James Donald was the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at UNSW from 2007 to 2015, having been appointed Professor of Film Studies in 2003. He was previously Professor of Media at Curtin University of Technology in Western Australia, and before that, in England, he had worked in the School of Education at the Open University and helped to establish Media Studies at the University of Sussex. In the late 1970s, James Donald was editor of the journal Screen Education, and went on to found New Formations. He has written books about modern education and the modern city, and co-authored the Penguin Atlas of Media and Information. He has edited over a dozen books on cinema, the media, education, and cultural and social theory, as well as contributing to a variety of books and journals. His current research includes a project, supported in its early stages by an ARC Discovery Grant, on the significance of two Black American stars, Josephine Baker and Paul Robeson, in the transnational culture of modernism between the World Wars, and a comparative and historical account of universities and the media as modern institutions. He is still trying to work out what sort of thing cinema is going to be in the twenty-first century.
He is a graduate of Oxford University (BA Hons in English), Goldsmiths' College, London (MSc in Education) and the Open University (PhD in Sociology). In 2003, he was Visiting Fellow at the Internationales Forschungszentrum Kulturwissenschaften in Vienna. In 2006, he was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. In 2008, he was appointed a Special Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at the University of Nottingham in the UK. He serves on the boards of UNSW Press and the Confucius Institute at UNSW.