Judith Petts DBE

Academic profile

Professor Dame Judith Petts DBE

Office of Vice Chancellor

The Global Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Judith's work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

Goal 02: SDG 2 - Zero HungerGoal 03: SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-beingGoal 04: SDG 4 - Quality EducationGoal 09: SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and InfrastructureGoal 11: SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and CommunitiesGoal 12: SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and ProductionGoal 13: SDG 13 - Climate ActionGoal 14: SDG 14 - Life Below WaterGoal 16: SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong InstitutionsGoal 17: SDG 17 - Partnerships for the Goals

About Judith

National Honours

  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE), 2024 – for services to higher education and sustainability
  • Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE), 2012 – for services to scientific research


After graduating with a BA (Hons) Geography from Exeter University in 1975, Professor Judith Petts, CBE, went out into the commercial world, including international banking (Barclays International) and a retail planning consultancy company, returning to research posts at Nottingham University and then Loughborough University from 1980. She completed her PhD by publications (Loughborough University) in 1996: "Risk Management at the Local Authority Level: Managing the Technical Institutional-Public Interface". She was a lecturer/senior lecturer in Centre for Hazard and Risk Management, Loughborough from 1987, becoming Centre Director in 1997.

In 1999, Professor Petts was appointed to the Chair in Environmental Risk Management at University of Birmingham and became Head of the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences in 2001/2. In 2007 she was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor, taking the Research and Knowledge Transfer portfolio. In 2010 Judith moved to the University of Southampton to become the inaugural Dean of the new Faculty of Social and Human Sciences and then in January 2014 was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise.

Professor Petts moved to take up her appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Plymouth University in February 2016.

Research interests:

A human geographer, Judith’s research career has been intensely interdisciplinary both in mode of operation and focus of study. Her research has bridged the gap between the formal approaches to environmental management and the social dimensions, enhancing effective institutional decision-making including the optimisation of consensus in decision-making. The research over some 3 5 years has sat at the interface between science and expert knowledge and decision processes and societal attitudes and responses. Judith’s research has made a significant international contribution to theoretical and empirical development of public engagement and risk communication with direct policy impact. The research has engaged with several contexts including emerging technologies; urban governance; health and wellbeing; climate change; waste management; land contamination; business and environment.

Contact Judith

+44 1752 582030