GW4 is a major strategic initiative requiring inventiveness, leadership and close collaboration between senior management across our four universities.

GW4 Council, which meets biannually, brings together our four Vice-Chancellors to define the Vision for the Alliance and provide the mandate for our work.

GW4 Board, which meets quarterly, includes Deputy Vice-Chancellors, Pro-Vice Chancellors for Research, Directors of Research and Programme Managers to oversee and implement the delivery of the GW4 Vision.

The GW4 Director reports to both bodies. Meet our Council and Board members:


GW4 Council




Professor Hugh Brady is a graduate of University College Dublin, he trained in general medicine and was awarded PhD and MD degrees for research in renal physiology and molecular medicine. His academic career has included positions at Harvard and the University of Toronto, and he is an international authority on the pathogenesis of diabetic kidney disease.

In 2004 he was appointed President and Chief Officer of University College Dublin, and led a ten year strategic and physical transformation. He has held several leadership roles, including as a member of Ireland’s Higher Education Authority, and Chairman of the Universitas 21 Network of global research universities. He is a non-Executive Director of the Kerry Group plc and ICON plc. He was awarded the Robert Menzies Medal from the University of Melbourne.

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Bath

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell DBE, DL has an international reputation as a social psychologist. She has produced more than 20 books including The Psychology of Risk (CUP) and is active as a policy adviser and researcher specialising in leadership, identity processes and risk management.

She has championed nationally the role of universities in scientific and technological innovation, exploitation and economic regeneration, and has worked over many years to widen participation in science and achieve knowledge transfer from higher education to business. This work was recognised when she was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the Queen’s 2012 New Year Honours for services to higher education.

Professor Colin Riordan, President and Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

Professor Colin Riordan took up the post of President and Vice-Chancellor on 1 September 2012. Previously he was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex, having been appointed in October 2007. He moved to Essex from Newcastle University, where he had been Pro Vice-Chancellor and Provost of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences since August 2005.

He has published widely on post-war German literature and culture, including writing and editing books on the writers Jurek Becker, Uwe Johnson and Peter Schneider. Other research interests include the history of environmental ideas in German culture.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Exeter

Sir Steve has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter since October 2002. He is currently Chair of the UCAS Board; Board Member of the Russell Group, UUK, Heart of the South West LEP, THE Editorial; Chair of the International Policy Network of UUK; a Trustee of the Education and Employers Task Force, and of the Eden Project. He was President of Universities UK (UUK) from 2009-2011.

From 2007 – 2010, he led for higher education on the Prime Minister’s National Council of Excellence in Education. He was also a member of the Institute for Public Policy Research’s Commission on the Future of Higher Education. He was knighted in the 2011 Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to higher education locally and nationally.


GW4 Board


Professor Nick Talbot, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, (Research and Knowledge Transfer), University of Exeter

Chair of GW4 Board

Professor Talbot graduated in Microbiology from the University of Wales, Swansea and received his PhD in Molecular Genetics from the University of East Anglia. After a period of postdoctoral research at Purdue University, USA he moved to the University of Exeter, becoming Professor of Molecular Genetics in 1999, Head of the School of Biosciences in 2005, and Deputy Vice Chancellor in 2010. Nick’s research is focused on investigating the biology of plant diseases and, in particular, determining how fungi cause some of the most significant crop diseases.

Professor Karen Holford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Cardiff University

Professor Holford works closely with the Vice-Chancellor and Pro Vice-Chancellors to provide leadership and deliver the goals of Cardiff University strategy. Prior to taking on the role of Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Holford led Cardiff University’s College of Physical Sciences and Engineering for five years as Pro Vice-Chancellor. Since moving into academia over 26 years ago, she has helped to build the now substantial international reputation of acoustic emission research at Cardiff, in particular the experimental work.

Professor Hywel Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research, Innovation and Enterprise), Cardiff University

Professor Thomas is responsible for the University’s research activities and its engagement with innovation, including commercialisation and the broader economic impact of the University. He is also a Professor of Civil Engineering, Director of the Geoenvironmental Research Centre (GRC) and a UNESCO Professor in the Development of a Sustainable Geoenvironment. He has worked on numerous special initiatives, leading the University’s work in areas such as student employability, widening access and communication and marketing.

Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost, University of Bath

Professor Morley is a Professor of Molecular Genetics and joined the University of Bath, from Imperial College, London, as Pro Vice Chancellor (Learning and Teaching) in 2010. In May 2015, he became Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost with responsibility for the University’s strategic and operational planning. He completed his first degree at the University of Liverpool and his DPhil in Molecular Immunology at the University of Oxford. His research and publications have focussed on the genetics of autoimmune diseases and he has published widely in the area of autoimmune genetics and the Complement System.

Professor Jonathan Knight, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Bath

Professor Jonathan Knight is Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Bath, where he is also an active researcher in photonics within the Department of Physics. He did his PhD at Cape Town, and held postdoctoral positions at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris) and Southampton before moving to Bath in 1996. He is a frequent invited speaker at conferences, has published over 250 papers, and has an established track record of translating academic research into commercial value.

Professor Guy Orpen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Bristol

Professor Orpen was born in the West Indies, was educated in England and then at the University of Cape Town and the University of Cambridge and carried out research at Brookhaven National Laboratory, USA. He is chief academic officer of the University and has responsibility for the University’s academic strategy and its delivery. His research interests include structure determination using single crystal diffraction, computational and chemoinformatics studies using structural databases and their application to crystal engineering and ligand design.

Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), University of Bristol

Professor Canagarajah was born and educated in Sri Lanka. He received his BA (Hons) and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cambridge in 1989 and 1993 respectively. He joined the University of Bristol in 1993 and became a Professor of Multimedia Signal Processing in 2004. He has served as the Faculty of Engineering Research Director (2006-2009), Head of Department of Computer Science (2009-2010), Head of Merchant Venturers School of Engineering (2010-2011) and Dean of the Faculty of Engineering (2011-2014).

Professor MArk Goodwin, Deputy vice-chancellor (external engagement), University of Exeter

Professor Mark Goodwin graduated from the University of Sussex, before completing his PhD at the London School of Economics. He joined the staff at Exeter in 2004, and prior to this was Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth. He became Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Exeter in 2013, having previously been Dean of the College of Life and Environmental Sciences. Mark leads on Innovation and External Engagement for the University within the UK and is also responsible for the University’s activities at our Cornwall Campus. He is also the University lead for equality and diversity.

Dr Sarah Perkins, GW4 Director

Dr Sarah Perkins is GW4 Director, with responsibility for leading and managing the GW4 Alliance, and developing and delivering its overall strategy.

Prior to taking the role of GW4 Director, Sarah managed a world class research portfolio at Imperial College London’s Faculty of Medicine, one of the largest medical faculties in Europe. Appointed in 2009, her role involved developing and delivering research strategy, and leading initiatives such as Research Excellence Framework submission, and working closely with several NHS Trusts through the Imperial Academic Health Sciences Centre (AHSC) to foster collaboration and implement research strategy at a senior level, exemplified by delivering and renewing one of the largest NIHR Biomedical Research Centres. Her achievements were recognised in 2013 when she was shortlisted in the Women of the Future Awards, and she is also a Fellow of Westminster Abbey Institute.