Key figures from our past and present

Here are some of the individuals who have played a key role during the past 190 years, from those involved in the foundation of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge in 1828 through to the people who have been instrumental in the success of today's University of Central Lancashire.

Key Figures From Founding Years

Joseph Livesey

Founder and philanthropist

Joseph Livesey was a Preston based philanthropist, cheesemonger and campaigner who believed in the power of education to change lives. He was a key figure in the local temperance movement, which attributed many of society’s ills to the effects of alcohol intoxication and sought to promote a teetotal lifestyle. He helped to establish Sunday Schools in the town. His Sunday School for young people was the first institution in the town to provide free education to 14-21 year olds, teaching reading and writing. Livesey called together the initial meetings which led to the formation of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge in October 1828.

Thomas Batty Addison

First President of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge

Thomas Batty Addison was elected as the first President of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge at the first open meeting on 15 November 1828. He would remain at the helm for eleven years. Initially life at the Institution centred around the library on Cannon Street. At the opening meeting Addison referred to the new London University, suggesting that “what has been done in London, might upon a corresponding scale be done in Preston.” It would take more than 160 years before his dream became a reality when the University of Central Lancashire came into being in 1992.

Edmund Robert Harris

Preston-born lawyer and benefactor

By the time of his death in 1877, Harris had accumulated great wealth after a successful career in law. His will stipulated that the money was to be used to establish educational or charitable institutions in Preston while keeping the memory of the Harris family alive. During the 1880s and 1890s his estate financed the Harris Orphanage, the Harris Free Library and Museum, and the Harris Technical School. Funds from his estate were also donated to further the work of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge, which changed its name to the Harris Institute in 1882 in his honour.

Sir William Ascroft

First President of the Harris Institute

Sir William was the last President of the Institution for the Diffusion of Knowledge (from 1879-82) and the first President of the re-named Harris Institute (from 1882-1912). By the end of his tenure he was approaching 80 years of age. He had overseen a period of incredible growth. By the eve of the First World War the Harris had changed radically. Staff numbers had swelled from 9 to 80. The 520 students of 1881 had grown to 3,000. The original syllabus of the Harris Institute (art and three science subjects) could fit on a single side of paper. By the Edwardian era this had grown to 130 pages.

Chancellors Of The University Of Central Lancashire
(1992 – Present)

Ranvir Singh

2016 - Present

The popular Preston-born television journalist and presenter became the new Chancellor of the University in autumn 2016. Ranvir has appeared as a regular presenter on Good Morning Britain and ITV News as well as hosting her own primetime series Real Stories with Ranvir Singh.

Sir Richard Evans

2001 - 2016

Sir Richard Evans, the former Chairman of BAE Systems, served as the University’s Chancellor for 15 years. He played a key role in our international strategy and was involved in founding successful fundraising initiatives such as the Harris Bursary Fund.

Sir Francis Kennedy

1995 - 2001

Sir Francis enjoyed a long and distinguished career with high profile roles in the Royal Navy, HM Colonial Service and HM Diplomatic Service. He joined the University in 1989, playing a crucial role in the institution’s transition from Preston Polytechnic to achieving University status.

Vice-Chancellors Of The University Of Central Lancashire
(1992 – Present)

Professor Mike Thomas

2015 - Present

Mike joined the University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor in 2014. An ex-submariner, Mike has worked on projects for many years which support military discharged service personnel to find new life and career opportunities. His research interests include kindness and compassion in leadership.

Professor Gerry Kelleher

2013 - 2015

During his tenure Gerry was involved in securing funding for an innovative new engineering centre and led proposals for a radical revamp of the University campus. His research interests are concerned with the development and application of artificial intelligence technologies.

Dr Malcolm McVicar

1998 - 2013

Dr McVicar was appointed as Vice-Chancellor following his tenure as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at the University of Portsmouth. He has a strong commitment to equality of opportunity and increasing access to higher education. His academic expertise lies in the fields of public sector management, health care education and training, and higher education policy.

Brian Booth

1992 - 1998 (1989 - 1992 at Polytechnic)

Brian was regarded as the founding father of the University of Central Lancashire, having guided the institution as the final Rector of Preston Polytechic and our first Vice-Chancellor when University status was achieved in 1992. He played a key role in the growth of Preston, as chairman of the NHS Trust and then later when he helped to establish the National Football Museum and spearheaded high profile fundraising campaigns in the region.

Chairs of the University Board
(1992 – Present)

David Taylor CBE

2014 - Present

David is renowned for his expertise in urban regeneration and green technologies, with extensive experience across the public, private and voluntary sectors. In 1996 he received an Honorary Fellowship from the University and in 2007 he was awarded a CBE for his services to the county of Lancashire. During his career he has acted as Special Advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister and served as a Director of Preston North End, the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester, and the London 2012 Olympics. He is currently a Director of Lancashire Enterprise Partnerships, a collaboration between local businesses, councils and universities which seeks to direct economic growth and drive job creation throughout the region.

