University of Nottingham: Triple celebration for the University of Nottingham in the New Year Honours

The Queen’s New Year Honours for 2021 bring a triple celebration for The University of Nottingham, with recognition for both the University’s Vice-Chancellor, its most senior technician and a specialist in occupational therapy.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West has been awarded a CBE for services to education, while Kelly Vere, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy, receives an MBE for services to championing the role of technicians in higher education and research institutions. Kate Robertson, a retired assistant professor in the University’s School of Medicine, will receive an MBE for services to occupational therapy.

Reacting to the news, Professor West said: “I feel humbled and privileged at being recognised in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours for services to higher education. I have a passionate belief in the value of education and research to transform lives and communities, and have been fortunate to learn from so many capable and committed colleagues over many years who have shared this vision.


University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor Professor Shearer West
“Whether at home or overseas, and particularly at the University of Nottingham, I am always struck by the dedication and expertise of my colleagues working in higher education. I am delighted that this dedication is reflected in so many honours being bestowed this year to people working in education settings.”

Positive impact
Professor West joined the University of Nottingham as Vice-Chancellor and President in October 2017, publishing the institution’s new University Strategy in December 2019. She is currently a member of the Universities UK Board to help deliver its mission to maximise the higher education sector’s positive impact for staff, students and the public, through the highest quality teaching, research and scholarship. She is also a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery and a member of the Independent Schools Governing Body of King Edward’s Foundation, Birmingham.

Previously, in 2008, Professor West was appointed Director of Research at the Arts and Humanities Research Council where she also chaired the Research Directors Group for Research Councils UK. She was appointed Head of the Humanities Division at Oxford in 2011, where she oversaw the launch of the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities. Before joining Nottingham in her current role, she was Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sheffield.

Professor West also has a number of international roles, most recently acting as main panel chair for the national research assessment exercise for Humanities in Norway and serving on the steering group to introduce impact into the Excellence in Research (ERA) exercise in Australia.

She has represented the UK on the Science Europe Humanities Scientific Committee, and has been a jurist for the Spinoza Prize in the Netherlands and the Odysseus and Solvay prizes in Belgium, as well as an Advisory Board member for the Social Sciences Faculty of the University of Vienna.

Having begun her academic career as a lecturer in History of Art at the University of Leicester in 1987, Professor West has since authored and edited many articles and nine books including Portraiture, The visual arts in Germany 1897-1940: Utopia and Despair, and Fin De Siècle: Art and society in an age of uncertainty. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, the Higher Education Academy and the Royal Historical Society, and has held two visiting Fellowships at Yale University.

‘Unsung heroes’
There are currently more than 30,000 technicians employed in UK higher education and research institutions working across all disciplines including engineering, science, health and technology. They will be integral to overcoming some of the great challenges of the coming years and decades – from updating our transport infrastructure and local internet access, to securing the future of our energy supply. However, an ageing workforce means that 50,000 of our best technicians across all sectors are retiring every year, and forecasts show we will need as many as 700,000 more technicians in the UK over the course of the next decade to meet demand from employers.


Kelly Vere, Director of Technical Skills and Strategy
Kelly Vere has spearheaded the implementation and development of the University of Nottingham’s Technical Services Strategy to enable the strategic and professional development of the University’s 700+ technical staff across the UK and Asia. She represents the University externally within and beyond the sector, and works with government and funding bodies to influence national policy.

Kelly’s contribution to championing the role of technicians – the ‘unsung heroes’ of research and teaching in UK higher education and research institutions – is unique.

Kelly said: “It was a fantastic surprise and it still feels very surreal! It means so much to my family and it’s a great honour to be recognised in this way. I am so fortunate to work with wonderful colleagues, at the University of Nottingham, Midlands Innovation, Science Council, Gatsby Charitable Foundation and beyond.

“I’m hugely grateful for all of their support over the years and I’m excited about continuing our work to advance recognition and opportunity for all colleagues who enable research and teaching across our sector.”

Encouraging career development and recognition
Kelly rose through the ranks to her current position after joining the University as a junior technician at the age of 18, whilst studying for a part-time degree in Biomedical Science, before rapidly progressing to positions as Senior Research Technician and Laboratory Manager.

Alongside her role at the University of Nottingham, Kelly is on a long term secondment with the Science Council where she leads on engagement with the higher education sector to increase visibility and recognition of technicians. She founded and leads the Technician Commitment – a sector wide initiative funded by the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to ensure visibility, recognition, career development and sustainability for the technical community across higher education and research. The Technician Commitment currently stands at 92 institutional signatories and has attracted a number of supporter organisations. In February 2020 it was announced that she would lead a new £5M programme ‘TALENT’, awarded to the Midlands Innovation universities and funded by Research England to advance status and opportunity for the technical community. Kelly has built and developed partnerships with higher education institutions, industry, government departments, funding bodies and learned societies to influence sector activities and policy in the area of technical roles, skills and careers.

Additional external roles include being chair of the Midlands Innovation Technical Skills Strategy Committee while also serving on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Research Technical Professional Working Group, the Institute of Physics Technical Skills Awards Panel, the Royal Society’s Research System Community of Interest, the Researcher Concordat Strategy Group and an advisory board for the Science Museum.


Kate Robertson, retired Assistant Professor in the School of Medicine
Gifted researcher
Kate Robertson qualified as an Occupational Therapist in 1982 from St Andrew’s School of Occupational Therapy, Northampton and worked in Doncaster, Liverpool, Lincoln and Newark before settling with her family in Nottingham.

In 1996 Kate and a colleague established the first primary care occupational therapy service in Nottinghamshire based in Rushcliffe where Kate developed an expertise in the prevention and management of falls. She established the multiagency Rushcliffe Falls Prevention and Research Group in 1999 and this group was instrumental in developing the Guide to Action for Falls Prevention Tools. This led Kate to take an active role in research alongside her clinical roles including being a co-applicant and Principal Investigator in major research projects. Kate was Consultant Therapist in Falls Prevention for Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust until her retirement from the NHS in 2017. She held the post of Associate Lecturer and Falls Module Lead for the MSc Advanced Practice Programme at the University of Derby from 2010 to 2018 and, until her retirement in July this year, was Assistant Professor at the University of Nottingham School of Medicine, where she demonstrated a gift for bringing and maintaining people into the research world who would not normally be included, such as care home staff, wardens from sheltered accommodation and older people’s forums.

Kate was actively involved in the work of the Royal College of Occupational Therapists and was project lead for the development of practice guidelines for OTs in falls prevention and management. She has won a number of awards for her work including a Lifetime Achievement Award from Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust in 2017 and a Merit Award from the Royal College of Occupational Therapists recognising her significant contribution to the profession.


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