Balliol appoints first female Master

Dame Helen Ghosh will be the first woman to hold the position in the college's 750-year history

Dame Helen Ghosh. Photo: Richard Williams for the National Trust.

Dame Helen Ghosh has been announced as the new Master of Balliol College, the first woman to hold the position in its 750-year history.

Ghosh, who is currently the Director General of the National Trust, was elected by fellows of the college, in a tradition dating back to its founding in 1263.

She will begin the role in April 2018, replacing the current Master, Professor Sir Drummond Bone, who announced his retirement earlier this year after six years in the job.

In an announcement on the Balliol website, Ghosh said: “I am honoured to have been chosen by the Fellows of Balliol as their new Master.

“The College has a remarkable tradition of outstanding scholarship, research and teaching, which I believe will be as important in helping society meet the challenges of the 21st century as it has been at any time in its 754-year history.”

Photo: Chuca Chimas/Flickr

Ghosh is no stranger to Oxford, having read an undergraduate degree in Modern History at St. Hugh’s before completing an MLitt at Hertford.

After leaving Oxford, Ghosh spent 30 years working for several departments within the civil service, focusing especially on child poverty and housing.

Dame Helen’s current tenure at the National Trust has created some controversy in the national press. In April, the National Trust was drawn into a row over its decision not to include the word ‘Easter’ in its branding for Egg Hunts, prompting accusations that it was downplaying the significance of the traditional Christian festival.

The row led to an intervention by the Prime Minister, St Hugh’s alumna Theresa May, who described the move as “ridiculous”.

However, the chairman of the National Trust, Tim Parker, praised Ghosh’s management of the charity. “She will be leaving the organisation in great shape – one clear of its future direction with ever growing levels of investment in conservation,” he said.

Ghosh will take over from Drummond Bone in 2018. Photo: Richard Williams for the National Trust.

Ghosh was also praised by Bone, the current Master of Balliol: “She brings all of her wide knowledge and experience – the College will be in the hands of someone who understands its values and has the abilities, energy and standing to develop its role in the years ahead.”

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Dame Helen said she was excited about “welcoming students from the widest possible range of backgrounds to the College and to helping create a supportive and stimulating environment in which they can fulfil their potential.”