London, Nov. 28: Cambridge University is to appoint a female vice-chancellor to lead the drive to pull it out of deficit.
The university is expected to announce next week that Prof. Alison Richard, an English-educated academic who is currently provost of Yale, the Ivy League university, will take over the post.
Prof. Richard, herself a graduate of Cambridge, will take over from Prof. Sir Alec Broers, who will step down at the end of the academic year.
Sir Alec has been in the post for six years.
She will be the first woman to run the university in its 800-year history. Before Sir Alec’s appointment, the vice-chancellor was a figurehead.
Another woman, Dame Rosemary Murray, held the position in the 1970s.
It is believed that Prof. Richard was considered “an exceptional candidate with great vision as well as experience”.
Prof. Richard, who has a doctorate in primate biology, is a professor of anthropology.
Louise Simpson, a spokesperson for the university, last night refused to confirm or deny the appointment but said the decision came after a six-month search by a special committee.
“The choice is important because the university is at a crossroads,” she said. “A number of important issues will have to be dealt with, such as governance of the school and its deficit.”
The university is running a deficit of about £10 million. “Whoever takes control will have to get the university back in the black. State funding has not been enough. Business partnerships will be part of the long-term plan and academic excellence,” she added.
She is said to have beaten Malcolm Schofield, professor of ancient philosophy and a member of the university council, to the Cambridge post. Other candidates were said to have included Prof. Lord Eatwell, the president of Queens’ College.
Prof. Richard’s appointment also follows criticism that Cambridge does not have enough women in senior positions. Only 15 per cent of dons and six per cent of professors at Cambridge are female.
Significantly, Prof. Richard oversaw a drive to recruit more women and minorities at Yale, which she joined in 1972 and where she is the chief academic and budgetary officer. She helps to determine faculty salaries and is chairman of the budget committee which prepares both the operating and capital budgets for approval by the institution.