Shirley Atkinson, the interim vice-chancellor of the University of Sunderland, has been handed the job on a permanent basis.
Ms Atkinson, Sunderland’s former deputy vice-chancellor, had been running the institution since Peter Fidler took on the newly created role of president in September. She joined Sunderland in 2008 after a career in the public and private sectors, most recently as a director of North East transport provider Nexus.
She said it was an “honour” to be appointed vice-chancellor and will take on her new post with immediate effect.
“Our academic community, alongside their research and practice, work closely with students and industry partners to ensure programmes are relevant and current and our students enjoy excellent teaching,” Ms Atkinson said. “Our aim is for graduates to have the confidence, thinking capability, creativity, curiosity and adaptability to become the leaders of tomorrow.”
Paul Callaghan, chair of the board of governors at Sunderland, said Ms Atkinson was “without doubt the right person to lead the university”.
“Since taking up the interim vice-chancellor post last September, Shirley has shown all the qualities demanded of someone in this role,” Mr Callaghan said. “The board has no doubt whatsoever that the future of this excellent university is in the best possible hands.”
Several other UK higher education institutions have announced female leaders in recent months. These include Soas, University of London (Baroness Amos); the University of Derby (Kathryn Mitchell); the University of Salford (Helen Marshall); the University of Brighton (Debra Humphris); and the University of Oxford (Louise Richardson).
Professor Fidler will serve as Sunderland’s president until next January, when he will retire from the university.