New Vice-Provost and Vice-President announced at UCL

Geraint Rees and Kirsty Walker Geraint Rees (left) and Kirsty Walker (right)
Geraint Rees and Kirsty Walker Geraint Rees (left) and Kirsty Walker (right)

Two appointments to UCL’s senior team are announced today following approval by its governing Council with Professor Geraint Rees being appointed Vice-Provost (Research, Innovation & Global Engagement) and Kirsty Walker taking up the role of Vice-President (External Engagement).

Professor Rees, who is currently Dean of UCL’s Faculty of Life Sciences and Pro-Provost (Academic Planning), moves into his new role in May 2022 and has extensive experience of academic leadership and of creating a supportive environment for cross-disciplinary innovation and impact.

As Dean of Life Sciences, a role he has held since 2014, he leads a faculty spanning a wide range of scientific areas, from fundamental research into the origins of life to ecology and biodiversity.

As Pro-Vice-Provost (AI), he works across UCL and with external partners to drive AI research and application benefits people and societies around the world and, with the emergence of Covid-19, he took responsibility for leading and coordinating UCL’s research response to the new virus. In June 2021, he took on the additional role of Pro-Provost (Academic Planning) to lead the consultative development and implementation of UCL’s new institutional strategy.

He is a Professor of Cognitive Neurology and also acts as a Non-Executive Director of UCL Business and a former trustee of the charity in2science.

He takes over the role of Vice-Provost (RIGE) from Professor David Price, who is stepping down from the role after 15 years as a Vice-Provost to return to full-time active research at UCL in the earth sciences.

Professor Rees said: "Together, research, innovation and global engagement must empower our staff, students and alumni to create public value that helps both humanity and our planet survive and prosper. It is a great privilege to be asked to lead the incredibly talented RIGE team on the next important stage of our development as a global university, animated by public purpose and working at the boundaries of academic endeavour."

UCL’s new Vice-President (External Engagement) Kirsty Walker is currently UCL’s Executive Director of Media and Public Affairs. She takes up the role in August 2022 following a successful and wide-ranging career in political communications and journalism, including spending nearly 13 years as a political correspondent based in Westminster.

During her reporting career, she covered many world-changing events and travelled with successive British Prime Ministers reporting from places such as Iraq, Afghanistan, the White House and the Kremlin. Kirsty is an experienced broadcaster and has appeared as a political commentator on BBC, ITV, Sky and LBC.

After leaving journalism, she worked for Westminster-based communications agency iNHouse Communications before joining the civil service as Head of Strategy and Communications, and then Secretariat Director, for the Social Mobility Commission alongside former chair the Rt Hon Alan Milburn. She joined UCL in June 2018 to lead media relations and develop the university’s senior political engagement strategy, including setting up a new public affairs team in 2021.

She will succeed Professor Dame Hazel Genn, who has acted as interim VP of both Advancement and External Engagement throughout the pandemic alongside her work as Professor of Socio-Legal Studies and Executive Director of the Centre for Access to Justice in UCL Laws, leading work on a National Strategy for Health Justice Partnerships.

Kirsty Walker said: "UCL is an extraordinary institution which is having a real-world impact on the greatest issues facing us today. I never fail to be blown away by the variety, creativity and excellence of UCL’s work and the brilliance of the colleagues I am fortunate to work with. The creation of the Vice President External Engagement office is a terrific opportunity to tell our story to the outside world and to ensure that all of our engagement activity is working together to leverage the greatest benefit for UCL. I’m particularly honoured to be taking over the role from Dame Hazel Genn, who has done a tremendous job leading the department over recent months."

Welcoming the appointments, UCL President & Provost Dr Michael Spence said: "These are two excellent appointments to our senior team. In addition to enormous experience and expertise in their fields, each also has a track record of contributing with great clarity and common sense to UCL’s institutional decision-making. It is terrific to have two really high calibre people taking up these important roles.

"UCL owes huge thanks to both Hazel and David, who have served UCL with great dedication and wisdom in their VP roles and many others. I am delighted that we will continue be able to draw on their expertise."