Professor Louise Richardson, currently Principal of St Andrews, will be the first woman to hold the post in its 800-year history.

Meet Oxford’s next vice-chancellor

Oxford University is set to have its first woman vice-chancellor since the post was created nearly eight hundred years ago.

Professor Louise Richardson, currently the Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, has been nominated to succeed Professor Andrew Hamilton as vice-chancellor of Oxford on 1 January, subject to the approval of Congregation, the University’s parliament.

Professor Richardson has led St Andrews for more than six years, combining strong institutional advancement with a distinguished academic career in the study of terrorism and security issues.

Professor 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.’

Professor Richardson is an internationally renowned scholar of terrorism and security studies, on which she has advised policy makers and others internationally. Her publications include the ground-breaking study: What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat.

Born in the Republic of Ireland in 1958, the second of seven siblings, Professor 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.

On the news of her Oxford nomination, she told the Guardian newspaper: ‘My parents did not go to college, most of my siblings did not go to college. The trajectory of my life has been made possible by education. So I am utterly committed to others having the same opportunity I have had.’

Prior to joining St Andrews in 2009, Professor Richardson lived and worked in the United States where she was Executive Dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University.

Whilst at Harvard she received several honours for the quality of her teaching, including the Joseph R Levenson Memorial Teaching Prize, bestowed by Harvard’s undergraduate body in recognition of exceptional teaching.

Oxford’s nominating committee was chaired by the Chancellor, Lord Patten, 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.’

Current Vice-Chancellor Professor Hamilton said: ‘I am delighted by the nomination of Louise Richardson and wish her every success in leading this great university. The role of vice-chancellor is both challenging and rewarding and I look forward to making the transition as smooth and straightforward as possible in the coming months.’ Professor Hamilton is leaving to become president of New York University, as reported in Oxford Today in March.

Professor Richardson’s leadership of St Andrews has been marked by a strong focus on academic mission, student experience and development of the university’s infrastructure.

The Senior Governor of the University Court of St Andrews, Sir Ewan Brown, said: ‘Louise Richardson has proved a splendid leader of St Andrews, to which she has made an outstanding contribution over the last seven years. I believe her experience here will stand her in good stead in her exciting new role in Oxford and she will leave at the end of this year with our very best wishes.’

The original article on Oxford University’s News & Events page is reproduced here (in edited form) with kind permission. Photograph of Professor Richardson courtesy of the University of St Andrews.


By Marian Buckley

First woman Vice Chancellor ever - wow what a victory and what an outstanding candidate. Congrats to Louise Richardson and well done Oxford - the whole of Ireland should raise a glass to this fine lady this evening.. The pride of Eire :-)

By Peter Weygang

I presume that the quotation from Professor Richardson is verbatim. In that case I rejoice with all my heart. Here, at last, we have someone who understands English syntax. Her use of commas was precise, and correct. Perhaps this will end the plethora of 'and's, without a preceding comma, that litter Oxford Today. This little comma is not a matter of style, it is a matter of logic.

By Robin Osterley

Am I the only one to find Mr Weygang's comment patronising, offensive, and wholly inappropriate? On the remarkable occasion that Oxford has made such a ground-breaking appointment he seems to think the most important thing to be remarked upon is her use of English, whilst also managing to take a wholly unnecessary pop at Oxford Today. I have to say that if Oxford wishes to examine why it has a reputation for not being inclusive or accessible to the whole of society, it need look no further...

By timothy keates

Robin Osterley's comment of 8 June reminds us of the verbal minefield in which we currently walk, especially in some of the Anglophone countries; and that minefield is destined to grow ever more and more hazardous. It also testifies to the unremitting 'victim' status that clings to Oxford — "home of lost causes", "snobbish", "dinosaur-minded", add any of the other myriad adjectives available. I can't imagine Peter Weygang intended the slightest offence. Actually, I feel free to differ from his prescription re the position of the comma: "Gilbert, and Sullivan" perhaps? Tiens tiens! as Hercule Poirot used to say. But, reverting to Mr Osterley, of course you can enter Oxford, if you can pass the exams. Is it so much easier to enter Cambridge? Or Harvard? Or Princeton? Wot nonsense, Mr Osterley!

By Robin Osterley

Mr Keates misses my point entirely I'm afraid. I have no wish to make Oxford any less accessible from the entrance point of view, only more attractive to those people who find the placement of commas less significant than the overall ethos and atmosphere of the place. As an example, my son, who is more than capable of getting into Oxford should he so desire (plenty of commas there by the way), has no desire whatsoever to apply simply because he has the impression that it is stuffy and "not for him". As an alumnus myself I find this very sad, and can't help thinking it is because I went to a public school and he does not. If I were to show him this correspondence he would only be confirmed in his view.

By Roger Short

Back to the purpose of this article, Louise Richardson is both worthy and welcome.
She will have big shoes to fill as Andrew leaves for his new challenges.

Wordsmiths should confine their anal chatter to their soon to be created separate site, where nothing but syntax discussion is allowed.