New Vice-Chancellor takes up post


Durham University’s first ever female Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O’Brien officially starts today.

O’Brien highlighted how she is “very mindful of the challenges and pressures that our staff and students are currently facing in so many areas, and of the need for support and resilience as we work towards better times.”

Professor O’Brien will be the University’s 25th Vice-Chancellor, succeeding Professor Stuart Corbridge, who retired on the 31 July 2021. Professor Antony Long has served as Interim Vice-Chancellor and Warden since then.

Durham University said: “We are delighted to welcome Professor Karen O’Brien to Durham as our new Vice-Chancellor and Warden”.

“I am excited to begin work at Durham University”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O’Brien

O’Brien’s previous position was as head of the humanities division at the University of Oxford. As a member of the University Council, she was also jointly responsible for the financial oversight, research strategy and equalities and access priorities of Oxford University.

Professor O’Brien said: “I am excited to begin work at Durham University. I will endeavour to enhance our strengths as a leading University renowned for the excellence and impact of its research, the quality of its education and student support, and the richness of its student experience.”

She continued: “I aim to build on our partnerships to increase the social benefit that Durham brings to the region, the UK and the world.”

 “I look forward to consulting and working with our staff, students, alumni and friends as we take our great University forward towards its 200th anniversary in 2032 as a global community of learning.”

“I am very mindful of the challenges and pressures that our staff and students are currently facing in so many areas”

Vice-Chancellor professor Karen O’Brien

Before her position at Oxford, O’Brien was Vice-Principal for Education at King’s College London. She has held a number of other roles, including serving on the international jury of the Institut Universitaire de France and as chair of the Russell Group Pro-Vice-Chancellors for Teaching and Learning.

O’Brien is a Professor of English, and has published on the literature and intellectual history of the Enlightenment.

Image by Durham University

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