Pete Downes

+44 (0)1382 38 55 61
Principal & Vice-Chancellor
Contact: Valerie Dorward (Personal Assistant)


Professor Sir 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 Convener of Universities Scotland from August 2012 to July 2016, 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.

Sir Pete 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.

Sir Pete 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 and a Knighthood in 2015.

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.

Professor Sir Pete Downes will be retiring as Principal & Vice-Chancellor as of the end of 2018. His successor, Professor Andrew Atherton, will take up his post as of 1 January 2019.