Frances Cairncross

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Frances Anne Cairncross CBE (born 30 August 1944, Otley, England) is a British economist, journalist and academic. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Senior Fellow at the School of Public Policy, UCLA.[1] She chairs the Executive Committee of the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

Currently Chair of Court at Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh.


Cairncross was on the staff of The Guardian from 1973 to 1984, and before that spent periods on the financial staff of The Times, The Banker and The Observer. She was on the staff of The Economist for 20 years, most recently as management editor.

Cairncross chaired the Economic and Social Research Council between 2001 and 2007[2] and was President of the British Science Association (2005–06).[3]

Her book, The Company of the Future (ISBN 1861974051), was published in 2002 by Harvard Business School Press.[4] In March 2003 Cairncross won the Institute of Internal Auditors' annual award for business and management journalism. Cairncross is also the author of The Death of Distance (ISBN 0875848060), a study of the economic and social effects of the global communications revolution, first published in 1997 and re-published in a new edition in 2001.

Cairncross became Rector of Exeter College, Oxford in October 2004,[5] a role she relinquished in October 2014.[6]

Cairncross is a non-executive director of Stramongate Ltd, and a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Analysis programme. In 2004-05, Cairncross held the honorary post of High Sheriff of Greater London.[7]

Education and personal life[edit]

Cairncross read Modern History at St Anne's College, Oxford, graduating in 1965, and holds an MA in Economics from Brown University, Rhode Island.

Cairncross is the daughter of the economist Sir Alexander Kirkland Cairncross (a.k.a. Alec Cairncross) and the niece of the Russian Spy John Cairncross and is married to Hamish McRae.[8] Cairncross holds honorary degrees from Trinity College Dublin, City University, and the Universities of Glasgow, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Loughborough[9] and Kingston.


  1. ^ Senior Fellow UCLA School of Public Policy
  2. ^ New Chair of the Economic and Social Research Council[dead link]
  3. ^ Past President - British Science Association[dead link]
  4. ^ "Excerpt from the Book". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  5. ^ Rector - Exeter College, Oxford University[dead link]
  6. ^ "Exeter College Announces Selection of New Rector". Exeter College. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  7. ^ Andrew Purvis (2007-06-23). "The Guardian". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2013-12-24. 
  8. ^ Roy Greenslade "Big names among Independent leavers", (blog), 19 July 2013
  9. ^ "Degree Speeches - Frances Cairncross". Retrieved 2013-12-24. 

Positions held[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by
Marilyn Butler
Rector of Exeter College, Oxford
Honorary titles
Preceded by
High Sheriff of Greater London
Succeeded by
Andrew Everard Martin Smith