Brian Harris

2007 - 2014

Brian enjoyed a prestigious 34 year career in chemical engineering. He worked his way up the ranks at ICI before becoming Vice-President of Global Operations. His career took him all over the world but he returned to the UK to become Managing Director of Eutech Engineering Solutions Ltd and then Engineering Director at BNFL. In 2001 he joined the UCLan Board and two years later he was made Chair of the Audit Committee. Brian was named the Chair of the Board in 2007 and worked tirelessly to achieve strategic leadership and high performance of the University’s global objectives whilst sustaining a focus on the UK business. Under his leadership, UCLan built a campus in Burnley, opened a campus in Cyprus and created the dental school in Preston. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 2015.

Malcolm Faulkner

2001 - 2007

Born in Carlisle, Malcolm won a scholarship to study at UMIST in Manchester. After joining the North Western Electricity Board as a graduate trainee, he took on increasingly senior project management roles. As Managing Director of Norweb’s electrical business he transformed a loss-making organisation into a hugely successful one. When Norweb was taken over by North West Water in 1995 to form United Utilities, Malcolm joined the main board as Chairman of Norweb and Managing Director of the Energy and Telecommunications Division. He served on various local, national and international committees. He gave freely of his time to the public sector, joining the University Board in 1997 and being elected Chair in 2001. Malcolm’s experience of guiding organisations through major transition proved invaluable. He was awarded an Honorary Fellowship in 2007.

Gloria Oates OBE

1992 - 2001 (1989 - 1992 at Polytechnic)

After qualifying as a nurse and midwife, Gloria enjoyed a distinguished career in the Health Service, culminating in her appointment as District General Manager of Rochdale Health Authority and then Chief Executive of the Rochdale Healthcare Trust. She was also appointed to senior community leadership roles, becoming High Sherriff of Lancashire and Deputy Chair of the Greater Manchester Police Authority. In 1989 the Secretary of State for Education invited her to chair a committee which was tasked with moving Preston Polytechnic from local education authority control into an independent institution. Her strategic vision was crucial during the early years of the University of Central Lancashire. She was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in 2002.

Lancashire Polytechnic (1984 – 1992)


  • R. Crook 1984 - 1989


  • E. Robinson 1984 - 1989
  • B.G. Booth 1989 - 1992

Preston Polytechnic (1973 – 1984)


  • H. Parker 1973 - 1977
  • T.W.S. Croft 1977 - 1978
  • T.V. Brown 1978 - 1981
  • H. Parker 1981 - 1982
  • R. Crook 1982 - 1984


  • H.D. Law 1973 - 1982
  • E. Robinson 1982 - 1984

The Harris College Of Further Education (1956 – 1973)


  • Alderman R.S. Smith 1956 - 1961
  • F.M. Openshaw 1961 - 1965
  • Alderman W. Beckett 1965 - 1970
  • T.V. Brown 1970 - 1973


  • H. Wilkinson 1956 - 1973

The Harris Institute (1882 – 1956)


  • A.J. Cooper 1897 - 1900
  • R. Wallace Stewart 1900 - 1902
  • No appointment 1902 - 1908
  • T.R. Jolly 1908 - 1929
  • E.C. Moyle 1929 - 1931
  • T.M. Naylor 1931 - 1955
  • H. Wilkinson 1956


  • Sir William Ascroft 1882 - 1912
  • Edmund Dickson 1912 - 1929
  • Alderman H. Astley Bell 1929 - 1938
  • J.H. Toulmin 1938 - 1946
  • G.J. Gibbs 1946 - 1947
  • J. Catterall Jolly 1947 - 1949
  • V.W. Pilkington 1949 - 1950
  • J. Ambler 1950 - 1953
  • V.W. Pilkington 1953 - 1956

The Institution For The Diffusion Of Knowledge (1828 – 1882)


  • Thomas Addison 1828 - 1839
  • John Paley, Senior 1839 - 1840
  • George Jacson 1840 - 1842
  • Rev J. Owen Parr 1842 - 1843
  • R.W. Hopkins 1843 - 1844
  • Isaac Wilcockson 1844 - 1845
  • John Paley, Junior 1845 - 1846
  • Thomas German 1846 - 1847
  • John Bairstow 1847 - 1848
  • Thomas Birchall 1848 - 1849
  • James German 1849 - 1850
  • William Ainsworth 1850 - 1851
  • Thomas Birchall 1851 - 1852
  • Thomas Walmesley 1852 - 1853
  • Thomas Birchall 1853 - 1854
  • Thomas Walmesley 1854 - 1855
  • John James Myers 1855 - 1857
  • Lawrence Spencer 1857 - 1859
  • Robert Ashcroft 1859 - 1860
  • Rev. Canon Parr 1860 - 1861
  • John Goodair 1861 - 1862
  • Thomas Miller 1862 - 1863
  • Richard Newsham 1863 - 1864
  • Thomas Wilson 1864 - 1865
  • Major Wilson 1865 - 1866
  • C.R. Jacson 1866 - 1867
  • Edmund Birley 1867 - 1868
  • Miles Myres 1868 - 1869
  • J.J. Myers 1869 - 1870
  • John Rawcliffe 1870 - 1871
  • Edward Hermon 1871 - 1873
  • Thomas B. Addison 1873 - 1874
  • J.J. Myers 1874 - 1875
  • W.P. Park 1875 - 1876
  • Richard Allen 1876 - 1877
  • Thomas Edelston 1877 - 1879
  • William Ascroft 1879 - 1882