About>University Structure & Governance>Professor Cara Aitchison

Professor Cara Aitchison

Cara Carmichael Aitchison

​President and Vice-Chancellor



Professor Cara Aitchison has been President and Vice-Chancellor of Cardiff Metropolitan University since 2016 where she is also Professor of Geography and Cultural Economy.

With over 30 years' experience in higher education Professor Aitchison has led significant growth and change management programmes developing universities' reputations, finance, internationalisation and student experience. She is committed to values-driven leadership that integrates civic, economic and international agendas to widen participation in university education with the purpose of transforming lives, communities, economies and inter-cultural relations. 

Within her subject fields Professor Aitchison has a global reputation for her research; she was the Chair of the UK Research Excellence Framework (REF 2014) Sub-Panel for Sport and Exercise Science, Leisure and Tourism, a Member of the Main Panel for Social Sciences and is an Honorary Professor in the Department of Health at the University of Bath (2015-). She is also a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (2003); Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales (2018), Senior Fellow of the World Leisure Academy (2010), Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (2016) and Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (2001).

In partnership with the Board of Governors, staff, students and stakeholders the Vice-Chancellor has overall responsibility for the University's strategy, executive and operations and is the Chair of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Group, the Academic Board and the Management Board. 

Previous Posts

Professor Aitchison previously held the posts of Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth Marjon University (2013-16), Head of Moray House School of Education and Chair in Social and Environmental Justice at the University of Edinburgh (2010-13), Dean of the Faculty of Education and Sport at the University of Bedfordshire (2008-10), Professor in Human Geography and Director of the Centre for Leisure, Tourism and Society at UWE Bristol (2003-08), and earlier posts at the University of Gloucestershire (1997-2003), Open University (part-time 1990-94), the Business School of the University of North London (1989-97) and Croydon College (1988-89).

External Roles

Professor Aitchison is a Council Member of the Academy of Social Sciences; Governance and Advisory Board Member of the Arab European Leadership Education Network; Council Member of the CBI Cymru/Wales; Member of the Economic and Social Research Council Peer Review College and Chair of the Universities UK Task and Finish Working Group on Staff to Student Sexual Misconduct.

Professor Aitchison was previously a Board Member of the Equality Challenge Unit (2015-2018); Non-Executive Director of Askel Veur Academies Umbrella Company for 50 schools in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (2015-16); Non-Executive Director of Plymouth Culture (2014-16); Board Member of Plymouth Area Business Council (2013-16); Member of the Scottish Government's Commission on the Delivery of Rural Education (2011-13); Chair of the Scottish Teacher Education Committee's Career-Long Professional Learning Group (2011-13); Chair of the UN-affiliated World Leisure Commission on Women and Gender (2002-08); Member of the Arts and Humanities Research Council Peer Review College (2003-06); Chair of the UK Leisure Studies Association (2001-04) and Editorial Board Member of: Annals of Tourism Research; Annals of Leisure Research; Contemporary Social Science; Culture, Sport and Society; Equality, Diversity and Inclusion; Journal of Leisure, Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Education; Leisure Studies; and the Journal of Qualitative Research in Sport and Exercise.

Research Profile

Professor Aitchison's research is underpinned by the disciplines of geography, sociology and political economy and has led to new theoretical perspectives in leisure, tourism and gender studies and new policy impacts in rural planning, cultural strategy, tourism development and sport management. 

With 10 books and over 200 other research outputs, she is most widely known for her work on identity, inclusion and cultural economy. Cara's most cited books (she had over 3,600 citations on Google Scholar and an h-index of 26 in April 2019) are Leisure and Tourism Landscapes: Social and Cultural Geographies (with Nicola Macleod and Stephen Shaw, Routledge, 2001) with over 400 citations, Gender and Leisure: Social and Cultural Perspectives (Routledge, 2003), Gender and Sport: Femininities, Masculinities and Sexualities (Routledge, 2007) and Geographies of Muslim Identities: Diaspora, Gender and Belonging (with Mei Po Kwan and Peter Hopkins, Ashgate, 2007).

Professor Aitchison has secured research funding from the ESRC, British Academy, local authorities, national disability charities, professional bodies and national agencies in culture, leisure, tourism and environment. Over the last 15 years she has undertaken research commissioned by renewable energy companies and been an Adviser and Expert Witness at Public Inquiries, Planning Appeals and Select Committees on the development of wind farms in England, Scotland and Wales.

She has been invited to present over 50 keynote and expert panel presentations at national and international conferences in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia and undertook a national lecture tour of Iran in 2003 sponsored jointly by Iran's National Olympic Committee, National Tourism Organisation and Women's Sport Foundation. She was a Visiting Lecturer on the UN-affiliated World Leisure Organisation Leisure and Environments Programme at Wageningen University in the Netherlands from 2000-05.


Professor Aitchison has an MA (Hons) degree in Geography (Edinburgh) an MA in Gender and Society (Middlesex), a PhD in Social Science titled Leisure Studies: Gender, Power and Knowledge (Bristol), a postgraduate qualification in Recreation and Leisure Practice (CNAA) and a teaching qualification (Greenwich).