Helen Ghosh

Dame Helen Frances Ghosh, DCB (/ɡəʊst/; GOST;[2] born 21 February 1956)[1] is a former British civil servant who has been Master of Balliol College, Oxford since 2018.[3] She was previously Director-General of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty from November 2012 to April 2018.

Dame Helen Ghosh

Helen Ghosh.jpg
Master of Balliol College, Oxford
Assumed office
3 April 2018
Preceded bySir Drummond Bone
Director General of the National Trust
In office
12 November 2012 – 2 April 2018
ChairmanSir Simon Jenkins
Tim Parker
Preceded byDame Fiona Reynolds
Succeeded byHilary McGrady
Permanent Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
In office
1 January 2011 – November 2012
Secretary of StateTheresa May
Preceded bySir David Normington
Permanent Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
In office
7 November 2005 – 31 December 2010
Secretary of StateMargaret Beckett
David Miliband
Hilary Benn
Caroline Spelman
Preceded bySir Brian Bender
Succeeded byBronwyn Hill
Personal details
Born (1956-02-21) 21 February 1956 (age 65)[1]
Farnborough, Hampshire, England
Spouse(s)Peter Ghosh
Childrenone son, one daughter
Alma materSt Hugh's College, Oxford
Hertford College, Oxford

From 1979 to 2012 she was a British civil servant. She was Permanent Secretary at the Home Office from January 2011 to November 2012, and prior to that was Permanent Secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) from November 2005 to the end of 2010. On appointment at DEFRA, she was the only female permanent secretary to head a major department of the British Government.[4]

Early life and educationEdit

Ghosh was born in Farnborough, Hampshire, in 1956, to a civil service scientist and a librarian.[5] She was educated at Farnborough Hill, an all-girls independent Catholic school.[6]

She studied modern history at St Hugh's College, Oxford, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree in 1976.[citation needed] She then undertook postgraduate study at Hertford College, Oxford, graduating with a Master of Letters (MLitt) in 1980; her thesis concerned the history of Italy in the 6th century.[7]


Ghosh joined the Department of the Environment in 1979 as an administration trainee.[6] From 1981 to 1983 she was assistant private secretary to Michael Heseltine, the Secretary of State for the Environment.[8] She was private secretary to the Minister for Environment and Housing from 1986 to 1988,[6] and was head of the Housing Policy and Home Ownership Team from 1992 to 1995.[8]

In July 1995 she joined the Cabinet Office on loan, as deputy director of the Efficiency Unit.[9] She left the post in May 1997 to become director of the London East and European Programmes at the Government Office for London.[6]

Between May 1999 and November 1999, she was head of the New Deal for Communities Programme at the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.[6] She then joined the Department for Work and Pensions as director of the Children's Group.[8][6]

She rejoined the Cabinet Office in October 2001, as head of Central Secretariat,[6] and, in 2003, became director general for Corporate Services at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC),[10] where she played an important part in the transformation programme merging the Inland Revenue and Customs & Excise to form the new department.[11] She was appointed permanent secretary at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in November 2005.[12][13] She replaced David Normington as permanent secretary at the Home Office in January 2011.[14]

In November 2012, she stepped down from her role at the Home Office to become director general at the National Trust.[15][16][17] In April 2018, Ghosh left that role to become Master of Balliol College, Oxford, succeeding Drummond Bone.[18][19]

Board membershipsEdit

Ghosh was a board member of the National School for Government,[20] and a committee member and former chair of the Blackfriars Overseas Aid Trust, based in Oxford.[21] She was elected a Rhodes Trustee in 2011.[22]


She was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the Bath (DCB) in the Queen's Birthday Honours list in June 2008.[23] In 2010, The Tablet named her as one of Britain's most influential Roman Catholics.[24]

Personal lifeEdit

She is married with one daughter and one son; her husband Peter Ghosh is a tutor in modern history at St Anne's College, Oxford.[25]


  1. ^ a b "Civil service". The Times. 14 January 2005. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  2. ^ Moreton, Cole (3 March 2013). "Dame Helen Ghosh says: 'I believe the Government will talk to the National Trust'". The Telegraph. Retrieved 22 March 2019.
  3. ^ "Election of new Master". 18 July 2017. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  4. ^ Bawden, Anna (21 March 2007). "The gender agenda". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 December 2010..
  5. ^ "On the charm offensive". The Guardian. 1 March 2006. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Cabinet Office (30 October 2001). "Senior Appointment: Head of Central Secretariat". Government News Network. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007.
  7. ^ "GHOSH, Dame Helen Frances". Who's Who 2014. A & C Black. November 2014. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  8. ^ a b c Bawden, Anna (29 April 2014). "National Trust chief: 'we must focus on things that make a difference'". The Guardian. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  9. ^ Morley, Katie (4 April 2017). "Who is the National Trust's boss Dame Helen Ghosh?". The Telegraph. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  10. ^ Inland Revenue (10 March 2003). "Inland Revenue Board Changes". Ernst & Young LLP. Archived from the original on 22 October 2007.
  11. ^ Ashton, James (12 July 2015). "Dame Helen Ghosh: Ex senior Home Office figure on using her skills to help the National Trust deal with climate change". The Independent. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  12. ^ "New Permanent Secretary of Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs" (Press release). Prime Minister's Office. 13 October 2005. Archived from the original on 12 November 2009. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  13. ^ Written answers by Lord Bach to Parliamentary Questions asked by Baroness Byford, Hansard, 19 December 2005.
  14. ^ "Dame Helen Ghosh to become Home Office Permanent Secretary" (Press release). Home Office. 6 December 2010. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  15. ^ "Top civil servant Dame Helen Ghosh to leave the Home Office". BBC. 13 August 2012. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  16. ^ Kennedy, Maev (13 August 2012). "National Trust appoints Dame Helen Ghosh as director general". The Guardian. Retrieved 19 July 2017.
  17. ^ "Helen Ghosh takes over as National Trust Director-General". The National Trust. 12 November 2012.
  18. ^ Weale, Sally (18 July 2017). "Dame Helen Ghosh to leave National Trust for Balliol College, Oxford". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  19. ^ Preston, Rob (18 July 2017). "National Trust director general quits for job at Oxford college". Civil Society Media. Retrieved 18 July 2017.
  20. ^ "National School Becomes New Government Department" (Press release). National School of Government. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 19 July 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2010. 4. The National School Board comprises: Sir Brian Bender (Chair), Permanent Secretary, Department of Trade and Industry : Sir John Elvidge, Permanent Secretary, Scottish Government : Helen Ghosh, Permanent Secretary, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs : ....
  21. ^ "288585 – Blackfriars Overseas Trust". Charity Commission. Retrieved 7 December 2010.
  22. ^ "Dame Helen Ghosh elected Rhodes Trustee". The Rhodes Trust. 12 March 2011. Archived from the original on 9 August 2016. Retrieved 12 June 2016.
  23. ^ "The Queen's Birthday Honours". The Independent. 14 June 2008. Retrieved 14 June 2008.
  24. ^ "The Tablet's Top 100". The Tablet. 11 September 2010. Archived from the original on 13 March 2016. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
  25. ^ Taylor, Jeremy (27 January 2013). "It's never too late to have your dream job". The Sunday Times. Retrieved 24 February 2013.
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Brian Bender
Permanent Secretary of the
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Succeeded by
Bronwyn Hill
Preceded by
Sir David Normington
Permanent Secretary of the
Home Office

Succeeded by
Mark Sedwill