Fiona Hill installed as the New Chancellor of Durham University as the UCU picket the ceremony 

By Emily Doughty, and

Dr Fiona Hill has been officially installed as Durham University’s 13th chancellor in a ceremony at Durham Cathedral today. Dr Hill who grew up in County Durham replaces Opera Singer Sir Thomas Allen in the role. 

The ceremony was attended by dignitaries, community members and representatives from local schools and colleges. 

Outside the ceremony members of the University and College Union (UCU) picketed the event over their ongoing dispute regarding pensions and working conditions. 

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers Riverside Band who were meant to be performing were absent. According to members of their union, this decision was because of the picket taking place outside of the cathedral, with other members of the Union instead standing outside with the UCU.

They were replaced by the Reg Vardy Band who performed alongside a choir comprised of members from the University College Chapel, St John’s Chapel Choir and the University Choral Society. 

Dr Hill grew up in Bishop Auckland and is the daughter of a miner, with her Grandfather being a spokesperson for the Durham Miner’s Association in the 1890s. She served on the US National Intelligence Council and was an advisor to President Bush, President Obama and President Trump. 

“I am very proud to be from the North East of England and deeply honoured to take on the role”

In her address, she spoke about the County’s history from the time of the Romans, including talking about the County’s influence on the industrial revolution and the region’s strong trade unionist roots in the form of the Miner’s Gala which is set to take place next month. 

Previous Chancellors of the University have included author Bill Bryson, actor, filmmaker and writer Sir Peter Ustinov and ballerina Margot Fonteyn.

Dr Hill drew on her Northern roots when speaking about her pride in taking over the role, saying  “I am very proud to be from the North East of England and deeply honoured to take on the role of Durham University Chancellor.  

“My life has literally taken me from coal-house to the White House. For me education is the beating heart of opportunity and with it, anything is possible.  

“I hope that as Chancellor I can inspire and empower young people from all walks of life to fulfil their potential.”  

Professor Karen O’Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden, celebrated the appointment saying “Dr Fiona Hill has built an outstanding career in foreign policy whilst retaining a pride in her family upbringing and the values instilled in her as she grew up in County Durham.  

“We hugely value her commitment to education for all and her complete belief in the transformational power of education – a belief that is central to the values of Durham University.  

“Fiona will be an inspirational Chancellor, leading by example and supporting others through her contact with our community.” 


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