Wales politics expert and equality campaigner, Professor Laura McAllister honoured at Awards Ceremony


Professor Laura McAllister, CBE, has been conferred an Honorary Fellow of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David at the graduation ceremony held today at the Brangwyn Hall in Swansea.

In his presentation to the congregation, Ceredig Emanuel, Head of Sports, Health and Outdoor Education said “I am delighted to present Laura McAllister, CBE, PhD, Professor, international football player, governance specialist, sport administrator, BBC political commentator, author – a ‘Renaissance’ woman indeed, or to define it – ‘someone with many interest and talents’ or better still ‘someone who can draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems. It is vital for the interests of Wales that we honour, treasure and support such a talent and incisive mind, and benefit from her proven leadership qualities.

“I have had the privilege over many years to present a number of notable sporting legends of national and cultural significance – Ray Gravell, Phil Bennett, Delme Thomas, Gerald Davies, and former Trinity College student, Barry John . . . and one other who may not so easily come to mind - Non Evans MBE - who represented Wales not just at rugby, but also, judo, weight lifting and freestyle wrestling, and was the first woman to compete in three sports in the Commonwealth games.

“Why is it perhaps for some does Non Evans as an outstanding all-round athlete not strike as a familiar sporting figure as the former rugby players?  On Monday I had the more recent honour of presenting as a Fellow of this University Chris Coleman, the current Welsh football manager who left us with two noteworthy messages: Dare to Dream, and surround yourself with support.

I present to you today Professor Laura McAllister CBE, who dared to dream, although she would not have had the same support as her own football career developed.”

A former Wales football international and national team captain with 24 caps, Laura McAllister is a true polymath. She joined Cardiff University as professor of practice in public policy and the governance of Wales in October 2016 from the University of Liverpool’s School of Management. She is a graduate of the London School of Economics and Cardiff University where she completed a PhD in politics.

Laura’s principal academic interests centre on public administration and politics, specifically: devolution, the role of commissions in policy-making, Welsh politics and elections, sport and public policy, gender and politics. She has written extensively on these areas and her recent books include Plaid Cymru, The Emergence of a Political Party (2001), and Women and Constitutional Politics in Wales (2007). She is Honorary Visiting Professor at Cardiff University, Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia and the China National School of Administration, Beijing. Laura is a regular media commentator on Welsh and British politics and elections and was the main studio analyst for BBC Wales's live overnight general election 2017 coverage.

As Chair of Sport Wales from 2010 to 2016 Laura oversaw a most remarkable period for Welsh Sport with a record haul of medals in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and the 2016 Rio Olympics and Paralympics. She was Board Member of UK Sport, the Government’s agency for Olympic and Paralympic sport, and is currently a Director of the Football Association of Wales Trust. Laura is also a member of UEFA's Women's Football Committee. 

In addition, Laura McAllister was a member of the Richard Commission on the Powers and Electoral Arrangements for National Assembly for Wales that reported in March 2004 and provided research advice to the Independent Panel on AMs’ Pay and Support in 2008-09. Laura was a member of the Parliamentary Services Board and chaired the Welsh Government’s Expert group on Diversity in Local Government (2013-14). She was also co-chair of the Chief Scientific Officer’s inquiry into Women in STEM subjects (2014-16). Until 2015, she was a member of the National Assembly Remuneration Board examining AMs’ pay and allowances. She is currently chair of the National Assembly Expert panel on electoral reform examining the size and electoral system and the minimum voting age. 

She is a trustee of the Institute of Welsh Affairs, as well as a member of the Wales Advisory Committee of the British Council, and was formerly a Trustee of Stonewall UK. Laura holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Bangor, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan, Swansea and South Wales. She was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2016 and is a Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and the RSA.

In thanking the University and congratulating the graduates on their achievements, Professor McAllister offered some insights into what has inspired her to contribute to public life in Wales “I grew up in Bridgend we were encouraged to believe, encouraged to aim as high as we possibly could. And I’ve always believed in the concept of unrealistic ambitions and goals that are just a little bit beyond your immediate reach but with real hard work and perseverance and determination, often they are not unrealistic, they are things you can achieve.

“When I went to LSE I was one of only a tiny number of students from a comprehensive school I had the usual crisis of confidence I think all of us have if we haven’t come from privileged backgrounds . . .  but over a period of time I realised that being privileged doesn’t mean that you are better, and actually I think that my education and my experience was every bit as good as anybody there from whatever school they’d been to.  It taught me a very important lesson, which I carry forward in everything I’ve done in Wales, which is to develop self-confidence because I think as a nation we are hugely talented but sometimes we lack that inner sense of self belief and self-confidence

Drawing on the importance of Wales’s success in the 2016 Euros which propelled the country onto a world stage, Professor McAllister noted “the notion of ambition and aspiration is really important but it’s also about hard work. You don’t achieve anything in life without rolling up your sleeves and working hard for it and my family always taught me not to be afraid of hard work. I’ve tried to carry that forward in everything I do.  Don’t be afraid to take some of the knock that come your way and again don’t be afraid to speak your mind.  Wales is known as the land of the pulled punch and I think sometimes we are too reticent and nervous about saying things that are important . . . I always believe that you only get better by telling people and organisations things that they need to hear and sometimes that’s uncomfortable and unpleasant and it makes you a little bit unpopular but for me I’d rather be unpopular and try to succeed than be popular and not achieve much”.

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