Downing welcomes Professor Graham Virgo KC (Hon) as the 19th Master

Downing College is delighted to welcome Professor Graham Virgo KC (Hon) as its Master, the 19th Master since the College’s foundation in 1800.

Professor Virgo has a long association with the College. He read Law at Downing College in the mid-1980s, before heading to Christ Church, Oxford to read for the Bachelor of Civil Law degree. Intending to become a barrister, he attended Bar School in London, but was encouraged to return to Downing in 1989 as a Law fellow.

Over the years Professor Virgo has held numerous roles within College, including Tutor, Director of Studies and he was the Senior Tutor for a decade. 

First appointed to a University Lectureship in the Law Faculty in 1992, Professor Virgo currently holds a personal chair in English Private Law. In 2014 he was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education in the University, and in 2018 became Senior Pro-Vice-Chancellor. In this role, Professor Virgo led major initiatives, including the creation of the Foundation Year programme, the launch of the Stormzy Scholarship for UK Black students and changes to provision for mental health and wellbeing.

With every new Master comes the opportunity for a renewal of the College’s vision and intentions. Professor Virgo will drive forward a keen focus on academic success and student experience during his tenure.

Professor Virgo said: “Through my deep relationship with Downing for nearly 40 years, first as an undergraduate and later as a fellow, I understand the transformative effect that the College has on its students both during their studies and throughout their lives, including myself. My focus as Master will be to ensure that our students have an exceptional education. We will continue to work hard to ensure that the best students are encouraged to apply to Cambridge and are admitted regardless of where they come from. We will ensure outstanding teaching and learning, by investing in our Fellowship with new positions and expanding study support. We will continue to take a close interest in each and every student and will ensure that we are providing tailored support for those students who are struggling and failing to meet their potential.”

Professor Virgo added: “As Master I intend to engage with the whole Downing community: undergraduates, postgraduates, part-time students, fellows, staff and alumni. This is an exciting time for Downing and I am honoured to be entrusted with its leadership.”

Professor Zoe Barber, Vice Master said: “I am delighted to be welcoming Professor Graham Virgo, already well-known to many associated with Downing College, to the role of Master. He brings much from his extensive previous experience, including that of Senior Pro-Vice Chancellor in the University, and we are looking forward to his continued support and leadership.”

Professor Virgo is married with two children. His met his wife Cally when she was a research fellow in Classics at Downing, and they were married in the College Chapel in 1993. This is so far the only marriage between two Fellows of the College in its history.

Published 2 October 2023