Next Oxford University vice-chancellor state educated and second female in role

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The nominee as the next vice-chancellor of Oxford University is a female neuroscience professor who studied at a local comprehensive school.

Irene Tracey is a renowned neuroscientist who has led Merton College since 2019, and is currently professor of anaesthetic neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

She is also president-elect of the Federation of European Neuroscience Societies (FENS).

Professor Tracey said she was educated at a “terrific local school”, Gosford Hill School in Kidlington, and that the university’s commitment to attracting the “best students from whatever their background will remain steadfast”.

“I am honoured to be nominated as the University of Oxford’s next vice-chancellor, and I wish to thank my colleagues for entrusting me to lead such a magnificent and world-leading academic institution,” she said.

“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,” she added, perhaps in reference to the development of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“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.”

She added that the university had “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.”

Merton College, Oxford (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Merton College, Oxford (Andrew Matthews/PA)

After completing her undergraduate degree and doctorate in biochemistry at Merton College, Prof Tracey held a post-doctoral position at Harvard Medical School before returning to Oxford in 1997, when she became a founding member and then director of the Wellcome Centre for Integrative Neuroimaging.

Her research on the neuroscience of pain led to improvements in the understanding of pain perception, and she was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to medical research by the Queen in 2022.

Prof Tracey will be the second female VC of the university, following professor Louise Richardson, when she takes up the position in 2023 if approved by the university’s sovereign body.

Prof Richardson said: “I am delighted by the nomination of Professor Irene Tracey, who will bring deep-seated familiarity with the collegiate university as well as enthusiasm for its values, to the role of vice-chancellor.

“Irene’s talents, collegiality and boundless energy will stand her in good stead.

“I wish her every success and I will do all I can to ensure a smooth transition.”

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