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Principal's Central Team

Vice-Principal (Education)

Professor Karen O'Brien


 Karen O'Brien


Karen O'Brien is Vice-Principal (Education) and Professor of English Literature in the Department of English. She has responsibility for all aspects of student education in the College, and oversees the Graduate School, the King's Learning Institute, the Centre of Technology Enhanced Learning, the English Language Centre and the Central Unit for Distance Learning. She also has a strategic role for student recruitment and admissions, widening participation and fair access, student employability and (with the VP International) the internationalisation of education at the College.

She joined the College in April 2013 having been Pro-Vice Chancellor (Education) at Birmingham University where she led a major review of the university curriculum, and, before that, Chair of Undergraduate Studies at the University at Warwick. Nationally, she chairs the Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey advisory board, is a member of HEFCE’s Postgraduate Information Needs steering group, and has been involved in national groups for new A Levels, degree classifications, and chair of the HE STEM project Advisory Board.  

Professor O'Brien studied at the Sorbonne for a year before attending Oxford University where she graduated with a BA (congratulatory) in English Literature and a D.Phil. She was awarded a Harkness Fellowship which she spent as a visiting fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a Research Fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge.  She has held academic posts at the Universities of Southampton, Cardiff and Warwick. Her research is in the area of the literature and intellectual history of the Enlightenment, with a particular focus on historical writing, imperial thought, ideas and debates about gender equality and (most recently) the history of the novel and Thomas Robert Malthus. Her teaching focuses on late seventeenth-century to Romantic British literature, and American literature, promoting learning “re-creative” activities and through the use of space.


 Contact details:

or alternatively through Karen's EA Ms Debbie McCarthy

020 7848 1743




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