06 December 2021, The Tablet

Professor Francis Davis moves to Roehampton

Professor Davis said he was looking forwards to draw upon Catholic tradition in his new role.

Professor Francis Davis moves to Roehampton

A building on Roehampton University's campus, Roehampton
Richard Howell, CC BY-SA 2.0

Professor Francis Davis is to become head of Digby Stuart College, one of the University of Roehampton’s four constituent colleges, and will also be taking on the post of Professor of Civic Leadership and International Studies in the Business School, starting on 17 January 2022.

Roehampton has its origins in four women’s teacher training colleges which merged in the 20th century to found the University of Roehampton, including Methodist and Anglican colleges. Digby Stuart was a Catholic college, founded in 1874 by the Society of the Sacred Heart, a community of French nuns based in Roehampton. In 1946, the college took over the buildings of the convent, returning to its birthplace.

Today the college plays a central role in the modern university, including the School of Arts and School of Humanities and Social Sciences and comprising over one-quarter of the university's 10,000 students. According to a statement from the University of Roehampton Professor Davis 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.”

Professor Davis is currently Professor of Communities and Public Policy at the University of Birmingham, and brings extensive experience in public service, business, the charitable sector and the intersection between policy and Catholic theology.  

Outside of academia Professor Davis has advised and held public appointments with several government departments including the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, the Department for Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

Commenting on his appointment, Professor 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 paralympics 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.”

Speaking to The Tablet, Professor Davis emphasised the significance of the College’s Catholic roots and identity, and the significance of his own Catholic faith in the new role: “I'm inspired by a contemplative Catholicism committed to social justice, cherishing those of every race or creed, generous in its hospitality, innovative in its thinking, and passionate about the power of a principled education to unlock opportunity. Digby Stuart College is, and can be an even brighter beacon still, in these regards.”

He plans to continue working closely with Catholic partners in his new role: “I'm excited already to be in conversation with firms, public leaders, academics, diplomats and global Catholic networks to plan some exceptional initiatives in the run up to our 150th anniversary in 2024. I'm also looking forward to supporting existing Digby Stuart College collaborations with Caritas Social Action Network, the Salesians, the Archdiocese of Southwark and the Loyola Institute in Dublin.”

Tom Rowson, Chief Operating Officer of the University of Roehampton, said: “Professor 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.”

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99