Nottingham alumnus is the new head of MI6

17 Jun 2009 13:45:00.000

PA 164/09

A University of Nottingham alumnus has been appointed the new chief of MI6, Downing Street has announced.


Sir John Sawers, 53, will head up the overseas Secret Intelligence Service from November, replacing outgoing chief Sir John Scarlett.


Currently one of the country’s top diplomats as the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, Sir John’s appointment to MI6 follows a distinguished career spanning more than 30 years.

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He graduated from The University of Nottingham in 1976 with a degree in Physics and Philosophy, before taking up a career with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, working in Yemen and Syria early in his career followed by a posting to South Africa from 1988-91, during the first part of the transition from apartheid.


From 1995-98 Sir John was based in the USA, spending a year as an International Fellow at Harvard University before joining the British Embassy in Washington where he headed the team dealing with foreign and defence policy issues. After this posting he was Foreign Affairs Adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair, dealing with all aspects of foreign and defence policy and working closely with international counterparts, including during the Kosovo conflict. He also worked on Northern Ireland and the implementation of the Good Friday agreement.


Sir John then served two years in the Middle East, as Ambassador to Cairo 2001-03, and was also the British Government’s Special Representative in Baghdad for three months.


From 2003-07 he was Political Director at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, where he advised the Foreign Secretary and was particularly closely involved in policy on Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan and the Balkans. He was made Britain's Permanent Representative to the UN in 2007 and was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in the same year.


Sir John’s appointment as the new ‘C’ of MI6 was announced on June 16th by David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, after approval from Prime Minister Gordon Brown.


Mr Miliband said: “I welcome the appointment of Sir John Sawers as the new ‘C’. I look forward to working with him on the challenges we face as a country.


“International terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the growth of regional conflict and instability mean that there has never been a time when the skills and dedication of our intelligence agencies, including SIS, have been more necessary to our national security and the safety of our people around the world.


“I take this opportunity to pay tribute to Sir John Scarlett's outstanding record as ‘C’ over more than five years in the post. I look forward to a continued close working relationship with him over the coming months.”


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Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 100 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and Times Higher (THE) World University Rankings.


More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to RAE 2008, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranks the University 7th in the UK by research power. In 27 subject areas, the University features in the UK Top Ten, with 14 of those in the Top Five.


The University provides innovative and top quality teaching, undertakes world-changing research, and attracts talented staff and students from 150 nations. Described by The Times as Britain's "only truly global university", it has invested continuously in award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. Twice since 2003 its research and teaching academics have won Nobel Prizes. The University has won the Queen's Award for Enterprise in both 2006 (International Trade) and 2007 (Innovation — School of Pharmacy), and was named ‘Entrepreneurial University of the Year’ at the Times Higher Education Awards 2008.


Nottingham was designated as a Science City in 2005 in recognition of its rich scientific heritage, industrial base and role as a leading research centre. Nottingham has since embarked on a wide range of business, property, knowledge transfer and educational initiatives ( in order to build on its growing reputation as an international centre of scientific excellence. The University of Nottingham is a partner in Nottingham: the Science City.


Story credits

Tim Utton

Tim Utton - Deputy Director of Communications

Email: Phone: +44 (0)115 846 8092 Location: University Park

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