Anita Rani’s installation as Chancellor marks “new chapter” for University of Bradford
TV presenter and broadcaster Anita Rani has been officially installed as the new Chancellor of the University of Bradford in a glittering ceremony.
The ceremony drew national press coverage, resulting in a front page in The Times on March 7 and an article on the MailOnline on March 6.
The 45-year-old Bradfordian, who began her broadcasting career in the city when she approached her local radio station for a job aged just 14, took centre stage as she unveiled a custom-made gown.
The gown was created by fashion designer Yashana Malhotra, whose work has previously been featured in Vogue magazine.
Anita becomes the university’s seventh chancellor, following in the footsteps of Lord Harold Wilson (1966-1985), Sir John Harvey Jones (1986-91), Sir Trevor Holdsworth (1992-97), Baroness Lockwood (1997-2005), Imran Khan (2005-14), and Kate Swann (2015-22).
Speaking on the day of her installation, Anita said: “The University of Bradford is about to move into a really exciting phase, I’m thrilled to be part of that journey, and that I get to be Chancellor during City of Culture 2025.”
Commenting on her instagram after the event Anita wrote: "What a day! Nearly midnight, just had a pint with my mum, dad and brother in the bar, that was lovely. It's going to take me a while to process today. There's so much I want to tell you about. The amazing girls who interviewed me on stage, Kirsty Taylor the badass poet, the fact I hugged Shirley the Vice Chancellor on stage. Not sure if that's the done thing but whatever.
"And I cried on stage during my speech. Just caught me off-guard. Apparently everyone in the room cried with me because I can only speak from the heart. I feel like today has been a real landmark moment in my life and if this makes any sense, I've sort of stepped into being the woman I've always wanted to be. The timing's right I think."
Anita was introduced by Vice-Chancellor Professor Shirley Congdon, who said: “Anita’s installation marks a new chapter in the life of our university, a chapter that will be focused on catalysing our future like never before.
“Being born and raised right here in Bradford is something she is immensely proud of. She remains intensely loyal to her city of birth and to her enduring Punjabi heritage.
“Not only is Anita proud of Bradford, but she also understands its values, its culture, its people, its uniqueness, its challenges, and opportunities.
“She realises how much this university - and education in general - adds to the city, the region, and its people. In fact, she epitomises the effect education can have on people’s life chances.
“As a proud Asian woman from Bradford who has worked hard to overcome all kinds of challenges, Anita is an incredible role model for young people.
“With Anita as our Chancellor, we will create another step change to catalyse more impact and growth.”
The celebration was attended by the Lord Mayor of Bradford Councillor Martin Love, Lord Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Ed Anderson, and High Sheriff of West Yorkshire Susan Baker.
Anita, who is best known for BBC One's Countryfile and as a presenter of BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, was interviewed on stage by compere and writer and theatre producer Javaad Alipoor, whose previously directied an adaptation of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest at The Crucible.
Entertainment was provided by performance poet Kirsty Taylor and the Bollywood Brass Band, while ‘charcoal artist’ Oyedotun Oyesomi created a bespoke picture to commemorate the event on the day.
During her installation, Anita made an emotional speech, thanking her mother and father (Lakhbir and Balvinder) for their guidance and support throughout her life.
She also extolled the virtues of higher education, adding: “Going to University completely changes your life, it opens your world up not only through education but the culture and people you get to meet – this is about instilling the next generation with confidence to step into the world.”
Anita’s came on stage to Hometown Glory (High Contrast remix) by Adele.
Dress designer Yashana Malhotra, 27, who recently graduated from the world-famous Central St Martins fashion school in London, was on hand to style the gown and matching dress she created for Anita.
She said: “When I saw Anita in the dress and gown, I thought she looked beautiful. Then I realised I made it and that’s a nice feeling.
“Anita wanted something comfortable, powerful, graceful and elegant. You would still recognise it as a traditional gown with the gold and black, but the rest was about having fun with it. Modernising but keeping it recognisable, it stays between both worlds.”
Vice Chancellor Shirley Congdon said of the gown: “It’s fabulous. We wanted Anita to choose the type of gown she wanted to wear, so we gave her free rein. We said the most important thing was she’s got to feel great in it and she does.
“The fact that she’s designed it with a really young, modern, newly graduated designer makes it even more important. Anita told me she feels powerful in that gown, and that’s what we want it to be, she’s a powerful woman and she should feel great.”
Writer Kirsty Taylor, who closed the ceremony with two poems about Bradford, earning rapturous applause, said: “There was such a buzz around the University and the city. I love it when people come to Bradford and there’s loads of hype about it. In the build-up to the City of Culture 2025, I think these kinds of events are really important.
“I’m a proud Bradfordian like Anita. I love that sometimes we’re the underdog and people are fiercely proud of it. I love that people have each other’s backs.”
Kirsty met Anita before the event and was bowled over when Anita gave her a big hug and told her she was a “huge fan.”
Kirsty said: “Anita Rani is a fan of mine! I’m still processing that. I’m a fan of hers! What an amazing, inspiring woman to represent Bradford and the University.”
Artist Oyedotun Oyesomi created a bespoke picture on the day - starting at 2pm and finishing at 6pm, after which he presented a portrait he had made earlier to the TV presenter.
Speaking about his creation, pictured above, he said: "Today, I’m creating a live painting, bringing in the emotions around the ceremony into the canvas. Here’s people laughing, people dancing, having fun celebrating the new Chancellor of the University. I’m bringing the movement onto the canvas and painting the memories.
"It’s been challenging with a limited time period and lots of distractions but I like challenges. With this experience, the way the University appreciates it and everyone behind me, I’m very excited. I was able to present Anita with the portrait I did of her, and I was blown away, I’m actually short of words. It was an opportunity I didn’t see coming and I’m really grateful."
Anita was also grilled on stage by students during a Q&A session hosted by compere Javaad Alipoor.
Ciara Humphreys, 29, a 3rd year forensic science student, from Skipton, north Yorkshire, said: “I think it’s an incredible privilege that we have not just a celebrity as Chancellor, but someone who has worked very hard, a local girl, someone to be very proud of. She’s so positive and she has so much about her. She’s putting Bradford on the map as this great place.”
Resty Utami, 25, who came to Bradford from Indonesia to study an MSc Economics and Finance, said: “The ceremony was buzzing. Everyone was so happy to be there to welcome Anita and to hear her vision for the future. She is amazing. Her dedication to our University has already been seen today. She can lead the young people to achieve like she has achieved, everyone will be inspired by what she’s doing.”
Conor MacMahon, 24, a graduate in film and TV production, originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, said: “I think it’s good we have a Chancellor who is from Bradford and has a passion for Bradford, and wants to spend time at the University and make a change for the University. What was nice about the ceremony was that, although it still had the standard formalities, it also had a very relaxed atmosphere. Kirsty Taylor, the poet, was brilliant and brought it down to earth again. There’s only so much formality you can do in Bradford, it’s a relaxed city.”
Anita also talked about her plans to announce a scholarship: “One of the things I want to do is support young women get access to higher education. We are talking about setting up - and I’m so thrilled, I can’t actually believe this is going to happen - the Rani scholarship. You give a girl an education, she gets her degree, her children will be more educated and their children and we know that will continue. That has been a passion of mine forever so the fact that we will be able to fulfil that is incredible."