Professor Vivien Mary Jones

Presentation address by Sir Alan Langlands


Many exceptional individuals have served this University during its 112-year history, but few have been more committed to our students than Professor Vivien Jones.  Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Student Education at Leeds since 2006, Vivien has led the University’s transformation of learning and teaching.  Her philosophy of staff and students as partners in shaping an educational experience which is intellectually demanding yet inclusive and flexible has influenced practice here and in many other universities.

As Vivien prepares to step down from the Pro-Vice-Chancellorship to pursue her wider interests in the arts and humanities, she leaves an outstanding legacy.  The University’s reputation for excellence in research-led education and research-based learning is enhanced, and our pedagogy is recognised internationally. Leeds staff have been awarded more National University Teaching Fellowships than any other university; and we are pioneering digital learning.  It is telling that our National Student Survey scores are now among the very best in the Russell Group.  Vivien has also been a great advocate for our library and its glorious special collections.

She came to the University in 1983 as a lecturer in the School of English having graduated from Oxford with a First in English Language and Literature.  Fiercely intelligent, highly principled and hard-working, she is a superb communicator, a natural leader and a champion of gender equality.  Promotions followed at Leeds, culminating in her appointment in 2003 as Head of the School of English, the school where JRR Tolkien, Bonamy DobrĂ©e and Geoffrey Hill once taught.

Vivien has led the development and implementation of the University’s strategy for student education for the past ten years.  She introduced two flagship projects which guide our thinking:  the ‘Partnership’, a set of shared expectations and educational goals developed jointly by our staff and students; and LeedsforLife, which opens up new opportunities for the personal development of students, boosting confidence and employability.  She also designed our distinctive Leeds Curriculum, which enables students to develop deep subject knowledge, broaden their horizons and engage at first hand in research.

An inspirational academic leader, Vivien has continued to be an active scholar and researcher, as Professor of Eighteenth Century Gender and Culture.  Her research interests include the work of both Jane Austen and Mary Wollstonecraft; indeed we often observe strong echoes of Wollstonecraft in her own strong sense of social justice and her recognition of merit.  Vivien believes with a passion that the brightest should have the opportunity to study at university, regardless of their circumstances.  She is immensely proud of our students, and, throughout a decade of profound change in higher education, her commitment to successive generations of graduates has never once wavered.

Chancellor, I am delighted to present to you for the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, Vivien Mary Jones.