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Oxford Vice Chancellor receives Damehood for services to education

Vice-Chancellor Professor Louise Richardson has been awarded a Damehood for her services to Higher Education.

Dame Richardson received the honour of a Damehood from King Charles at Windsor Castle on Wednesday, December 14. The award ceremony follows her being named Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (DBE) in June 2022 in recognition of her distinguished career as both an academic and a leader of various universities. In a statement released after the announcement of the 2022 Queen’s Birthday Honours, the Vice-Chancellor expressed her delight at receiving the award and was honoured that her and her colleagues’ work, as well as the field of High Education in general, was recognised in this way.

Dame Richardson began her career as a professor of political science with a focus in international security and terrorism at Harvard University. There she received numerous awards for her excellence in undergraduate teaching. She made history in 2009 and 2016 when she became the first female Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St. Andrews and the first female Vice-Chancellor of Oxford respectively. During her tenure as head of Oxford, she has worked to secure important donations to the university, such as the £150 million donation from Stephen Schwarzman to fund humanities research. Under her leadership access schemes have also increased, including a pledge to admit 25% of British students from underrepresented backgrounds by 2023 and the creation of the Astrophoria Foundation Year programme. Her management of the university during the COVID-19 pandemic was also crucial for the development of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and other therapies for the disease. 

Her work at Oxford included vital institutional changes, but did not erase Oxford’s often controversial past. Dame Richardson has spoken out against renaming buildings and demolishing statues of controversial figures like Cecil Rhodes, arguing that we should not hold historical figures to our constantly changing and oftentimes hypocritical modern standards. In an interview with Cherwell earlier this year, she reiterated her stance on free speech, stating that no student at Oxford should have a “right to not be offended” and that discomfort with one’s ideas was a fundamental part of personal and academic growth.

In January 2023, Dame Richardson will begin a new position as president of the philanthropic fund, the Carnegie Corporation of New York. She will be succeeded as Vice-Chancellor of Oxford by Professor Irene Tracey.

Image credit: OUImages/John Cairns

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