Sandi Toksvig

Sandi Toksvig becomes Chancellor of Portsmouth University

“I was honoured in October 2012 to take be installed as the new Chancellor of the University of Portsmouth for a five year term.”

I succeeded my old friend the actress and writer, Sheila Hancock. I had already received an honorary doctorate from the university and was delighted to further my association with this wonderful place of learning.

At the installation ceremony I was welcomed on behalf of the staff by Dr Sherria Hoskins, head of psychology. She said: “People come to Portsmouth and they fall in love with it. Some never leave, choosing to make it their home. Part of the Portsmouth experience is a feeling of integration with the local community, of the excitement of being part of a creative and dynamic city by the sea. We hope that you will fall in love with it too and become an ambassador for the city and its University of which we are so proud.”

I intend to be a visible chancellor and have already been to visit many of the departments. So far the falling in love part has been easy.

Godfrey Atuahene Junior, president of the Students’ Union, said: “There is no such thing as an average Portsmouth student. We come from across the whole country and from more than 100 countries across the world, and we range in age from 17 to 77. I really love this about Portsmouth and I would ask you to share your experience of Portsmouth, its students and our achievements, with the outside world. We accomplish great things every day and I think that deserves to be celebrated.”

Indeed it does.


“Modern celebrity is not true success. If you want success, study something for more than 30 years and eventually the world will beat a path to your door wanting to know what you know.”

I am passionate about education for all and not just those who can afford it.   I also believe that all education is important and not just the vocational kind.   At university I learnt to think and most importantly, to question what I thought I already knew. Historically great ideas have often sprung from the unexpected.   It is fine to learn something for its own sake and not just because it might help with the CV.

A quick history of Portsmouth University

The University started life in 1869 as the Portsmouth and Gosport School of Science and the Arts. It was the same year that my old Cambridge college, Girton, England’s first residential college for women was established so it was clearly a good year for education. Over the years the nautical connection proved strong and the school trained many engineers and skilled workmen for both the city and the naval docks.

In the 1960’s it was renamed Portsmouth Polytechnic. The poly became one of the largest in the UK with the power to award degrees in a wide variety of subjects. In 1992 it was granted university status and today more than 22,000 students attend.

My connection with Portsmouth

My father Claus Toksvig, a foreign correspondent, spent many years covering America for Danish television. He amassed a large library of books which my family have donated to the University’s School of Languages and Area Studies, which teaches American Studies. The family have also donated a prize in his name, the Claus Toksvig prize, for an American Studies Dissertation.

I have also performed with great pleasure at the New Theatre Royal, dined aboard HMS Victory and spent some time admiring the waterfront when I made a documentary sailing around Britain with John McCarthy. I recently attended the opening of the Mary Rose Museum which is set to be one of the great museums of the world.  A time capsule of Tudor existence brought back to life.

Facts about Portsmouth

  • The first mention of Portsmouth as a naval base dates from 286 A.D
  • In 897 King Alfred the Great beat the Danes and captured their ships in the Solent.  (sorry to have troubled you)
  • Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth
  • Portsmouth is the UK’s only island city lying mainly on Portsea Island
  • It is a great place