The University of Oxford will appoint a female vice-chancellor for the first time in its 800 year history.
Professor Louise Richardson’s appointment to the high-profile role will see her join fellow Catholic Lord Patten, the chancellor of England’s oldest university.
The 56-year-old currently works as the principal and vice-chancellor of St Andrew’s University where she was the first Catholic to ever hold the position.
Prof Richardson said: “My parents did not go to college, most of my siblings did not go to college. The trajectory of my life has been made possible by education.”
One of her key aims, she said, is to balance the university’s admissions procedures to help people from less privileged backgrounds, as she wants others to experience the same opportunities that she was gifted.
Prof Richardson studied at Trinity College, Dublin and the University of California, Los Angeles as well as Harvard University, where she later went on to hold a series of high-profile positions.
However, her life in education first started in a convent school in Tramore in Co Waterford.
An expert on the growth of terrorist movements, Prof Richardson said she applied for the post at Oxford as it was her lifetime’s ambition. She added that she looks forward to the day that a woman can be appointed to such a role without it being newsworthy.
The seven-year term that the Irish-born academic will undertake at the end of the year is subject to approval by the university’s congregation.
Oxford University student union’s vice-president for women, Anna Bradshaw, met Professor Richardson last week.
She said: “I found her receptive and well informed, with strong views and committed to working for gender equality.”