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On Tuesday 10 January, the University’s 273rd Vice-Chancellor, Professor Irene Tracey CBE FMedSci, was formally admitted in a ceremony steeped in tradition, at the Sheldonian Theatre.

Professor Irene Tracey © Cyrus Mower

MPLS Head of Division Professor Sam Howison, and Divisional Registrar Dr Tracy Gale, attended, along with senior managers from the Divisional Office and MPLS departments.

In her address to the assembled guests, the new Vice-Chancellor said, ‘I am privileged and honoured to serve my hometown university, which has nurtured me since my undergraduate days… I stand here ready to serve. I stand here willing and wanting to devote all my energy – which is vast, as those who know me will testify – and my experience to this great collegiate University.’

Referring to her career as an academic and scientist, she said, ‘Being a woman from a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (or STEM) background is important to me, and I would hope this fact is important to you too in your Vice-Chancellor… I hope that in some small way my being a woman in STEM and leading one of the greatest universities in the world will inspire others.’

Professor Tracey’s address also referenced The Life and Mind Building ‘flying out of the ground’ and work progressing on the Legal & General Joint Venture Innovation District at Begbroke.

She stressed the University’s role in facilitating knowledge generation and knowledge transfer for the greater good and detailed four areas she intends to focus on during her tenure: education and teaching; discovery and translational research; local and global engagement; and supporting and investing in the people who make the University what it is.

The Vice-Chancellor's full address is available to read on the University website, along with a transcript of the address given by the Chancellor of the University, Lord Patten of Barnes.

Professor Sam Howison said: ‘I am delighted to congratulate Irene Tracey on her appointment as Vice-Chancellor, and to welcome her to MPLS. Being a scientist herself, I am sure she will feel very much at home among our colleagues and students. We are greatly looking forward to working with her as she settles into her new role.'

The ceremony featured music from the Choir of Merton College and the Girl Choristers of Merton College, and ceremonial rites such as the handing over of the keys to the University, which are held in the Bodleian’s collections. 

In the evening, a drinks reception was held in the Blackwell Room at the Weston Library, where the new Vice-Chancellor met Oxford councillors and dignitaries and staff representatives of all levels, from across the collegiate University.

Professor Tracey spoke again about the value she places on people as ‘the lifeblood of any University’, and on recruiting the retaining the very best staff, stressing that, ‘An institution is only as good as its people’. She outlined her intention to review all aspects of staff pay and conditions, and called on us all to play our part ‘in shaping Britain, Europe and the world’ and being ‘the very best we can be’.

Professor Tracey grew up and attended state schools in Oxford, before studying Biochemistry as a student at Oxford and Harvard. She is a Professor of Anaesthetic Neuroscience in the Nuffield Department of Clinical Neurosciences and was until recently Warden of Merton College, her alma mater. She was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) by Her Majesty The Queen in January 2022, for services to medical research.

You can find out more about the admissions ceremony on the University website.