Dr. Christine Humfrey, 1947-2020

July 21st, 2020

The University is saddened to hear of the recent death of Dr Christine Humfrey, the founding Director of the International Office.

In this obituary some of her former colleagues pay tribute to her vision and pioneering work in internationalisation across the sector.

The University of Nottingham’s enviable reputation as a truly global university is, in so many ways, built on the work of Dr Christine Humfrey (née Shinn), the founding Director of the International Office who sadly passed away on July 10th 2020.

Following an Undergraduate degree in English from the University of Reading, Christine gained a Masters and a PhD from Nottingham at the same time as she worked for the University. When she was awarded her PhD in 1979 few could have anticipated the ways in which she be able to use her vision, enterprise and energy to enable the University (and indeed the sector) to reinvent its approach to engagement with the rest of the world.

From the early 1980s, when the UK’s fee regime for international students dramatically changed, she led a transformation in international higher education at the University and was at the forefront of internationalisation across the sector. Nottingham’s International Office was one of the first of its kind within the sector and was distinctive because of its integration of recruitment and partnerships with student welfare and well-being. Christine pioneered the idea of holistic internationalisation, something which is now the norm across higher education. Generations of students were touched by Christine’s humanity, by her kindness and her absolute commitment to creating an environment in which they could thrive. It was not just students whose life she changed – her energy, enthusiasm and commitment made a difference to so many colleagues and we are proud to count ourselves amongst those whose lives, careers and thinking were so positively impacted by her inspirational leadership.

Christine played a vital role in enhancing the university’s international student community – especially through the development of its ground-breaking scholarship programmes – most notably the flagship “Developing Solutions” programme which, over a 10 year period, benefited some 850 students from 32 countries in the developing world. She contributed immeasurably to the establishment of the University’s ground-breaking campuses in Malaysia and China, championing both of these ventures within the University and to the international higher education community more broadly. In 2008, shortly after she retired from the University, she was awarded an MBE for her services to higher education, science and regional development.

Retirement was an opportunity to spend more time with her husband, Michael and her close friend and former colleague, Janet. But it was certainly not an occasion for rest; rather it opened a new chapter in Christine’s life. She was appointed as a Special Professor in the School of Education at the University of Nottingham, giving her the opportunity to teach, research and write on the process of internationalising higher education. And her services were much sought after by other Universities, by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission and by government. She was an active consultant, undertaking a range of projects related to international higher education. Yet she still managed to find time to serve as a JP and to pursue her dream of writing and publishing short stories, including a highly commended entry in an alumni short story competition.

Christine may have left us all too early and too young, but her legacy lives on in all that we, and so many others, have been able to achieve because of the way in which she inspired us all.

Caryl Thompson (University of Nottingham 1991-2011, latterly Director of Recruitment and Admissions)

Christine Ennew (University of Nottingham 1987-2016, latterly PVC International and Provost UNMC)

Vincenzo Raimo (University of Nottingham 1998-2014, latterly Director of the International Office)

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July 22nd, 2020 at 4:18 am

Dr. Dev Vencappa

I met Christine Humfrey when I had just arrived in Nottingham as an international student in 1999. As part of the university’s International Family Programme, Christine introduced me to a retired couple with whom I struck an endearing relationship that lasts to this day.

I met Christine again in 2000 – she made time in her diary to personally inform me that the International Office would part fund my PhD studies. We chatted about life in general and the culture in Mauritius. Christine was always eager to learn about other people and her humanity and compassion touched everyone she met.

Christine will be forever remembered. I extend my deepest condolences to Christine’s family. Your loss is also our loss.


July 22nd, 2020 at 9:07 am

Pamela Gillies

I am deeply saddened to hear that the wonderful dynamic life force that was Christine is no longer with us . We worked together at Nottingham for many years and I was always struck by her integrity , impressive intellect and extraordinary skills in the art of diplomacy .
She invented an inclusive form of internationalisation that greatly enriched the culture of Nottingham University and hugely influenced the HE sector as a whole . She also had a sparkling sense of humour and was a joy to work with . She was happy to come to Glasgow Caledonian University when I first became a Vice Chancellor to provide advice and guidance and I was forever grateful. She will be sorely missed.

July 22nd, 2020 at 5:38 pm

Richard Everitt

Thank you for this obituary, Christine co-authored a report on UK-US Higher Education opportunities when i was in Washington, that was the baseline for the Global Innovation Initiative which attracted funding by both governments – she was a wonderful, friendly deep pool of knowledge, and will be sadly missed.

