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Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Professor Karen Holford
Professor Karen Holford FREng, FLSW, Ceng, FIMechE

Professor Karen Holford is Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

She works closely with the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellors to provide leadership to the University and deliver the goals of our strategy. Professor Holford deputises for the Vice-Chancellor in his absence.

Professor Holford’s career began at Rolls-Royce in Bristol where she completed an undergraduate apprenticeship reading Mechanical Engineering at UWIST, followed by a PhD at the University of Wales College Cardiff. She then worked at AB Electronic Products, where she was responsible for developing automotive products for companies such as BMW, Jaguar and Rover, and was soon promoted to the role of senior engineer.

She joined the School of Engineering at Cardiff University as a lecturer in 1990, becoming Director in 2010. In 2012 she became the University’s first Pro Vice-Chancellor and Head of the College of Physical Sciences and Engineering, before taking up the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor in April 2017.

Professor Holford's specific responsibilities include:

  • strategic oversight of resource allocation and budgeting
  • strategic planning processes and policies
  • University estate and staff strategies
  • oversight of the dignity, diversity and staffing strategies and policies
  • the sustainable development of the University in its widest sense
  • leadership of projects of strategic importance across the breadth of our activities.

Committees and groups

Professor Holford chairs the following committees and groups:

  • Equality and Diversity
  • Estates Portfolio Group
  • Health, Safety and Environment
  • Cardiff Innovation Campus (CIC) Steering Group
  • Fee and Access Plan Steering Group
  • Environmental Management Systems Steering Group
  • University Portfolio Scrutiny Group
  • Redundancy Committee
  • Joint Partnership Meeting (with the Unions)
  • JCNF


Since moving into academia over 26 years ago, Professor Holford has helped to build the now substantial international reputation of acoustic emission (AE) research at Cardiff University, with research resulting in technology that has greatly improved the safety monitoring of bridges and other structures.

Most recently the work of her team has focussed on improved AE damage location techniques, energy harvesting, embedded sensors and other technology aimed at developing autonomous structural health monitoring systems.

Professor Holford has published over 150 research works including more than 70 papers in peer-reviewed journals. She has led numerous research projects sponsored by both research councils and industry.

Alongside her research, Professor Holford is committed to the delivery of high quality, industrially relevant learning. She was the Faculty Advisor for the Formula Student team for several years, reflecting a personal interest in motorsport.


Alongside her research, Professor Holford is committed to the delivery of high-quality industrially relevant learning. She is co-author of the report, Talented Women for a Successful Wales, setting out the importance of getting more women into STEM careers, with all recommendations accepted by the Welsh Government in January 2017.

Professor Holford was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2015, is a Chartered Engineer (Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers) and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales. She is also a member of the ESPRC Strategic Advisory network, an UpRising ambassador and was named in the Daily Telegraph’s augural list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering.

In 2006 she was the recipient of the Welsh Woman of the Year in Science and Technology in recognition of notable achievements in her field. In 2007 she was awarded the WISE Excellence award for personal contribution to engineering and a long term commitment to supporting girls and young women in science and engineering.

Professor Holford is a member of the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Network (SAN), the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee and the Royal Academy of Engineering Membership Committee Panel 5. She is also a Council Member for the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Contact details

Personal Assistant: Anastasia Conway