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Wendy Purcell Professor at Harvard University and Former President and Vice Chancellor, Plymouth University


Wendy is an academic scientist and leader and was President Vice-Chancellor (Chief Executive) of Plymouth University (a public research university) in the UK for 8 years (2007-15), establishing its enterprise vision and ‘anchor’ (civic engagement) institution status, taking it to the top 1% of all universities, to 37th in the world rankings of modern universities, and number 1 ‘green’ university in the UK.  With deep experience of the global higher education sector, she focuses on future trends and positioning universities as place-makers – locally rooted-globally connected and international in outlook. 

She takes a keen interest in diversity, sustainability, leadership and governance.  Her passion is transforming lives through education and research and driving up social mobility – helping talent to express itself in our society.  She is a Council Member of the United Nations University and a Visiting Scientist with the TH Chan School of Public Health at Harvard University.  She is a Board Director of the Environmental Association of Universities and Colleges, that champions sustainability across all UK and Irish universities and colleges.  She is also a Board Director the National Marine Aquarium and set up both a Marine Academy school and a University Marine Technical College for science education.  She was awarded the Queen’s Anniversary prize for marine education and research undertaken by the university, establishing its position as a global center of excellence.

She chairs the National Council for Healthcare Science in Higher Education and is a Member of the Genomics Advisory Board which advises the UK Government’s Department of Health.  She completed my full-term as a Non-Executive Director and Board Member with the UK government’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and was Chair of their Nominations Committee.  She was also an Expert Adviser to Sir Andrew Witty’s Review of Universities and Economic Growth and Sir Adrian Smith’s national Postgraduate Review. She now consults for the government, working with the Cabinet Office on their Talent and Diversity agenda and the Government Office for Science on Foresight programmes.  She also consults for Microsoft and a global search firm on future trends in the higher education sector.

She established an innovation ecosystem across the South West of England driving jobs and growth and am an expert in university-business relations.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce and Emeritus Professor of Biomedicine. She continues to undertake research in her field of pre-clinical science, with some 100 publications and also explores disruption in the global higher education sector with an emphasis on leadership and governance models.