the culture and welfare of societies around the globe, bolstering the UK’s reputation as a creative powerhouse.

In 2017/18 the AHRC’s gross research expenditure was around £110 million. AHRC has around 120 FTE staff. The Executive Chair will be responsible for funding decisions within the AHRC’s subject matter remit and for the health of the disciplines in the UK, including investments in doctoral training.

Person Specification

Person Specification

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) wishes to attract the highest calibre of candidates for this role. The successful candidate will be able to command confidence and represent the AHRC at the highest level and be able to demonstrate the following:

Skills, Experience and Standing

  • A highly respected arts and humanities academic of international standing with a consistent track record of excellence in research;
  • An effective communicator able to command confidence and have credibility across both the academic domain of arts and humanities research and the broader stakeholder landscape, including within Whitehall up to Ministerial level;
  • Highly resilient, ability to deliver, at pace whilst ensuring others execute agreed plans; calm and authoritative under pressure;
  • Politically astute, excellent interpersonal skills, able to influence, build and maintain strong working relationships with a wide range of partners; reciprocal and consultative;
  • Hardworking, motivated, adaptable and proactive with the ability to work flexibly in a changing environment.

Strategic Vision

  • An ability to develop, lead and manage a clear and strategic vision for arts and humanities research through the development of high quality, value for money programmes built on a thorough understanding of and engagement with stakeholders;
  • An ability to take a broad view of the AHRC’s objectives and issues arising across the range of the arts and humanities;
  • An ability to advise on the impact of external developments which may impact or require a significant change in the Council’s role or activities and on its exposure to and management of risk.

Leadership and Management

  • Confirmed leadership and management skills and experience of leading a complex organisation through change and evidence of having successfully led cultural change and organisational development;
  • Experience of managing and building capability of a cadre of skilled employees and programme managers and able to encourage and motivate colleagues at all levels in the organisation.

Breadth of Understanding

  • In depth understanding of current developments in the full spectrum of the arts and humanities research landscape and other areas relevant to the work of the AHRC;
  • An ability to understand the wider relevance of arts and humanities research and its impact in the cultural, social and economic wellbeing of the country 


Additional Information

BEIS is committed to providing equal opportunities for all, irrespective of race, age, disability, gender, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, transgender and working patterns and to the principle of public appointments on merit with independent assessments, openness and transparency of process.

Applications are welcome from all, especially women, minority ethnic and disabled candidates who are under-represented at this level in public life.

Applications are also welcome from those who wish to work part-time, in particular as part of a job-share arrangement, and those who wish to undertake the role on secondment from their current employer.

In order to ensure that UKRI is made up of executives with the appropriate level of skills and experience, both UK nationals, and international candidates are encouraged to apply.

BEIS offers professional training courses on public sector finance and governance for those new to the public sector

The AHRC Executive Chair will be appointed for a term of 4 years. This is a full-time post based in Polaris House, Swindon and with frequent travel to Victoria Embankment, London.

This role is subject to pre-appointment scrutiny by the Science and Technology Select Committee.

How to Apply

An executive search exercise is being undertaken by Perrett Laver in parallel with raising awareness through advertising the post. Perrett Laver will support the selection panel in the discharge of its duties, both to assist in the assessment of candidates against the requirements of the brief and to identify the widest possible field of qualified candidates. All applications will be completely confidential.

Candidates should enclose with their application:

  • a full CV including: educational and professional qualifications, a full employment history outlining responsibilities held, relevant achievements in education and research, budgets and staff managed and latest remuneration including benefits package;
  • a covering application letter summarising their proven ability relevant to the role and person specifications and their interest in the post;
  • a completed Application Form (Appendix A);
  • a completed Diversity Monitoring Form (Appendix B);
  • a completed Political Activity Questionnaire (Appendix C).

Applications can be uploaded via Perrett Laver’s secure candidate portal: using reference number 4377.

Alternatively you can send your completed application and monitoring forms by post to:

Perrett Laver
8-10 Great George Street

The applicant pack can be made available in an alternative format on request; please contact Perrett Laver on +44 (0)20 7340 6274

UKRI - AHRC Executive Chair - Applicant Pack 5 Nov
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