Baroness Lane-Fox of Soho was installed as the sixth Chancellor of The Open University at the Milton Keynes degree ceremony on 10th September 2014, succeeding Lord Puttnam who stepped down after seven years in the role.
Martha Lane Fox has built her career around the digital world, making her mark as one of the founders of the internationally recognised leisure and travel website, LastMinute.com.
From 2009 she served as the government’s UK Digital Champion, leading a drive to get more people and services engaged with the online world and in 2012 she launched a charity – Go ON UK – which aims to plug the digital skills gap among British adults. Following Martha’s Dimbleby Lecture in 2015, she founded and today runs the independent think tank Doteveryone.
Martha spoke of her passion for technology and learning during her inaugural speech: “I have tried my whole life to put technology at the heart of what I do – and open it up to as many people as possible. With lastminute.com we were battling to make people believe that the internet was going to exist - we fought to encourage people the internet was here to stay.
It set me on a journey which I carry on to this minute – trying to encourage people that technology can help them in their daily lives. I’ve seen again and again, the incredible impact that technology can have. That is why this university is so special – right at the heart of it is the idea that technology can help open up the world’s learning; to create a level playing field.
In addition to her work with the government, Martha is a non-executive board member of television company Channel 4 and retailer Marks & Spencer, as well as a patron for human rights charity Reprieve.
In 2013, recognising her contribution to charity and furthering technology Martha was awarded a CBE and become a life peer, making her the youngest woman ever to sit in the House of Lords (now she is the second youngest!).
Focussing on the achievements of other ground-breaking women at the OU she cited Jennie Lee as a heroine, quoting the OU founder: “Oh pioneers, here is a great independent university, which does not insult any man or any woman from any background, by offering them second best. Nothing but the best is good enough; you’re the best, go out and do even better.”
Watch a video of Martha's installation as Chancellor.
The primary role of the Pro-Chancellor is Chair of the OU's Council. The Pro-Chancellor also steps in on occasion as Chief Presiding Officer at degree ceremonies. Our current Pro-Chancellor, who took up the role in January 2015, is Richard Gillingwater CBE.
Richard is Chairman of Henderson Global Investors and also acts a non-executive Director for a number of organisations including WM Morrison Supermarkets and Scottish & Southern Energy. He is also a trustee of the Board of the British Council and has previously been Dean of the Cass Business School.
Richard said: “The Open University is one of those institutions which is woven into the fabric of this country, offering countless students over the years the opportunity to reach their potential. I have been fortunate in my career to work with many successful graduates of the OU and organisations that have benefited from collaborations with the University. I am very excited to have the opportunity of helping the OU build on its remarkable history and look towards an exciting and prosperous future.”