Professor Wendy ThomsonCBE FAcSS

  • Government

Vice-Chancellor, University of London 

Professor Wendy Thomson CBE was conferred to the Fellowship of the Academy in spring 2024. Wendy is Vice-Chancellor of the University of London and is recognised as an international expert in public service governance and reform, and an experienced leader and advisor, working closely with governments in Canada and the UK. Her international work includes advising government in Nigeria and Ghana, UNDP and OECD missions in the Middle East.

Moving to the UK in the 1980s, Wendy obtained a PhD in social administration from the University of Bristol. She held several roles in central and local government including as UK Prime Minister’s Chief Advisor on Public Service Reform, Director of Best Value Inspections at the Audit Commission, CEO of the London Borough of Newham and as Assistant Chief Executive of Islington Council. She was awarded a CBE for her work on public service reform in the 2005 New Year Honours.

In 2005, Wendy was given a tenured Professorship in Social Policy at McGill University, Montreal when she was appointed Director of the School of Social Work and founding member of the Centre for Research on Children and Families. She taught public policy, supervised graduate students and established a research programme in child welfare and communities in northern Quebec.

In 2014, Wendy returned to the UK to serve as Chief Executive of Norfolk County Council, a role she combined with leadership of Norfolk’s Integrated health system and development of a Combined Authority for East Anglia.

Since becoming Vice-Chancellor of the University of London in 2019, Wendy has made London’s civic agenda a key priority. She is chair of the London Anchors Institution Network and the London Research and Policy Partnership which brings together London’s policy makers and university researchers for the benefit of the city. Wendy is currently on the University Advisory Board for Coursera and she is also chair of the Social Market Foundation think tank and Deputy Chair of the Association of Commonwealth Universities (ACU).

Find out more about Professor Wendy Thomson.

What inspires you about your work?

Graduating from McGill University has transformed my life. It is this experience of access to higher education that is so inspirational about what we do at the University of London, educating over 40,000 students studying around the world.

What does being a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences mean to you?

What I have learned from social science research I have applied to influential roles in government nationally and internationally. Being elected as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences recognises the value of such applied work. This is important to me and has not always been evident in the traditional reaches of the academy.