Professor Dame Emerita Teresa Rees DBE, FacSS, FLSW

Doctor of Laws

Thursday 18 February 2016 at 2.30 pm - Orator: Professor Guy Orpen

Mr Pro Vice-Chancellor

Professor Teresa Rees is one of our most eminent British social scientists.  She was made a Commander of the British Empire for her work on equal opportunities and higher education in 2003, and became a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 2015 for services to social sciences.  But, above all else, she is an inspirational role model to those who have worked with her over her long and distinguished career.

Teresa Rees, or Terry as she is more widely known, studied Sociology and Politics at the University of Exeter, graduating in 1970.  She then took her doctorate in sociology from the University of Wales.  Terry held an academic post at Cardiff (1974-93), and was Reader and then Professor here at the University of Bristol (1993-2000), before returning to Cardiff in 2000.

Teresa Rees is widely recognized as one of the UK’s leading social scientists, with an international reputation for her ground-breaking research on gender inequalities in education, training, labour market policies and in science policy.  In each of these areas she has made pivotal contributions to evidence-based policy in the European Union, the UK and Wales. 

Professor Rees influentially developed the concept of ‘gender mainstreaming’, tackling inequality by looking closely at culture, at unstated assumptions, and at everyday practices, and making these the focus of change.  Her research then used this concept of gender mainstreaming to inform evidence-based policy to promote gender equality within European Union Member States, international companies and universities. She ensured that the policy impact of her work on gender mainstreaming made a real difference by undertaking a range of expert adviser roles, including expert adviser to the Research Directorate-General of the European Commission on gender mainstreaming and membership of the Scientific Advisory Board of five European Commission funded projects on women and universities.  Combining the very best of original conceptual development, with rigorous evidence-based policy implementation, Terry established herself as the leading figure in the development of European gender mainstreaming policy, now established as an international framework for best practice in relation to gender equality policies.  Professor Sylvia Walby, one of the many gender mainstreaming scholars to have worked with Terry, recently noted that: ‘Terry Rees was a leading figure in the development of gender mainstreaming and in intellectual and policy engagement with the European Union. She both contributed to developments in the EU and brought the EU home.’

Within the UK, Terry was also a member of the Government Steering Group to set up the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and of the National Equality Panel that reported in 2010, and served as Principal Investigator for the Women Adding Value to the Economy (WAVE) project.   In these numerous capacities, Terry has made a profound contribution of social science, promoting the very best in evidence-based policy research on gender, social justice and equality. 

Terry undertook much of her pivotal research whilst a Professor in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University.  Developing on her hugely successful academic profile, Terry went on to become Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Staff and Students (2004-7), then Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research (2007-10) at the Cardiff University, working tirelessly to advance equal opportunities policies within the institution and transforming the research culture across the University. 

Following her term as Pro Vice-Chancellor, Terry continued to foster exceptional leadership capacity in others via her role as Director for Wales of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, developing programmes on research leadership. Yet, Terry’s contributions are neither confined to academic research and policy-making, nor to a single institution.  She has also fostered strong links with the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Bath, taking a lead role in establishing what has become GW4, the strategic alliance of Bristol, Bath, Cardiff and Exeter Universities.  Terry’s centrality to the GW4 spirit of collaborative working across the research communities was vital in the early days.  All those who worked with her during the establishment of this new, and complex strategic initiative – that wasn’t without its inevitable tensions - report that she was generous and supportive, personally and professionally and a pleasure to work with, making real change possible. 

Indeed, Terry has unquestionably made a lasting national contribution via her advocacy of Welsh higher education development more generally.  A keen supporter of devolution, she has chaired two independent investigations on higher education to assist the National Assembly for Wales develop its policies, winning the Western Mail's Welsh Woman of the Year Val Feld Award in 2002 for her work to promote the life chances of women in Wales.

Anyone who has encountered Terry will know that she is a fantastic role model as a woman social scientist.  One of our Board of Trustees, who encountered Terry earlier in her career, reflects that Terry was hugely influential in her life: ‘As a tutor she ignited my interest in gender issues through her knowledge and passion; she encouraged and supported me to produce my Masters dissertation in that area; and she introduced me to other strong, wise women from whom I've learned a great deal. As a friend and mentor she has influenced me to take up new challenges and fresh opportunities, and provided an essential sounding board. As a role model she has been truly inspirational.’  At a time when we continue to need inspirational female role models in our university sector, Terry shines out as a beacon of good practice, to be celebrated and honoured.  Those who have worked with her know that she was able to be herself in her role – inspiring, genuine, caring of others, and always clear about the task at hand.  She was, and is, just the kind of senior university leader we all aspire to be.

In recognition of her eminence, Terry was asked to give a talk in Istanbul in the summer of 2014 to female vice-chancellors from around the world about academic leadership.  It was during this lecture that Terry experienced the episode that drove her to seek medical advice, which resulted in her being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour.  In typical fashion, Terry has engaged with this challenge with truly admirable bravery and good humour, continuing to live life to the full.  Terry now combines academic work with time spent contributing to the care of her three young grandchildren. Indeed, she has just finished writing a personal, and very funny, account of her recent experiences to be published by Marie Curie as a source of comfort and inspiration to others. 

Mr Pro Vice-Chancellor, I present to you Dame Teresa Rees as eminently worthy of the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa

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