Cranfield University’s Professor Dame Helen Atkinson CBE, FREng has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021 for services to engineering and education. Professor Atkinson joined Cranfield University as Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing in September 2017.

She was made CBE in the Queens New Year’s Honours 2014 and is a former Vice President and Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the highest honour for an engineer in the UK.

Professor Helen Atkinson said: “I am utterly surprised and delighted. This is a huge honour. For someone from my background, with both parents leaving school at 16 and as the first in my family to go to University, this is a most amazing thing.

“I am extremely fortunate to have worked with superb teams all the way through my career. I really want to pay tribute to all those colleagues, particularly the wonderful ‘This is Engineering’ team at the Academy who have made such an impact and the many dedicated and committed staff at Cranfield University who have worked so hard to serve our students and our industrial partners through the pandemic, building firm foundations for the future.”

Commenting on Dame Helen's national honour, Professor Sir Peter Gregson, Chief Executive and Vice-Chancellor of Cranfield University, said: “Helen is truly an inspiration, both as a role model for future generations and as a leader of our aerospace, transport systems and manufacturing teams.

“Personally, and behalf of all of us at Cranfield University, I’d like to express warm congratulations for this richly deserved honour.”

The full citation issued by Buckingham Palace states:

“Helen Atkinson is one of the UK’s foremost engineering leaders. She was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Cranfield University in 2017, with responsibility for the School of Aerospace, Transport Systems and Manufacturing. She has made a tremendous impact in this role, cultivating key strategic partnerships with major industrial companies.

“She has been a committed Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering since 2007, serving variously as Vice President, Trustee and Chair of its Education and Skills Committee between 2012 and 2017. Most recently, she has made a vital impact through chairing the oversight group for the Academy’s ‘This is Engineering’ campaign to encourage more young people into engineering.

“She has had roles with government Foresight Panels, HEFCE, EPSRC, IET, National Council for Universities and Business, and the Strategic Facilities Advisory Board of the Royce Institute. She is a leading role model and advocate for women in STEM. She was the first woman President of the UK Engineering Professors’ Council in its 50-year history.”

Other Cranfield faculty and alumni who received awards in the Queen's Birthday Honours this year were:

  • Nicholas Elliott (MSc Military Technology, 1997), Director General of the Vaccine Taskforce and, lately, Director General, Commercial, Defence Equipment and Support, who received a Companion, Order of the Bath (CB), for services to the COVID-19 response
  • Visiting Professor Mary Creagh, who received a CBE for parliamentary and political services
  • 2015 honorary graduate Antony Jenkins (MBA, 1988), Chair of the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education, who received a CBE for services to business
  • Robert Allison (MSc Transport Studies, 1978), Vice-Chancellor of Loughborough University, who received a CBE for services to higher education
  • Dr Martin Christopher, Emeritus Professor of Marketing and Logistics, who received an OBE for services to business, academia and the UK economy
  • Justin Sargent (MSc Land & Water Management, 1994), who received an OBE for services to the community in Somerset.