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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:

  • resource allocation and budgeting
  • planning processes and policies
  • estate strategies
  • dignity, diversity and staff 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.

University Committees and groups

Professor Holford chairs the following committees and groups:

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee
  • Health, Safety and Environment Committee
  • Environmental Management Systems Steering Group
  • Cardiff Innovation Campus (CIC) Steering Group
  • Estates and Infrastructure Portfolio Group
  • Redundancy Committee
  • Joint Consultation and Negotiation Forum (Campus Unions)
  • Joint Partnership Meeting (Campus Unions Unions)
  • Academic Promotions Committee
  • Recruitment Control Panel (2020)
  • Staff Survey Design and Action Group
  • TRAC oversight Group
  • Workload Model Governance Group


Since moving into academia over 30 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 180 research works including more than 100 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.

Awards and wider contributions

Karen has been a Council member for UKRI STFC and a member of the ESPRC Strategic Advisory Network, having previously served as the external Chair of the EPSRC Engineering Strategic Advisory Team. She recently (2020) took up the role of Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research committee.

In 2018 Karen received a CBE for services to engineering and advancing women in engineeringand in 2019 received the Suffrage Science award in Physical Sciences and Engineering. She was named in the 2016 Daily Telegraph’s inaugural list of the Top 50 Women in Engineering.

In 2019 Karen was a member of the Wales HE Camm Governance review group. In 2017 Karen was a member of the “Reid review of Government Funded Research and Innovation in Wales”. In 2016 Karen co-authored the Welsh Government 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.

Professor Holford is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Chartered Engineer (Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers) and a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales..

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 and 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.

Contact details

Personal Assistant: Anastasia Conway