Irish academic to be first woman to lead Oxford University

Tramore native Louise Richardson nominated for post that paid £434,000 in 2013

Professor Louise Richardson has been nominated  as Oxford University’s next Vice-Chancellor - a post equivalent to chief executive. Photograph: University of St Andrews

Professor Louise Richardson has been nominated as Oxford University’s next Vice-Chancellor - a post equivalent to chief executive. Photograph: University of St Andrews

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Waterford-born academic Prof Louise Richardson is set to become the first woman to lead the University of Oxford.

The university, the oldest in the English speaking world as well as one of the highest ranked, has announced that the Irish political scientist, currently based at the University of St Andrews, has been nominated as its next Vice-Chancellor - a post equivalent to chief executive.

It carries one of the largest salaries in higher education in the UK with a pay package of £434,000 in 2013.

The news comes the same day as the Higher Education Authority announcing a review of gender equality policies in Irish universities to promote more women in leadership roles.

Prof Richardson grew up in Tramore, Co Waterford and studied history at Trinity College Dublin, as one of three Catholics in a class of 33.

It was there, she told The Irish Times in a recent interview, “I became fascinated by how two sets of well-meaning people occupying this small island can have diametrically-opposed interpretations of the same events.”

A distinguished academic in the field of terrorism and security issues, she worked at Harvard University in the United States before becoming the principal and vice-chancellor at St Andrews six years ago.

In a statement, Prof Richardson said of her nomination: “Oxford is one of the world’s great universities. I feel enormously privileged to be given the opportunity to lead this remarkable institution during an exciting time for higher education.

“I am very much looking forward to working with talented, experienced, and dedicated colleagues to advance Oxford’s pre-eminent global position in research, scholarship, and teaching.”

The nominating committee was chaired by the Chancellor of Oxford University, Lord Patten of Barnes, who said: “The panel was deeply impressed by Professor Richardson’s strong commitment to the educational and scholarly values which Oxford holds dear.

“Her distinguished record both as an educational leader and as an outstanding scholar provides an excellent basis for her to lead Oxford in the coming years.”

Subject to the approval of university’s “congregation”, or parliament, Prof Richardson will succeed the current Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Hamilton, next January.

Data compiled by the Times Higher Education magazine showed the post was the second best paid in UK universities after the top job at the London School of Economics in 2013.

Married with three children, Prof Richardson holds a BA in History from Trinity College, Dublin, an MA in Political Science from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and an MA and PhD in Government from Harvard University.

Her publications include ‘What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy Containing the Threat.’

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