University receives a royal seal of approval from the Queen

Her Majesty the Queen has honoured The University of Manchester by awarding a Regius Professorship, as part of her 90th birthday celebrations. The inaugural Regius Professor of materials is Phil Withers. The award has been given in recognition of the exceptional quality of our advanced materials research and teaching, which is regarded as amongst the best in the world.

Research into advanced materials has been at the heart of the University since its foundation in 1824, when Manchester’s prosperity was based on the textile industry. Today it brings together eight Schools across the institution, involving more than 150 academic staff. It extends to almost every aspect of the field, leading to the discovery of new materials, materials tailored for demanding environments, and smart and sustainable materials.

Manchester’s world-class status as the birthplace of graphene has been reinforced by the establishment of the National Graphene Institute and the Graphene Engineering Innovation Centre. The University is also set to be the home of the £235m Sir Henry Royce Advanced Materials Institute, which will play a crucial role in addressing challenges facing society and making advanced materials a catalyst for economic growth in the UK. 

A Regius Professorship is a rare and prestigious appointment - only 14 have been granted since the reign of Queen Victoria, including 12 to mark Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. Minister for Constitutional Reform, John Penrose, came to Manchester to bestow the honour on the University, followed by an address from Professor Phil Withers - the University’s inaugural Regius Professor of materials - before the Minister was taken on a tour of the Henry Moseley X-Ray Imaging Facility.

The recipients of the new Regius Professorships were selected by open competition, judged by an independent expert panel of business and academic experts. In the past, they were created when a university chair was founded or endowed by a royal patron, and were limited to a handful of the UK’s ancient universities. Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor, said: 

"I am delighted that The University of Manchester’s world-leading research in materials has been recognised with this prestigious honour. It attests to our proud tradition in this field, just over a century after our own Professor William Lawrence Bragg won the Nobel Prize for his pioneering X-ray work which laid the foundations for methods still used by researchers today. Our work extends to almost every aspect of materials, and is a benchmark for university-industry partnership working as exemplified by the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials. The Regius Professorship will help to ensure that Manchester continues to be at the international forefront of materials research and applications.”

John Penrose, Minister for Constitutional Reform, said:

“It is a privilege and an honour to announce these new Regius Professorships in recognition of the truly outstanding work of our universities, and as a fitting tribute to mark Her Majesty’s 90th birthday. The institutions can consider themselves truly deserving of this great honour.”

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