Comedian and actor Hugh Dennis was installed as the new Chancellor of the University of Winchester at a ceremony held this week.

Hugh was presented with his robes of office at the event held at University’s West Down’s Auditorium.

The TV star, best-known for his appearances as the long-suffering dad in sitcom Outnumbered and as a panellist on Mock the Week, succeeds broadcaster and gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

University vice-chancellor Professor Sarah Greer explained that the role of chancellor is an especially important one, being the honorary head of the institution and presiding over high-profile events such as graduation. 

“Hugh’s professional accomplishments – and equally importantly his love of life and learning, and belief in the importance of education - make him the perfect choice. I look forward to working with him.”

Hugh told the audience that he had “known and loved Winchester since childhood” – his grandparents had lived near the cathedral, his mother’s first teaching job had been at St Swithun’s School and his parents had retired to the city.

He said: “Winchester is a very special university, and this is helped by the emphasis put on in-person teaching and making sure that students feel that they are part of a wider community.”

Hugh added: “All the people I most admire delight in the younger generation and work for, and applaud, their successes and that’s what the University of Winchester does.”

Hugh Dennis and Sarah GreerHugh Dennis and Sarah Greer (Image: Dominic Parkes)

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Resplendent in his purple and gold robes, he joked: “This is the most amazing costume I’ve ever had to wear. If this the home kit, I can’t wait to see what the away strip looks like!”

The ceremony also saw the installation of two of the University’s new Pro-Chancellors – Mohamed Bakhaty and Maggie Bruce - who will also undertake ceremonial and ambassadorial roles.

All three pledged to uphold the values of the university and commit themselves to serving it in their roles.

A third Pro-Chancellor - soldier and royal commentator Major-General Alastair Bruce - was unable to attend the installation due to broadcasting commitments at D-Day commemoration events. He will be formally installed as a Pro Chancellor at one of the university’s graduation ceremonies in October.

The distinguished trio are the first Pro-Chancellors appointed by the University.

The Pro Chancellors were escorted by two third-year students who had won Academic Excellence Awards at this year’s Winton Society Awards – Forensics Investigations student Jordan Bushnell and Nursing student Natasha Evans.

At the beginning of the ceremony the audience was entertained with a choral performance by the King Alfred Singers and while the new Chancellor and Pro Chancellors were being presented with their robes, there were performance by members of the Hampshire Special Music Course at Peter Symonds College.

Senior figures from the city and region were present at the ceremony, including the High Sheriff of Hampshire, Jonathan Whitaker; the Mayor of Winchester, Cllr Russell Gordon-Smith; the chief executive of Winchester City Council, Laura Taylor; the chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals Trust, Alex Whitfield; and the university’s first chancellor, Lady Mary Fagan.

Following the ceremony, the new Chancellor met members of staff, current and past students, governors and partners of the University. His first official duties will be presiding over the University’s graduation ceremonies in Winchester Cathedral in the autumn.

Hugh DennisHugh Dennis (Image: Dominic Parkes)

Hugh Dennis

The 62-year-old TV star is a graduate of St John’s College, Cambridge where he studied Geography, an interest he has maintained as a member of the Royal Geographical Society and the Cloud Appreciation Society. 

After Cambridge, where he was a member of the famous Footlights, Hugh combined a career with Unilever with comedy writing and performing for six years before committing to showbusiness full-time. 

At Cambridge Hugh met Steve Punt with whom wrote and appeared in BBC Radio 4’s satirical comedy The Now Show which clocked up 57 series. 

As well as Geography, Hugh has a love of history and presents Channel 4’s community archaeology show, The Great British Dig. 

Hugh has campaigned to raise funds and awareness for Dementia Friends and the Alzheimer’s Society following a storyline in Outnumbered in which his on-screen father-in-law developed dementia. 

Hugh knows Winchester well as his parents lived in the city for 20 years following the retirement of his father who was a bishop in the Church of England.

Mohamed Bakhaty

Commercial property developer Mohamed is a leading figure in the Winchester business and civic community and is an Honorary Fellow of the University.

He has worked in Winchester for nearly 40 years restoring and improving many prominent buildings. Examples include 32 and 33 Southgate Street and Barclays Bank in Jewry Street. His redevelopment of a former antiques shop in Jewry Street attracted top chef Raymond Blanc to the city.

In 2008, Mohamed received the Winchester City Council Millennium Egg at the Winchester Business Excellence Awards for his outstanding contribution to the local economy.

Maggie Carver CBE DL

Maggie Carver is the chairman and founder of the charity Licoricia of Winchester, which since 2018, has been educating the public about city’s Jewish heritage and promoting religious tolerance and understanding.  In 2022 the then Prince of Wales unveiled a statue of Licoricia, a prominent medieval Jewish mother and businesswoman, in Jewry Street.

After reading Biochemistry at Oxford, Maggie’s early career was in banking and strategy before moving into the media sector.

Maggie has served on the boards of around 20 companies and charities, including The Eden Project. She chaired the boards of ITN, the Racecourse Association and the British Board of Film Classification. She was recently Deputy of Ofcom, having served as Interim Chair from January 2021 to April 2022.

Major-General Alastair Bruce of Crionaich OBE DL VR

Alastair Bruce, born in Winchester in 1960, has combined a successful military career with those of an historian and a media commentator.

 A senior Army reservist and Officer of Arms in the Royal Household, he has been Governor of Edinburgh Castle since 2019.

 Alastair is also Royal, Religious and National Events Commentator for Sky News and has been involved in the broadcasts of several major state occasions including the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II. In 2011, Alistair was appointed Honorary Professor of Media by the University.

 An accomplished historian, Alastair has written several books and has worked on a number of documentaries. His subjects include the last Tsars of Russia, the British monarchy and the Vatican.

Alastair has also served as historical adviser on films and TV series, including The King’s Speech, Young Victoria, The Greatest Showman and Downton Abbey. 

Alastair BruceAlastair Bruce (Image: Dominic Parkes)