Dame Sally graduated from Wadham College, Oxford, with first-class honours in English Language and Literature in 1978. She then worked as an editor at Weidenfeld and Nicolson publishing house. She returned to Oxford and attained her DPhil in 1986 for a thesis on the advice to princes tradition in Older Scots Literature.
In 1984, Dame Sally was appointed Lecturer in Medieval English Language and Literature at Worcester College and Randall MacIver Junior Research Fellow at St Hilda’s College, Oxford. She was later appointed a Tutorial Fellow of St Hilda’s College Oxford and a University Lecturer in Medieval English Language and Literature. She was appointed Reader in 2006, and Professor of Older Scots Literature in 2013.
Dame Sally has partnered her academic responsibilities with leadership and community roles. She served as Junior Proctor of the University of Oxford in the 2006 to 2007 academic year, and Chair of the English Faculty Board from 2007 to 2010.
As a lifelong advocate for diversity and inclusion, Dame Sally was involved in the founding of Oxford’s first women’s consciousness-raising groups, served as the National Union of Journalists trade union representative at Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and spent much of her Oxford career at St Hilda’s, Oxford’s last women’s only college. Dame Sally was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Personnel and Equality in 2009, and she founded the Women of Achievement lecture programme and a mentoring programme to equip women to assume senior academic positions entitled Ad Feminam.
Dame Sally served as a Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education at the University of Oxford from 2011 to 2016. In that role, she assumed responsibility for Oxford’s teaching and education policies and led the creation of the University of Oxford’s Strategic Plan for 2013 to 2018.
Professor Dame Sally Mapstone was formally installed as the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews on 29 November 2016.