Born in Northampton, England in 1953 John Charles Cater came to study at the University of Wales, Lampeter in 1971 and completed his BA (Honours) degree in 1974. As a graduate he joined Liverpool Polytechnic, now Liverpool John Moores University, to work as a research assistant. He subsequently held Lecturer and Research Fellow posts at the same institution, working on the Social Science Research Council and Community Relations Council research projects.

As a social geographer he has published extensively on race, housing, economic development and public policy and co-authored major research studies for the Social Science Research Council, the Commission for Racial Equality and their successor bodies. After a brief spell in a policy unit in London, Cater joined Edge Hill University, Lancashire in 1979, where he has remained ever since, holding a variety of posts over his ensuing career.  

Initially appointed to a lecturing post in Geography, he became Head of Urban Policy and Race Relations in 1983 and sub-Dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Environmental and Social Sciences in 1986. He took institution-wide responsibility for Policy, Planning and Development in 1990 and was appointed Director of Resources in 1992. Subsequently in June 1993 he became Director and Chief Executive. 

Appointed in 1993 as the Vice-Chancellor of Edge Hill University John Charles Cater is the longest-serving head of a United Kingdom higher education institution and has played an integral role to the success of Edge Hill University. Under his inspiring leadership he has overseen the University’s development over the last twenty-seven years. His dedication to higher education and teacher training led to him being appointed Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in the 2015 Queen’s Birthday Honour’s List.  

In addition to his role as Vice-Chancellor, his current responsibilities include involvement in social work education and training for Universities UK, having been a past member of the Social Work Reform Board. He currently represents the sector in negotiations on the future funding of nurse education and training and is the Chair of the Universities UK Teacher Education Advisory Group. 

Dr Cater is currently chair of the joint Universities UK (UUK) and GuildHE Teacher Education Advisory Group (TEAG), has been a Director of the Higher Education Careers Service since 1994 and was Chair of Liverpool: City of Learning from 2003-2005. He chaired the Standing Conference of Principals from 2001-2003, having been Vice-Chair from 1997-2001. He was a Director of the Teacher Training Agency and its successor body, the Training and Development Agency for Schools, from 1999-2006 and chaired both the Accreditation and the Audit Committees. 

Dr Cater was also a member of the Department of Health’s Expert Advisory Panel on Nurse Education and Training from 1995-97, and has sat on Universities UK’s Health Education and Research Policy Network since 2004, and represents all Vice-Chancellors on the Joint DH/DfE Social Work Reform Board. He is past Chair of the Knowsley 14-19 Collegiate Consortium and the Greater Merseyside and West Lancashire Lifelong Learning Network, and a member of the QAA’s Advisory Committee on Degree-Awarding Powers. He was appointed a Deputy Lieutenant of Lancashire in 2019, whose function is to assist the Lord-Lieutenant in carrying out his public duties as Her Majesty’s personal representative in a county or area in upholding the dignity of the Crown. 

Dr John Charles Cater CBE continues to steer the Edge Hill University in the right direction, with “excellent and strategic leadership” and leads by example remaining true to his personal commitment to the transformational power of education. 


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