Waterford-born academic, Professor Louise Richardson, is set to become the head the University of Oxford, the first female in this role during the university’s 800-year history.
The Irish political scientist, currently based at the University of St. Andrews, in Scotland, will take the title of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. The university is the oldest in the English-speaking world. The first Chancellor was appointed in 1201. Oxford is also one of the highest ranking universities in the world.
Richardson’s new position also carries one of the largest salaries in higher education in the United Kingdom, with a salary of $663,919 (£434,000), as of 2013.
Speaking to the Guardian, Richardson said she hoped her nomination would inspire current and potential female undergraduates.
“I look forward to the day when a woman being appointed isn’t in itself news,” Richardson said.
“Unfortunately, academia like most professions is pyramid-shaped – the higher up you go the fewer women there are.”
In a statement, Richardson said “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.”
A highly-regarded academic in the field of terrorism and security, Richardson worked at Harvard University, in the United States, before taking on her current role as President of the University of St Andrews.
Richardson grew up in Tramore, County Waterford. She is married with three children. The distinguished academic holds a Bachelor of the Arts degree in History from Trinity College Dublin, and a Masters 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.”
Chancellor of Oxford University Lord Patten of Barnes chaired the nominating committee. He 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, Richardson will take up her position in January 2016.
The professor said her priorities in her new role maintaining Oxford’s stellar reputation as one of the world’s top research and teaching universities and that of balancing the university’s admissions procedures.
She told the Guardian “This has been a priority for me at St Andrews, where we have dramatically increased the proportion of poor kids we accept.
“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.”
The news of Richardson’s new position fittingly came on 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.