Durham University vice-chancellor Stuart Corbridge to retire next year

Professor Stuart Corbridge will step down at the end of the next academic year for health reasons

Durham University’s vice-chancellor and warden, Professor Stuart Corbridge, has announced he will retire at the end of July 2021.

In a statement to staff and students, Professor Corbridge said he would be stepping down for health reasons but would continue to lead the university at full capacity until his departure.

He described his five years leading the Russell Group provider as “an immense privilege for me both as a leader and as an academic.

“As a community we have achieved so much with our University Strategy to transform our research, education and wider student experience. I am very proud of those collective achievements.

“We continue to be a world-leading university, albeit we now face many challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, like all universities.

“I remain immensely grateful to all of the colleagues, students and friends of the university who have supported me through my tenure as vice-chancellor, and with whom I will continue to work over the next academic year.”

Professor Corbridge joined Durham University, in September 2015, from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) where he was deputy director and provost. He is a board member of the Russell Group; the Association of Commonwealth Universities; the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA); the Baltic Flour Mills Visual Arts Trust and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

I’d like to commend Professor Corbridge for his steadfast leadership in what is a very turbulent and challenging environment

He also developed and leads Durham’s 10-year strategy, running until 2027, to “transform the university’s research, education and wider student experience”. This strategy came under the spotlight in April when its proposals to reduce the number of modules by 25% for the 2020/21 academic year, and eventually put 100% of modules online, were leaked.

After opposition by students and academics, the university revised its plan, with Professor Corbridge telling the BBC: “On the worst-case assumption that nobody is here [in the autumn], our original idea was to say it might be a bit ambitious to get all 100% of our modules ready by October.

“So, we did initially say perhaps you would care to think about not putting on 25%. That was done to try and acknowledge the fact it is a difficult time for people and workload pressures.

“I am happy to say that I think we misjudged our academics. It is very clear that most academics do not want to let go of their courses.

“What we are now saying is it is up to you if you want to put on 100% of courses in your department and if you feel you can do that that’s great.”

Durham University’s governing body has now begun an international search for his replacement.

“I’d like to commend Professor Corbridge for his steadfast leadership in what is a very turbulent and challenging environment, and I and my colleagues on the University Council look forward to working with him over the coming year,” said Joe Docherty, chair of Durham University Council.

“Council will now begin the search for a new vice-chancellor to take over the leadership of the university from 1 August 2021 and we intend to make an appointment by early 2021.”

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