Born in Birmingham, he moved to, and was educated in, Australia, where he taught in secondary and special schools before moving back to the UK in 1972. He worked in the University of Wales and Leeds Polytechnic before moving to the University of Birmingham where he was Pro-vice-chancellor and Professor of Special Educational Needs and Educational Psychology.
In June 2013, he was appointed High Sheriff of Oxfordshire, having been Undersheriff the year before. He is married to Bebe Speed, an ex-director of West Midlands Institute of Psychotherapy. They have four children and five grandchildren.
- "Professor Graham Upton Takes the Helm at Experience Oxfordshire!". Oxfordshire B4 Network Magazine. 29 Jul 2013.
- "Cumbria university appoints acting vice-chancellor". News and Star. 21 May 2010.
- Waite, Debbie (15 November 2012). "Well-off OAPs urged to pass on their Winter Fuel Payment". Oxford Mail.
- "The current High Sheriff of Oxfordshire is Professor Graham Upton MA Med PhD". Oxfordshire County Council.
- "‘Cumbria as safe as any university is safe in the current climate’". News and Star. 23 July 2011.
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