MA (Oxon), MA (Harvard)
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Alan was installed as the 18th Master of Downing College on 1 October 2018.
A former BBC journalist, Alan served as the director of the Sainsbury Family Charitable Trusts from 2006 to 2018. The 17 trusts make up the largest family philanthropic body in the UK. In his time the trusts made donations totalling over £1.4 billion, in the arts, scientific and medical research, education, the environment and various social welfare fields.
He was an independent member of the Advertising Standards Authority between 2012 and 2018, and currently sits on the National Theatre’s Development Board and the Marshall Aid Commemoration Commission.
His BBC career spanned 26 years, during which time he was a producer and executive producer in science programmes, documentaries, and current affairs. He did a stint as the BBC’s chief adviser on matters of taste and decency, From 2001 to 2006 he was the head of religion and ethics.
Alan is a graduate of Oxford University in History and Modern Languages, and of Harvard University, where he spent two years as a Harkness Fellow. He also studied for a year in the old USSR, was a volunteer in Africa, and suffered endless torment as a qualified soccer referee.
He is joined in the Master’s Lodge by his wife, the acclaimed jewellery designer Vicki Ambery-Smith.