Heading north

20th April 2016

News, Alumni news

Wadham alumna Sally Mapstone (English, 1975) is leaving Oxford and heading north to become Vice-Chancellor and Principal of St Andrews University in Fife, Scotland.

As an academic of Medieval Scottish literature, the move is a natural fit for Sally who will be leaving her role as Pro Vice Chancellor (Education) and Professor of Older Scots Literature in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford. “It is wonderful that many of my source materials are in St Andrews so I will be close to the manuscripts on which my work is based. However, as Principal, I will have many more demands on my time,” commented Sally. Far from being daunted by this prospect, she believes that with good organisation she will be able to take full advantage of her new location.

Sally has very fond memories of her undergraduate years at Wadham. “I got on very well with the Warden, Stuart Hampshire. He treated the students as intellectual equals and talked to me about moral positivism as if I knew exactly what it was all about right from the start. He called me “the diminutive Miss Mapstone” (I am small) and had a habit of saying to the male students: “Just remind me who you are?” Apart from my friends there are four people who were and are very important to me from my Wadham days – Stuart Hampshire and my tutor Alan Ward, both now deceased, Jeffrey Hackney, who has remained a very dear friend, and my tutor Terry Eagleton.  Terry was a brilliant tutor and challenged everything I thought. He was radical and unconventional, and the way he taught and involved students in his thinking has greatly influenced the way I went on to teach.  Alan was responsible for me becoming a medievalist and our smoke- and sherry-filled tutorials were in their own way truly inspiring.”

Sally recently returned to Wadham to take part in a panel discussion celebrating 40 years of women at Wadham. “I take a strong interest in diversity issues and launched the University’s mentoring scheme for senior women, Ad Feminam, in 2010, remaining its main sponsor in my current role,” she commented. She also organised Oxford’s current ‘Women of Achievement’ lecture series.

A keen supporter of Wadham’s access and outreach work Sally believes that with the colleges and University working together in a joined up programme, Oxford can continue to improve its social diversity. “Wadham has always been radical, forward thinking and creative and its Access to Excellence strategy is in keeping with what Wadham does. Wadham leads the way in using its resources to bring something special and imaginative to its access and outreach programme and the vision and leadership of the Warden, Ken Macdonald QC, is vital in leading this forward.”

Not even Fife’s more northerly location can dampen Sally’s enthusiasm for her new position: “Fife has its own micro-climate and stunning countryside - I am thrilled to be coming to the University of St Andrews.”


Sally Mapstone is Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Oxford, responsible for the University’s strategy and policies for teaching, learning, student support and admissions. She is Professor of Older Scots Literature in the Faculty of English and a Fellow of St Hilda's College.

Her research is in Older Scots literature, of the fourteenth-seventeenth centuries, dealing primarily with literature in Scots and in Latin, with political literature, and with book history. She also has interests in Middle English literature, particularly Chaucer and Malory, and in comparative European literature. One of her current projects is as co-editor of volume one of The Edinburgh History of the Book in Scotland.

She is Honorary President of the Scottish Text Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, and a Fellow of the English Association. From 2007 to 2010, she served as Chair of the English Faculty Board at Oxford; she became Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Personnel and Equality) in November 2009, and took up her current role in January 2011.