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Professor Lisa Roberts

Professor Lisa Roberts starts as new Vice-Chancellor at the University of Exeter

On 1 September 2020, Professor Lisa Roberts becomes the new Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at the University of Exeter. She takes over from Professor Sir Steve Smith who is retiring from the role and who has held the post since October 2002.

Sir Steve is amongst the longest-serving and most successful Vice-Chancellors of his generation and he has taken the University from strength to strength over a period of nearly 20 years. During his leadership the University secured Russell Group status and is now consistently ranked as one of the top 15 universities in the UK and the top 150 in the world. In an extraordinary year for the higher education sector, the University of Exeter has also secured a high number of outstanding UK and international students for 2020/21, and over the last few months Professor Lisa Roberts has been working closely with Sir Steve to ensure continuing success and growth for the University.

Lisa joins Exeter from the University of Leeds where she held the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation. At Leeds, Lisa led a step change in the income, quality, and impact of world-leading research, including the recruitment and development of world-leading academics. She also led initiatives to increase opportunities for students and was a keen champion of interdisciplinary working. Lisa has a track record of building strong business and civic partnerships in a range of vital UK sectors to tackle major societal challenges.

Lisa is a Professor of Virology and, earlier in her career, she worked as a technical brand manager for Procter and Gamble in the UK and Belgium, before undertaking her PhD at the BBSRC Institute for Animal Health (now the Pirbright Institute) and the University of Kent (1998). In 1998, Lisa joined the University of Surrey as a Lecturer in Virology, and during this time she held roles as Programme Director for both undergraduate and postgraduate taught programmes. She became Head of the Department of Microbial Sciences at Surrey in 2008 and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences between 2012 and 2016, leading the Schools of Bioscience and Medicine, Psychology and Health Sciences and launching only the eighth School of Veterinary Medicine in the UK. Lisa was also a Board member of the Henry Royce Institute until her move to Exeter, the UK’s National Institute for Materials Science research and innovation.

Professor Lisa Roberts said: “I am delighted to join the University of Exeter; one of the UK’s strongest Universities that is committed to excellence in research and education. I am looking forward to working with an exceptionally talented community of staff and students to realise even greater success for the University and for each individual within it. It is a time of major challenge and opportunity in higher education and I want to build on the outstanding work of Sir Steve Smith to ensure Exeter continues to lead the way in providing a first class education that is accessible to all, collaborative and dedicated to success for all of our students.

“In research, I want to foster strong partnerships across disciplines, across the region and across the world to ensure that our brightest minds make the strongest possible contribution to society and a tangible difference to people’s lives The University has a key role to play in the South-West, helping to draw on the region’s strengths to make progress together on jobs, economic growth, developing talent and improving the lives of our citizens.”        

Sarah Turvill, Chair of the Council at the University of Exeter, who led the Vice-Chancellor recruitment process, said: “This is an exciting moment for the University of Exeter as we begin a new era with a new Vice-Chancellor who can build on the considerable success of Sir Steve. Professor Lisa Roberts is a talented and innovative leader who won the hearts of all the staff, students and stakeholders involved in the recruitment process. Lisa is passionate about the role of education, research and universities to transform lives. I know that Lisa will continue to enhance the University of Exeter’s positive contribution to communities in the region, country and across the world, and that she will get a warm welcome from everyone connected to the university.

“I also want to take this opportunity to thank Sir Steve Smith for his outstanding leadership over nearly 20 years. He has made a phenomenal contribution to the University of Exeter, to the south-west region, to the strength of UK education and I cannot think of a better person to now represent the UK as International Education Champion. We all wish him every success in his new role and we know he will remain a strong friend and partner to the University of Exeter. Lisa, I and the whole team are determined to build on his extraordinary achievements in years ahead.”   

Date: 1 September 2020

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