Arc Universities

AUG Board member and Cranfield University’s Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen Holford CBE FREng has been made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to engineering.


In the 2018 Queen’s New Years Honours, she was awarded a CBE for services to engineering and the advancement of women in engineering.

Professor Dame Karen Holford said:

“I’m really humbled and completely surprised by this honour. Of course, it’s not really about me, it’s in recognition of all of the people and organisations I’ve worked with throughout my career.

“The UK has an absolutely proud history of innovation and engineering excellence, and engineering is definitely a team sport. So, I’m grateful to all my engineering colleagues who are committed to making the world more sustainable, inclusive and resilient.”

Commenting on the honour, Iain Ferguson CBE, Chair of the Council of Cranfield University said: “We’re absolutely thrilled that Karen has received this recognition for her significant contribution to engineering and education. The honour reflects Karen’s impact in both industry and academia, and her commitment to championing gender equality and progression through education.”

The full citation from Buckingham Palace, states:

“In 2021, Karen Holford became the first woman to lead Cranfield University. Her career spans industry and academia, previously at Cardiff University her research focussed on damage assessment using acoustic emission in industrial applications including bridges and aerospace landing gear. She serves on the boards of the Oxford- Cambridge arc Universities Group, Oxford Cambridge Supercluster and Universities UK and as Chair of the Midland Innovation University Partnership Board.

“She is a Non-Executive Director at the FSTE250 firm Renishaw, and a member of the Science and Technology Advisory Council at the National Physical Laboratory. She was previously a Council member for UKRI STFC, the Chair of EPSRC Engineering Strategic Advisory Team, and Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering Research Committee where she oversaw the establishment of the Awardee Excellence Community, bringing together over 3,000 engineering future leaders for mutual support.

“She has consistently championed efforts to improve diversity in engineering. She has been named in the Top 50 Women in Engineering, one of Wales’s 100 Most Influential Women and has received the Suffrage Science award in Physical Sciences and Engineering, the WISE Excellence award and Welsh Woman of the Year award in Science and Technology. She was awarded CBE in the New Year Honours List 2018.”

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