Durham University has appointed Professor Karen O’Brien to be its new vice-chancellor and warden.
The current head of humanities at the University of Oxford will move north next January. Professor Stuart Corbridge, previously deputy director of the London School of Economics, has led Durham since 2015 and will stand down in July. Antony Long, Durham’s deputy vice-chancellor and provost, will serve as interim vice-chancellor.
Before her five-year spell at Oxford, the professor of English was vice-principal for education at King’s College London and served on the international jury of the Institut Universitaire de France and as chair of the Russell Group pro-vice-chancellors for teaching and learning. She has written widely on the literature and intellectual history of the Enlightenment.
Durham commended O’Brien for her role at Oxford as a member of the University Council; she has been jointly responsible for its financial oversight, research strategy and equalities and access priorities and managed preparations for re-commencing teaching during Covid restrictions.
I am looking forward to leading and serving this great university as it approaches its 200th anniversary as a global community of learning
– Professor Karen O’Brien
On her appointment, O’Brien said: “I am honoured and thrilled to be joining Durham University, which is distinguished for the excellence and impact of its research, the quality of its education and its Colleges and Wider Student Experience. I am looking forward to leading and serving this great university as it approaches its 200th anniversary as a global community of learning.”
Joe Docherty, chair of the governing university council, said Prof O’Brien was the “unanimous choice”. “She is an exceptional leader with a distinguished track record in the university sector. Her depth and breadth of understanding and forward-thinking will help her to lead Durham University to even greater success.”