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Professor Pete Downes

Principal & Vice-Chancellor

Professor Pete Downes has been Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee since 2009.

Under his leadership the University has consistently been rated best in Scotland for student experience by Times Higher Education and has achieved record levels of research funding. He has led the development of the University’s Transformation agenda, with the goal of becoming Scotland’s leading University, helping transform lives locally, nationally and globally and delivering economic, social and cultural impact.

He was appointed Convener of Universities Scotland in August 2012, having previously served as Convener of its Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee.

He has been a leading voice in championing the strengths an autonomous and diverse university sector can offer Scotland, and particularly the role universities can play in driving innovation and economic growth.

Professor Downes is one of the UK’s leading biochemists. He spent eleven years in the pharmaceutical industry before joining the University in 1989. Before his appointment as Principal he served as Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Life Sciences. He has played a key role in establishing Dundee as a global leader in life sciences, making a significant impact on both the Scottish economy and our understanding and treatment of major diseases including diabetes and cancer.

He was a co-founder of the Division of Signal Transduction Therapy (DSTT) at Dundee, a partnership between the University and several of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies. The DSTT was founded in 1998 and has attracted over £50 million of inward investment to the city. It is widely regarded as a model for how academia and industry can interact productively and was awarded a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher Education in 2006. 

Professor Downes was awarded the Colworth Medal of the British Biochemical Society in 1987 and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991 and a Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2009. He was honoured by the Queen with an OBE in 2004.

He is a member of the Council of the Society of Biology, the National Centre for Universities and Business, the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, Chairman of the Advisory Board of Interface, a Trustee of the Saltire Foundation, and a board member of Design Dundee Ltd, which is delivering the V&A Museum of Design to Dundee.

Previous Principals have been:


NameYears in office
 James Drever  1967-1978
 Adam Neville  1978-1987
 Michael Hamlin  1987-1994
 Ian Graham-Bryce  1994-2000
 Alan Langlands  2000-2009