Thursday 31 July 2014


The British Council has appointed Ciarán Devane, currently CEO of Macmillan Cancer Support, as its new Chief Executive.

Sir Vernon Ellis, Chair of the British Council, announced today that Ciarán Devane has, with the prior approval of the Foreign Secretary, been appointed by the Trustees as the next Chief Executive of the British Council.

Sir Vernon said: “I am delighted that Ciarán will be our new Chief Executive. He brings with him a passion for the charitable sector and for public service and combines this with a broad range of international experience of leading change and growth.  His knowledge of building partnerships between the private, public and charity sectors will be hugely valuable to the British Council as we extend our international cultural relations work for the UK."

The Foreign Secretary, the Rt Hon Philip Hammond MP, commented: "I am delighted to welcome the appointment of Ciarán Devane as the new Chief Executive of the British Council. The British Council does great work promoting British language, education and culture around the world. Ciarán has the experience to help the British Council do even more for Britain and I look forward to working with him as he takes on his new role.  I would like to thank Sir Martin Davidson for his tremendous contribution to the British Council over many years."

Ciarán Devane started his career as an engineer before becoming a manager for ICI working across Europe, Latin America and East Asia. He then applied that experience to management consultancy and he led multi-country change programmes for companies such as AstraZeneca and Rolls Royce.

Ciarán went on to study for a Master’s degree in International Policy & Practice at the George Washington University in Washington DC before becoming Chief Executive of Macmillan Cancer Support, a leading UK charity. There he developed the strategy that has transformed the scale of what the charity does, both on its own and in collaboration with other organisations and has raised its profile as an authoritative voice on cancer and wider health matters.

Ciarán Devane said: "It is a huge honour to be invited to join an organisation with the reach, impact and heritage of the British Council. From a personal point of view, I have a long-held interest in international affairs, cultural relations and soft power, so it is all the more a privilege to join an organisation with such a record of achievement. I hope to add my experience of leading complex change to the tremendous capability of the British Council and its staff, and I look forward to us working together with our partners to achieve even more in the future."

Sir Vernon Ellis added: “Sir Martin Davidson continues as our CEO until the end of December 2014 and I would like thank him for his immense contribution to the organisation over 30 years, the last seven of which as Chief Executive. He will leave the British Council at a time when it now strengthens the UK’s relationships with over 22 million people a year and is on a firm financial footing with a turnover of over £800m yet less than 20% of this coming as a government grant. Martin’s work leaves a firm foundation for Ciarán Devane to build on and an organisation that is confident and ambitious for the future”.



Notes to Editor

For more information or an image, contact Tim Sowula in the British Council Press Office on +44 (0)20 7389 4871. 

Ciarán Devane will take up the role of at the British Council in January 2015. He will lead the Executive Board and is accountable to the Board of Trustees chaired by Sir Vernon Ellis. The CEO post was advertised internally and externally in May 2014 and the Foreign Secretary approved the appointment on 31 July 2014.

Ciarán Devane is on twitter @ciarandevane

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7,000 staff – including 2,000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which was £781m in 2012/13. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

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