Professor Irene Tracey nominated next University of Oxford VC

Born and schooled in Oxford, Professor Irene Tracey is a renowned neuroscientist and the current warden of Merton College

The University of Oxford has nominated Professor Irene Tracey to be its next vice-chancellor.

Following approval from Congregation, the current warden of the university’s Merton College will take up the seven-year post in January 2023.

“I am delighted that from next year, having already been an academic leader and college head at Oxford, I will have the chance to further give back to a university that I ardently believe in, and to my home city that I dearly love,” said Tracey.

“I am also proud that I will be passed the leadership baton by Oxford’s first female vice-chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, whose outstanding legacy will be built upon in the years to come.”

Richardson announced her intention to step from the role down last year.

2022 is becoming something of an annus mirabilis for Tracey, having been appointed a CBE for services to medical research by the Queen in the new year honours list.


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The president-elect of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies, and a professor of anaesthetic neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences, Tracey specialises in better understanding our perception of pain and its representation in the brain.

Assuming her nomination goes through, it is doubtful that the university will have been led by anyone more thoroughly Oxfordian in its uniquely long history. Born in the city and educated at a local comprehensive, Tracey went on to complete both her undergraduate degree and doctorate at Merton College.

After departing to take up a postdoctoral position at Harvard Medical School, she returned in 1997 to co-found the Oxford Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain (now known as the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging).

“It is an extraordinary story of personal achievement, social mobility and academic excellence,” said the university chancellor, Lord Patten of Barnes, who chaired the nominating committee.

“I doubt whether anyone knows more about the university and all its aspects than [Professor Irene Tracey]. She also, as an internationally recognised scientist, has considerable experience at home and abroad. I am sure she will build successfully on the outstanding achievements of Louise Richardson and lead Oxford in coping with the big challenges which lie ahead.”

I am delighted that I will have the chance to further give back to a university that I ardently believe in, and to my home city that I dearly love – Prof Irene Tracey

Saying that she felt “honoured” to be nominated as VC, Tracey added: “The last few years have reminded us all of the crucial role Oxford, along with other leading British universities, plays in tackling global societal issues. That is why I am deeply committed to growing Oxford’s impact through supporting its groundbreaking discovery research, its excellence in teaching and its drive to create a global innovation powerhouse.

“The university has also made significant strides in recent years to becoming a more diverse community. Coming to Oxford University from a terrific local school, Gosford Hill, I know well the transformative power that great teachers, professors and a good education can have throughout one’s career.

“Oxford’s commitment to attracting the very best students from whatever their background will remain steadfast.”

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