University of Roehampton appoints new Head of Digby Stuart College

  • Tuesday, November 30, 2021

The University of Roehampton has appointed Professor Francis Davis as the new Head of Digby Stuart College, one of the four constituent colleges of the University, and Professor of Civic Leadership and International Studies in the Business School. He will start his new roles on 17 January 2022.

Image - University of Roehampton appoints new Head of Digby Stuart College

Image: Professor Francis Davis

As the new Head of Digby Stuart College, Prof Davis will be responsible for the leadership and development of the College, which comprises the School of Arts and School of Humanities and Social Sciences and includes over one-quarter of the University's 10,000 students, ensuring it meets the needs of its students and staff. He will focus on maintaining the College’s ethos and values of a deep respect for intellectual life, a social awareness which impels us to take action, and a belief in the importance of community as the catalyst for personal growth in a tolerant and open environment.

In addition, he will also be supporting and enhancing the relationship of the College and a number of different organisations, including other University departments; the College’s providing body the Society of the Sacred Heart, an international Catholic community of women with a focus on education; and the Catholic Church at a local, national and international level.

Prof Davis brings a wealth of experience to the University, having been Professor of Communities and Public Policy at the University of Birmingham for the past six years as well as visiting Professorial Fellow at the University of Oxford and fellow of independent South African think-tank the Helen Suzman Foundation. His research sits at the intersection of business, civil society, and public service, focusing on entrepreneurial solutions to pressing social challenges, inclusive communities, and development.

Outside of academia, Prof Davis has held public appointments and ministerial advisory roles at the UK government’s (now) Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), the Department of Health and in the NHS. He has also recently been designing and developing leadership training for aspects of the work of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Commenting on his appointment, Prof Francis Davis said: “I am pleased to be named the new Head of Digby Stuart College which, as one of the four founding colleges of the University of Roehampton, has an empowering and rich history of unlocking the potential of learners and communities of every age and background. I look forward to working with, and learning from, current students; their families and carers and those they care for; my colleagues and all who have been part of Digby Stuart’s life over the years to build on that powerful tradition.

“On a personal note, I am very excited to become part of one of the family of institutions that comprise the Sisters of the Sacred Heart’s service in education. From great academics to Ambassadors, from teachers, nurses, human rights innovators to business leaders and the founder of the parlaympics these educational bodies, rooted in the same open Christian ethos as Digby Stuart College, have had and are having a transformational impact on lives globally. I want to draw deep on this living tradition so that the College can play a distinctive role in supporting Roehampton’s values and unique position in London and the world.

Tom Rowson, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Roehampton, said: “Prof Davis is a great addition to our senior team and as the new Head of the Digby College I am sure he will play an important part in carrying out the College’s tradition and strengthening the meaningful engagement with the communities we serve. I look forward to working with him to continue to build an inclusive community of learning which follows our values of a common commitment to social justice and providing educational opportunities for all, regardless of background.”

The current head of the College, Dr Gulliver Ralston, will remain at the University, focusing on his role as Director of Music.

The University of Roehampton Digby Stuart College has a rich and long history dating back to 1850 when a Sacred Heart community and school for girls were established on the site where College now stands. A number of moves followed over the next century as the College expanded and adapted to the events of the day. In 1946, the College returned to its birthplace at the Roehampton Convent and was renamed Digby Stuart College, in memory and honour of Mother Mabel Digby and Mother Janet Stuart who were both instrumental in the development of the College. New buildings were erected to replace those bombed in World War II and to accommodate the growing student population.