Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell appointed Russell Group Chair

15 May 2020

Professor Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester, will take over on 1 September 2020 from the current Chair, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glasgow. Professor Rothwell will be eighth Vice-Chancellor to Chair the Russell Group and the first woman to take on the role.

The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities, based across every region and nation of the country. The Russell Group believes world-class research and education are key to meeting global challenges and helping to create a dynamic economy, stronger communities and a better future for the UK.

Currently, Russell Group universities are playing an important role in the fight against Covid-19, carrying out potentially life-saving research into the virus, as well as giving practical support to NHS staff and local communities. Our universities are also looking ahead to help the Government revitalise and renew the economy as the country takes its first tentative steps out of lockdown.

University of Manchester President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, said:

“It is a great honour and privilege to be named the next Chair of this prestigious group of historic institutions.

“At present, we find ourselves in unprecedented times. Not just in the higher education sector, but across all of society and that is why it has never been more important for our universities to work collaboratively. Together we can, and must, play a key role in helping the UK and wider international community respond to the Covid-19 pandemic, subsequent recovery, and other global challenges.

“With that in mind, I look forward to working with this group of world-class universities and all other relevant organisations to ensure that UK universities remain global leaders in research, education and their many wider contributions to society.

“I must also recognise the excellent work done by the current Chair, Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli who has done an exceptional task in what have been incredibly challenging times for the sector.”

Dr. Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:

“I am delighted to welcome Nancy as our in-coming Chair at what is such a critical time for our universities and for the UK economy and society as a whole.

“In these challenging times the value of the research and innovation nurtured at Russell Group universities is even more important. Not just in the fightback against Covid19, where our members are helping to map the virus and its effects, trial new treatments and help our fantastic NHS, but in the UK’s recovery from the current crisis.

“The ideas, skills and talent that flow out of our universities will be at the heart of that recovery and I look forward to working with Prof Rothwell to champion our universities and the transformative impact of higher education overall.

“I and all our Vice-Chancellors would also like to thank Sir Anton for his work and leading our organisation through a time of significant change and all the challenges that come with it.” 

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, outgoing Chair of the Russell Group, said:

“It’s been a privilege representing the Russell Group as its Chair and I hope that Nancy will enjoy it as much as I have. The last few years have been a time of significant change and the UK now faces new and even more unprecedented challenges. 

“However the value and contribution of the university sector to society has remained constant and that work will be even more important as our country recovers from the Covid-19 crisis.

“I know Nancy will be a great champion for the sector and I look forward to working with her in that new role when she takes over from me in the autumn”

Notes to Editors

Nancy Rothwell is President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester and Professor of Physiology.

Nancy obtained a first class degree in Physiology in 1976, a PhD in 1978 and a DSc in 1987 from the University of London. Her early research identified mechanisms of energy balance regulation, obesity and cachexia. In 1984 she was awarded a Royal Society Research Fellowship and relocated to Manchester in 1987. Nancy was awarded a Chair in physiology in 1994, then a prestigious Medical Research Council Research Chair from 1998 to 2010. Her current research focuses on the role of inflammation in brain disease and has identified the role of the cytokine interleukin-1 (IL-1) in diverse forms of brain injury. Her research has begun to elucidate the mechanisms regulating IL-1 release and its action, and her group has conducted the first clinical trials of an IL-1 inhibitor in stroke.

Nancy was the founding President of the Society of Biology (now the Royal Society of Biology), and has previously served as President of the British Neuroscience Association, a council member of MRC, BBSRC and Cancer Research UK and as a non-executive director of AstraZeneca. In 2003 she won the prestigious Pfizer Research Prize, in 2004 was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 2005 was honoured with a DBE. 

Nancy became President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester in July 2010, but still maintains an active research group. She is currently Co-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, Chair of Corridor Manchester Board, a member of the Greater Manchester Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Board, the Dementia Research Institute UK Board and the Industrial Strategy Council.

Nancy takes a strong and active interest in public communication of science and regularly gives talks to schools and the public and contributes to television, radio and press, particularly on sensitive issues in science. In 1998 she delivered the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, televised by the BBC. 

List of Russell Group Chairs



Sir Colin Lucas

2000 to 2003

Professor Sir Michael Sterling

2003 to 2006

Professor Sir Malcolm Grant

2006 to 2009

Professor Michael Arthur

2009 to 2012

Professor Sir David Eastwood

2012 to 2015

Professor Sir David Greenaway

2015 to 2017

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli

2017 to 2020

Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell

2020 to 2023


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