July 24th, 2020 at 4:01 pm

Prof Di Birch

I first met Christine at Florence Boot Hall in the mid-70’s – she was my Hall tutor, and a very good one too. Later I was privileged to work closely with her when she became the first Director of The International Office.
I will remember her as a calm, reassuring presence, seldom ruffled and always good-humoured. As a university we owe her a huge debt of gratitude, and without her vision on Internationalisation our world would be a much smaller place.

July 27th, 2020 at 5:24 pm

Tim Unwin

I remember Christine especially through her work on the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission – she was always so full of life and commitment to supporting our students from across the Commonwealth – and I learnt so much from her, not only in terms of substance, but also about how to work collaboratively. It is so sad to hear of her death, and my thoughts and prayers are very much with those who were especially close to her. She was special, and gret fun to be with.

July 28th, 2020 at 9:07 am


Condolences to the family and colleagues.

July 29th, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Dominic Scott

As the former Chief Executive of UKCISA I remember Christine as a huge supporter of UKCISA over very many years and one of our most valued Trustees. She authored one of the earliest reports into the student experience within TNE, in c 2010 as part of PMI 1 (or 2 – I can’t remember), gave us wise advice at Board level and then latterly tutored with her usual flare and enthusiasm on the UKCISA/Nottingham Certificate programme. Much loved and much missed.

July 29th, 2020 at 9:38 pm

Belinda Harris

The news of Christine’s sudden death came as a huge shock to me. In 1996 we set up the first MA for International Education Professionals in partnership with UKCISA. Christine was so committed to ensuring that those working in the field of internationalisation were well trained and supported as professionals that she funded two members of her own team to take the course. She and I undertook a joint research project together on the role of National Societies in the International Student experience, which was published by UKCISA. In 2012, we began a new partnership with UKCISA and set up a PG Cert for International Student Advisors, and it was really clear that we would need Christine to co-teach the final module, on Managing Complexity. Deepa Chadha (UKCISA) Christine and I had great fun working together, and the students all appreciated Christine’s use of humour (and chocolates) to teach about using data to make a case for change. She would always accompany us to the student’s leaving dinner and bring her humility, wit and wisdom to the fore. This year Christine told us she was unable to cope with online teaching and would therefore not be joining us. We could not imagine teaching the module without her, so I interviewed her on zoom and played extracts over the weekend. She went down a storm even in her absence! I have the video for anyone who would like to see it and be reminded of her huge generosity of spirit, the depth of her wisdom and her beautiful heart. She leaves a huge hole in so many ways, and I miss her a lot.

July 30th, 2020 at 1:32 pm

Penelope Griffin

Christine was warm, welcoming and generous with her time. After retiring from the University, Christine supported Widening Participation outreach, including by volunteering her time to talk about her career journey with young people.
I offer my sincere condolences to her family.

July 30th, 2020 at 6:54 pm

Jeff and Jenny Atherton

So very sorry to hear of Chris’s death. We both send our sincere condolences to all her family and friends
Chris helped us both in many ways – Jeff when he was an academic at Nottingham from 1977 – 2000 and Jenny from 2000 onwards with regard to counselling and recruiting students from the English speaking Caribbean.
We have lots of good memories, she was a great sport.

July 31st, 2020 at 10:00 am

Jennifer Aduro

I didn’t know Dr Christine personally, but the more I read about her life and her works, the more I wish I had met her
As an international offer holder for the for the 2020/2021 session and a Developing Solutions Scholar from Nigeria, I am grateful for the work that she did to ensure people like me get the opportunity to study at the University of Nottingham.

I offer my condolences to her family and the University community. May her legacy live on.

August 11th, 2020 at 3:20 pm

Deepa Chadha

I had the privilege of working with Christine over many years alongside Belinda Harris. It was one of the greatest honours of my career to have worked with Christine and Belinda – we worked hard, but had so much fun collaborating and teaching together. Christine was such a bright light in this world. She brought her sense of fun, curiosity, hard work, commitment and humility to everything she did, and left a trail of inspiration behind her. I will miss her dearly, and would like to pass on my sincerest condolences to her family.

September 30th, 2021 at 4:36 pm

Simon Buttenshaw

Christine was a wonderful friend to the University’s Campaign & Alumni Relations Office. A loyal and generous donor, she helped us champion the idea of leaving a gift in a Will to other alumni. She always seemed to find the time to volunteer her help, for example as a panellist on the Cascade Grants Panel. Christine was always a lovely person to work with and we shall miss her very much.

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