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Banner image of Vice Chancellor, Stuart Corbridge

Vice Chancellor, Stuart Corbridge, comments on how having a world-leading university at the heart of our city, county and region is of immense benefit to our communities and the local economy and expresses his thanks as his role comes to an end.

Late last month, some members of a local residents’ association were planting some pear trees in the City but realised that – in their own words – it was a much bigger job than anticipated.

They came upon some Durham University students, who happily agreed to pitch in, and the work was done in double quick time.

Last week, thousands of people – of all levels of fitness and ability – enjoyed the Durham City Run Festival, organised with the support of our Team Durham sports and wellbeing staff.

This week, County Durham announced its ambition to be UK City of Culture 2025, and our museums and attractions (many of which are now reopening for the first time since the pandemic began), as well as our support for events including Lumiere, Durham Book Festival and world-class cricket in County Durham, will be at the heart of the bid.

For me, these are just a few examples of how having a world-leading university at the heart of our city, county and region is of immense benefit to our communities and the local economy.

Positive community relations and what the future holds

Next week, I retire as Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham’s University, a role I have been extremely proud to hold since 2015. I have lived all over the UK and overseas, but I have never found anywhere quite like Durham. The North East has stolen my heart, so much so that I’ll be making my home in the region after leaving the University.

‘Town-gown relations’ are an issue that all city (rather than campus) universities must take seriously. And we are acutely aware that Durham is a very special case. I have sought to bear this in mind with every decision that I have taken as Vice-Chancellor.

I strongly believe that a thriving university creates benefits that local communities can share – including those few examples I referenced earlier.

I also believe that Durham University helps make our City more vibrant, more diverse, more inclusive and more reflective.

I hope readers would agree that we have made some important steps to build positive community relations in recent years: the appointment of our first Community Liaison Officer; the creation of a Community Engagement Task Force and latterly a Covid-19 Community Forum; increasingly opening up our Colleges, facilities and learning; and increasing staff and student volunteering, to give a few examples.

Naturally, there is more that we can do and the University is keen to hear views from across our community.

The appointment of Professor Karen O’Brien as Vice-Chancellor from January 2022 is a very exciting one. I am sure she will want to explore what our University and City can do together, and I am sure she will come to love Durham just as much as I have.

Thank you for your support, and for reading this column over the past few years. I wish you good health, a very enjoyable summer and every happiness and success for the future.