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Nobel Laureate appointed as president at Cardiff University

23 November 2009

Cardiff University will today mark the Inauguration of its new President, formally passing the honour from one major figure in the University’s history to another.

The Inauguration of Professor Sir Martin Evans as the 22nd President of Cardiff University will take place at a special ceremony (23 November, 5:30pm National Museum Cardiff), which will also recognise the outstanding contribution of Lord Neil Kinnock as president (1998-2009). The President is the most senior of the University’s honorary officers.

The University’s new President, Professor Sir Martin Evans, FRS won the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 2007 - the most prestigious honour in world science- for a breakthrough which is transforming modern medical science. Sir Martin was the first scientist to identify embryonic stem cells, which can be adapted for a wide variety of medical purposes. His discoveries are now being applied in virtually all areas of biomedicine – from basic research to the development of new therapies. Sir Martin is heralded worldwide as "the father of stem cell research" and named as one of "ten Britons who have shaped our world."

Sir Martin succeeds Lord Neil Kinnock, who has held the post since 1998, having first studied at the University in the 1960s. Cardiff University is also where Lord Kinnock met his wife Glenys Kinnock, where he had his first taste of political leadership as President of the Students’ Union and where, in the last eleven years as President he has gained enormous pleasure in overseeing the international recognition won by University staff and students.

Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff University, Dr David Grant said: "It has been a major challenge for the University to find a successor to such an outstanding President as Neil. In Professor Sir Martin Evans, I know that the University has appointed a dedicated friend, ambassador, advocate and supporter of Cardiff University. Lord Kinnock, has presided over a period of immense development and great achievements at Cardiff and, Sir Martin who has led many of our developments will be a guiding-light as we strive for even greater success."

Professor Sir Martin, Cardiff University said: "I am delighted and deeply honoured to accept my new role as President of Cardiff University.

Neil has presided over one of the most remarkable periods of growth and success in the University’s history. The University has much to look forward to in the future as we make exciting and significant progress in pursuit of our vision to be one of the world’s leading universities."

Lord Kinnock said: "I am delighted that my successor Professor Sir Martin Evans is someone of real global distinction. I will continue to observe the ongoing success and new achievements of Cardiff University – but it will be as an observer rather than a participant. I will always of course, with or without any formal title, be ready, willing and eager to proclaim the worth of this University to which I owe so very much."

A major new initiative to expand and enhance the University’s postgraduate research community will also be announced at the event. Recognising that the University’s President Professor Sir Martin Evans is one of the leading researchers of the age, the University will launch the President's Research Scholarships. Marking the University’s largest investment in postgraduate scholarships, nearly £4M will enable around 80 talented and promising students to pursue postgraduate research studies at the University. The President’s Research Scholarships will be a significant addition to the University’s existing scholarship investments, aiming to enhance the number of people undertaking significant, challenging and innovative research to PhD level at Cardiff University.

1.Filming/photo/interview opportunity: 4pm Cardiff University, Council Chamber Main Building (Location map (39): Lord Neil Kinnock will handover the president’s gown to Cardiff University President, Professor Sir Martin Evans, both will be available for interview along with Vice-Chancellor Dr David Grant and President of the Students’ Union Ed Carey.

Media are invited to attend the ceremony (5:30pm, National Museum Cardiff) which will include an operatic performance by Julia Lezhneva from the International Academy of Voice at Cardiff University, speeches from Lord Neil Kinnock and Professor Sir Martin Evans and a reading of Education a poem written by Gwyneth Lewis as a special commission for the University.

2. Cardiff University
Cardiff University is recognised in independent government assessments as one of Britain’s leading teaching and research universities and is a member of the Russell Group of the UK’s most research intensive universities. Among its academic staff are two Nobel Laureates, including the University President winner of the 2007 Nobel Prize for Medicine, Professor Sir Martin Evans.

Founded by Royal Charter in 1883, today the University combines impressive modern facilities and a dynamic approach to teaching and research. The University’s breadth of expertise in research and research-led teaching encompasses: the humanities; the natural, physical, health, life and social sciences; engineering and technology; preparation for a wide range of professions; and a longstanding commitment to lifelong learning.

Visit the University website at:

3. Professor Sir Martin Evans biography note

Sir Martin was the first scientist to identify embryonic stem cells, which can be adapted for a wide variety of medical purposes. In recent years Sir Martin has carried out pioneering work in using his techniques to develop therapy for cystic fibrosis in mice and for human breast cancer, among others. He is heralded worldwide as "the father of stem cell research" and named as one of "ten Britons who have shaped our world."

He came to Cardiff in 1999 to head the School of Biosciences. His goal was to set up a new approach to biological sciences at Cardiff, to include both the biomedical and the biological side. He had an inspirational effect on the scientists working around him, developing the research capability of the School evidenced, for example, by a doubling in the number of papers from the School published in top journals. His leadership of the School was instrumental in establishing Cardiff as a world-leading centre for biomedical research.

Throughout his career his commitment to teaching and learning has been evident too, from supervising PhD students to the School’s ‘Martin Evans/Robert Huber Research Fellowship Programme’, designed to give promising international-calibre researchers a jump start to their independent research careers.

Sir Martin has published more than 150 scientific papers. Among his many awards was the 2001 Albert Laser Award for Basic Medical Research – the United States’ most prestigious science prize, In 2004, he was knighted for his services to medical science. Sir Martin is a Fellow of the Royal Society, a founder Fellow of the Academy of Medical Sciences, Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Science.

The genetic techniques developed by Sir Martin and his two fellow Nobel Laureates are already bringing huge medical benefits, having been adopted in laboratories the world over for vital research into hundreds of diseases and disorders. The citation from the Nobel Assembly said: "Its impact on the understanding of gene function and its benefits to mankind will continue to increase over many years to come."


4. Lord Neil Kinnock biog note. Lord Kinnock’s long association with Cardiff University began in the 1960s, during his studies for an Industrial Relations degree.

He also met his future wife Glenys at the University and, with his election to the UK parliament in 1970, the couple began successful political careers within the Labour Party. Lord Kinnock was Chairman of the Socialist Society 1963-66; and President of the Students’ Union 1965-66.

In the 1980s he helped set up the Institute for Public Policy Research and remains on its Advisory Council. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the University in 1981, before leading Labour in opposition until 1993.

Between 1995 and 1999, he was one of the UK's two European commissioners and he performed the role of Vice-President of the Brussels-based European Commission between 1999 and 2004. He took up the post of Chair of the British Council in 2004.

Lord Kinnock is also a member of the University's Council and Court and holds honorary LLD degrees from the University of Wales and the University of Glamorgan. He became a Privy Counsellor in 1983.

Emma Darling

Public Relations

Cardiff University

Tel: 02920874499 / mobile: 07970963633