Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas

(Elected 2003)

Dame Judith Mayhew Jonas first became involved with Birkbeck as its Corporation of London Governor. She was appointed Chair of Governors at Birkbeck in 1999, the first woman to hold this post, and presided over a period of rapid development of both teaching and research resources and College facilities. In 2003 Dame Judith became the first female Provost at King’s College, Cambridge.

‘Birkbeck has always had a very special mission to give working people the chance to have the very best higher education,’ she says. ‘This central mission has become increasingly important because people often don’t have jobs for life: they have to change and develop new skills.’

Trained as a lawyer, Dame Judith began her career in 1970 as a lecturer of law at the University of Otago, New Zealand. In 1973 she moved to the UK and joined the University of Southampton. She went on to King’s College, London (1976–89), where she was Sub Dean and Director of the Anglo-French law degree – the first joint degree in Europe.

Dame Judith then held a number of commercial posts focusing on employment law, while at the same time serving as a member of many committees of the Corporation of London. She spent seven years as Chairman of the Policy and Resources Committee, representing the interests of the financial industry to the UK and European governments. This effectively made Dame Judith the leader of the Corporation of London, the body which governs the financial district. She stepped down from this post in January 2003, but remains as Deputy.

Since 2000 Dame Judith has held the post of City and Business Advisor to the Mayor of London and is currently Vice Chair of the London Development Agency, where she is responsible for the development of both local and international business economies. ‘Parallel to this,’ she says, ‘I am looking at the skills of the people, so that Londoners who are currently unable to get work are sufficiently skilled to be employed.’

Appointed Dame Commander of the British Empire in 2002 for services to the City of London, Dame Judith became Chairman of the Royal Opera House in August 2003 – again the first woman in the role – and currently divides her working week between London and Cambridge.