Alastair Niven was Principal of Cumberland Lodge from 2001 to 2013. He held the unique double of being Director of Literature at the Arts Council of Great Britain (later Arts Council England) for 10 years and Director of Literature at the British Council for four. He was President of English PEN from 2003 to 2007.
He was Director General of The Africa Centre from 1978 to 1984. He has been an academic, with positions at the Universities of Ghana (where he had been a Commonwealth Scholar), Leeds and Stirling.
He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of Aarhus in Denmark and has held honorary positions at the Universities of Exeter, Warwick and London.
He is the author of four books and over fifty articles on aspects of Commonwealth and post-colonial literature, and has also written extensively about the welfare of overseas students. A judge of the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1994 and of the Man Booker Prize in 2014, he was also for twenty years Chairman of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.