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

Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O'Brien, reflects on the value of working together for the benefit of our city, county and region.

I am sure many of you will have been deeply saddened at the loss of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II earlier this month and watched, along with many millions around the world, her state funeral on Monday (September 19th). 

Here at Durham University, we closed the University for the day and I and senior colleagues were privileged to attend the various remembrance events that have taken place in the City over the past few days. It was my personal privilege, and also a rather daunting experience, to give a reading at the Durham Cathedral service, which gave me some small insight into what it must have been like for those involved in the state funeral.

Her Majesty The Queen had long-standing and strong associations with Durham and with the University. She last visited in 2012 as part of her Diamond Jubilee celebrations, when she took lunch at Durham Castle.

Ten years earlier, His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh visited our campus in Stockton to bestow upon it the title ‘Queen’s Campus’. This is an honour of which we remain very proud, as “Queen’s” hosts the thriving Durham University International Study Centre, where international students learn language and study skills to prepare for UK university courses.

We also have close ties with His Majesty King Charles III, having awarded him an Honorary Doctorate of Civil Law back in 1998 and most recently welcomed him to Durham in 2018, when His Majesty unveiled a plaque in memory of his ancestor Dame Elizabeth Bowes, who lived in a property which is now part of our St John’s College.

We look forward to continuing our support for His Majesty and for his representative in County Durham, the Lord Lieutenant Sue Snowdon.

Banking on Atom

Another key partnership for us locally is that with Durham-based Atom bank. Last week I was pleased to sign, on behalf of the University, a Memorandum of Understanding with Atom which commits us to working together on cutting-edge research, creating student opportunities and widening access to university education in our region.

A new academic year

Finally, our preparations for the new academic year continue. New undergraduate students will arrive in Durham this weekend for our Welcome and Orientation Week, with most teaching beginning the following week. Part of our induction programme is to encourage and support students to be responsible citizens, contributing positively to the beautiful city we share. We look forward to working with partners and neighbours in the year ahead.

Find out more

- Explore Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's links with Durham
- Our partnership with Atom bank
- Welcome and Orientation Week