In an official statement released yesterday, Christopher Patten, Lord Patten of Barnes, announced his decision to retire from his position as Chancellor of the University of Oxford at the end of the 2023-24 academic year. Lord Patten has served as Chancellor since 2003.

In his letter to the university’s current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, Lord Patten said that he was announcing his retirement with a “heavy heart” but that after 21 years in the role he believed that it was in both his and the university’s interest for him to step down. Lord Patten added that: “This year, I will have my 80th birthday in May. I hope that there will be many more birthdays to come. But it does not require an excess of pessimism to realise that the number of years that lie ahead for me will fall. I am unlikely to have another 21 years in the job.”

Lord Patten read Modern History at Balliol College for three years from 1962-65. In his letter, he went on to add that he believes that the university has shaped him profoundly, stating that: “I think it is true to say that Oxford as a whole made me… For all its occasional quirkiness, I love Oxford”. 

Responding to Lord Patten’s announcement, Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey, issued a statement, in which she reflected on Lord Patten’s chancellorship, during which he has engaged “in as many as 60 international events per year on the University’s behalf”. Professor Tracey went on to express her personal gratitude for Lord Patten’s “wise and steadfast support” to her since she became Vice-Chancellor in January 2023. 

On a broader note, Professor Tracey added that “on behalf of thousands of alumni, students and staff and the many people whose lives have been changed by the University’s work, I thank Chris, and also his wife Lavender, for their service and wish them well in a richly deserved retirement”.
The Chancellor is the titular head of the university, with numerous ceremonial responsibilities, as well as undertaking “advocacy, advisory and fundraising work”.