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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 12:56 GMT
Cambridge set for woman chief
King's College Cambridge
The university will not confirm the appointment
Cambridge University seems set to have its first female chief.

Reports that Alison Richard, currently provost of Yale University in the United States, is to become vice-chancellor have not been confirmed by the university.

But nor has Cambridge denied Professor Richard's appointment. It says an official announcement will be made next Wednesday.

Cambridge University lays claim to being among the oldest seats of higher education in the world, with colleges dating back to the 13th Century.

The university has had a previous female vice-chancellor, Rosemary Murray, appointed in 1975, when the post was more of a figurehead.

But in the mid-1990s, the vice-chancellor took on a chief executive role.

If appointed, Professor Richard will enter an English higher education system which is in financial turmoil, with the government still wrestling with how students and universities should be funded.

And Cambridge University faces its own financial problems.

This summer, the university's watchdog warned that a failure to introduce suitable budgeting systems has led to an anticipated deficit of 20m within three years.

'Root and branch'

The university's board of scrutiny calls for a "root and branch" review of costs and funding and "proper forecasts and budgets".

Cambridge might have been attracted by Professor Richard's achievement of "restoring balance to the university's operating budget" during her tenure at Yale.

While provost at Yale, Professor Richard has overseen a university that has billions of dollars in an endowment fund.

And a single campaign to rasie funds for campus improvements brought in $1.71bn, much of it given by former students.


Professor Richard studied anthropology at Cambridge and London Universities, but moved to Yale University, Connecticut in the United States in 1972.

An expert on evolution of social systems, she has has written two books and numerous articles on her research.

Active in conservation, and a board member of the World Wildlife Fund-US, she was appointed professor of anthropology in 1986 and provost in 1994.

While provost, Professor Richard has also been credited with encouraging the recruitment of women to senior academic posts.

See also:

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