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Professor Karen O'Brien, Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, stood smiling with arms folded, in front of bookshelves

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

Inspiring leadership

Professor O’Brien joins us from the University of Oxford, where for the last five years she was a member of the university leadership team and led the Humanities Division with great success.

Prior to joining Oxford, she was Vice-Principal (Education) at King’s College London. She has held a number of national and international leadership 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.

A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Honorary Fellow of Peterhouse, University of Cambridge and of St Cross College, University of Oxford, she has published widely on the literature and intellectual history of the Enlightenment.

Enhancing our strengths

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.

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

 “I am 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.

 “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.”

An exceptional leader

Joe Docherty, chair of Durham University’s governing Council, said: “Professor O’Brien 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.”

He added: “We are deeply grateful to Professor Antony Long for serving as Acting Vice-Chancellor and Warden since August 2021 and I would like to thank him for his outstanding work.” 

Building on success

Professor O’Brien becomes the 25th Vice-Chancellor in our near-200-year history. She succeeds Professor Antony Long, who served as Acting Vice-Chancellor from August 2021 following the retirement of Professor Stuart Corbridge.

Professor O’Brien is an exceptional academic leader and is committed to enabling our university to achieve still greater success and social impact.

Inspiring the extraordinary

Durham University is a globally outstanding centre of teaching and research excellence, a collegiate community of extraordinary people, in a unique and historic setting. Inspiring our people to do outstanding things at Durham enables Durham people to do outstanding things in the world.

We are currently ranked 82nd in the QS World University Rankings and fifth in the UK in The Guardian University Guide.

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