Nancy Rothwell to step down as Manchester vice-chancellor

Neuroscientist to leave post in summer 2024 after 14 years in charge

March 1, 2023

Dame Nancy Rothwell is to step down as president and vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, ending a 14-year reign in 2024, the university’s bicentenary year.

Philippa Hird, the chair of the board of governors at Manchester, said that Dame Nancy’s decision to leave at the end of her current contract – which expires in summer 2024 – had long been planned and that the search for her successor will begin shortly.

“Under her leadership, the university continues to develop as a world-leading centre of teaching and learning excellence, a research powerhouse, and is setting new standards for social responsibility,” Ms Hird said.

“Nancy has also made an outstanding contribution to higher education through her sector and national roles.”

A neuroscientist, Dame Nancy was the first woman to lead a redbrick university. She once said her motto was to “break the rules and see what happens”.

A former vice-president for research at Manchester and the chair of the Research Defence Society, she was appointed to the top position in July 2010.

Communicating the benefits of science has been a key hallmark of her tenure, and she has been a powerful advocate for female leadership as well as the importance of universities in Manchester and the north of England.

She was appointed a dame in the 2005 Birthday Honours, and in 2013, BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour programme ranked her as the 15th most powerful woman in the UK.

Ms Hird said identifying a successor to take over at the world-leading university was of “great significance”.

“Although it will be 2024 before any leadership transition occurs, we are embarking on a global search for her successor, which inevitably takes time to complete,” she added.

“It will be an inclusive process, with staff, students and alumni from within the institution and our wider stakeholder community being invited to help inform the requirements for our next president and vice-chancellor. We expect the full search process to take at least the remainder of this calendar year.”

The university will be marking 200 years since its formation in 2024, having traced its earliest origins back to 1824.

“Nancy will continue to lead the university as president and vice-chancellor until summer 2024 with her customary drive, skill and rigour, and I look forward to working with her over that time,” Ms Hird said.

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