Professor Alison Richard was installed as the 344th Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge on 1 October 2003. The Vice-Chancellor is the principal academic and administrative officer of the University, and Professor Richard is the first woman to hold the position full-time. The University of Cambridge is among the world's foremost universities, and educates around 18,000 undergraduate and graduate students through its renowned system of autonomous Colleges, with a further 13,000 adult students following part-time non-degree courses. The University's academic staff of some 1,700 are globally recognized for the excellence of their teaching and research.
An anthropologist with a first degree from the University of Cambridge and a doctorate from the University of London, Professor Richard joined the faculty of Yale University in the USA in 1972. She was appointed full professor in 1986, chairing the Department of Anthropology at Yale from 1986 to 1990, and later serving as Director of the Yale Peabody Museum of Natural History, where she oversaw one of the most important university natural history collections in the USA. She was appointed to the Franklin Muzzy Crosby chair of the Human Environment in 1998. Her academic leadership at Yale culminated in her appointment as Provost of Yale in April 2004. The Provost is the chief academic and administrative officer of the University after the President, and as Provost Professor Richard oversaw major strengthening of Yale's financial position and significant growth in academic programmes.
At Cambridge, Professor Richard has launched an ambitious fundraising campaign for £1 billion to underpin and augment core expenditure, introduced new measures for the stewardship of the University's investments, and developed a bursary fund to ensure that undergraduate students and applicants are not disadvantaged by the national introduction of higher university tuition fees. She has also sponsored internal policy initiatives, including a review of Cambridge's international relationships and its international student policy.
Professor Richard has been a leader of numerous professional organisations and scientific advisory councils. Since 1995, she has been a member of the board of directors of the WWF, formerly the World Wildlife Fund, the largest privately supported international conservation organisation in the world. She also serves as a director of the Liz Claiborne/Art Ortenberg Foundation, dedicated to the survival of wildlife and wildlands, and to the vitality of human communities with which they are inextricably linked.
As a researcher, Professor Richard is widely known for her work and writings on the evolution of complex social systems among primates. This work has taken her to Central America, Northern Pakistan and in particular Madagascar. She holds Honorary Degrees from Peking University, China (2004) and the University of Antananarivo, Madagascar (2005), and in 2005 she was appointed Officier de l'Ordre National (Madagascar).