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Professor Lisa Roberts

New Vice-Chancellor appointed for University of Exeter

The University of Exeter is pleased to announce that Professor Lisa Roberts will be taking up the post of Vice-Chancellor in September 2020 following the retirement of Professor Sir Steve Smith.

Lisa joins Exeter from the University of Leeds where she holds the position of Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Research and Innovation. In this role, Lisa leads on the development and delivery of the university’s research and innovation strategy and has led a step change in the income, quality, and impact of world-leading research carried out at Leeds, including the recruitment and development of world-leading academics and increasing opportunities for students. Lisa has been pivotal in developing strong business and civic partnerships in a number of key sectors and has fostered a culture of interdisciplinarity to tackle major societal challenges.

Before joining the University of Leeds in 2016, Lisa was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey (2012-2016), leading the Schools of Bioscience and Medicine, Psychology and Health Sciences. During this time she also developed and launched the 8th School of Veterinary Medicine in the UK and developed a ‘One Health’ Strategy, to foster interdisciplinary research and education in human and animal health, with external partnerships being key to its success.  As Dean, she also led an increase in research income to the Faculty and a number of new initiatives to enhance the student experience.

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 in 2012. 

Lisa is also a Board member of the Henry Royce Institute, the UK’s National Institute for Materials Science research and innovation.

Professor Lisa Roberts said: “I am delighted and honoured to be appointed as the next Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, and I am looking forward to building upon the considerable strengths in education and research which have been firmly established over a number of years under the leadership of Professor Sir Steve Smith. I am particularly excited about working together with the tremendously talented staff and student community across our campuses, and engaging with our civic and international partners to tackle the challenges we face collectively within the region and across the world.  Through strengthening our interdisciplinary and international approach to research, and by providing outstanding and innovative education in partnership with our students, we can all contribute to shaping a successful future as a leading global university”.

Sarah Turvill, Chair of Council, who led the recruitment process, said: “I want to thank the university community for their involvement in the process to find our new Vice-Chancellor. We are delighted that Lisa is joining us and she will continue the great work by Sir Steve to establish Exeter as one of the top global universities. It’s an exciting time for us all as we enter a new decade and continue to build a diverse and innovative community that places outstanding teaching and research at its heart to create a better world.”

Janice Kay, Provost said: “I am delighted that Lisa has been appointed as our new Vice-Chancellor as the outstanding candidate during the interview process with a clear passion for world-leading education, learning experiences and research. Lisa’s leadership in research and innovation and her success in creating strong business and community partnerships will be vital in taking Exeter forward so that we are well placed to address the major issues of our time. Her commitment to working across disciplines and supporting academic talent will set the university in good stead for the years ahead.”

Mike Shore-Nye, Registrar and Secretary said: “It is great news that we have been able to appoint Lisa as our new Vice-Chancellor. Lisa’s successful track record in research and innovation will be excellent for our academic community and her all-round leadership skills mean that we can face with confidence the challenges and changes ahead in the higher education sector.”

Linda Peka, Chief College Operations Officer said: “Lisa demonstrated great leadership qualities and strong values throughout the interview process and is a great choice for the University of Exeter. Lisa will build on our current strengths and is dedicated to working with students and staff to ensure Exeter is an exceptional place to learn and work.”

Patrick Hoyle, Students’ Guild President said: “I was honoured to be involved in the selection process for our new Vice-Chancellor. Lisa’s knowledge and experience was apparent from the get go, and also her commitment to the student voice and readiness to work together to improve the student experience for every Exeter student.”

Joe Rigby, Students’ Union President said: “Lisa is an excellent choice as the new Vice-Chancellor. I think she really understands the importance and role of the Cornwall campuses within the University of Exeter. Lisa’s dedication to improving student experience and wellbeing and her support for the environment and climate emergency is a real positive for everyone at the university.” 

Lisa will join the university in September 2020, when Professor Sir Steve Smith retires.  Sir Steve has been Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Exeter since October 2002; and is amongst the longest-serving and most successful Vice-Chancellors of his generation. Lisa will work with Sir Steve to ensure a seamless handover with plenty of time to meet staff and students before she starts in September 2020.

Date: 9 December 2019