Karen Holford appointed new vice-chancellor at Cranfield University

The influential engineer will be the first female vice-chancellor in the history of the specialist postgraduate institution

Professor Karen Holford has been named the new chief executive and vice-chancellor of Cranfield University.

Professor Holford will take up the post on 1 August, following the retirement of Professor Sir Peter Gregson.

The influential engineer began her career at Rolls-Royce (Aero) as an undergraduate engineer, followed by a number of roles in industry. After 16 years as a lecturer, she went on to become head of the school of engineering at Cardiff University, where she is a professor in mechanical engineering, before moving on to lead the university’s College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, as the founding pro vice-chancellor, from 2012-2017.

She is currently deputy vice-chancellor at Cardiff University.

I am passionate about working in partnership, building industrial collaborations in research and teaching and championing equality, diversity and inclusion – Professor Karen Holford

In 2015, Professor Holford was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering and, in 2016, was named as one of the top 50 most influential women engineers in the UK.

In 2018, she received a CBE for services to engineering and the advancement of women in engineering and, in 2019, received the Suffrage Science award in Engineering and Physical Sciences.

“I am honoured and excited to be joining Cranfield and want to build on the University’s strengths in postgraduate education and research,” said Professor Karen Holford.

“I am passionate about working in partnership, building industrial collaborations in research and teaching and championing equality, diversity and inclusion. Cranfield is a special place and I look forward to working with the Cranfield community to achieve even greater success for the University.”

Iain Ferguson CBE, pro-chancellor and chair of council, who led the recruitment process, said: “I am delighted that Karen is joining us. She shares our values and will build on Sir Peter’s outstanding work to shape and deliver our ambitious agenda for the future at our Cranfield and Shrivenham sites. I would also like to thank all those from our University who were involved in the process to find our new vice-chancellor.”

Professor Karen Holford will be the first female vice-chancellor in Cranfield University’s history.

Founded in 1946, Cranfield is a specialist postgraduate university focused on aerospace, defence and security, energy and power, environment and agrifood, manufacturing, transport systems, and water. It is a six-time winner of the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize, and teaches over 5,000 postgraduate students each year.


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