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Profile picture of Professor Karen OBrien Vice Chancellor of Durham University

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O'Brien explores how we can all contribute to our community's success.

International outlook with a community impact 

Immigration has been at the top of the news agenda recently, including much discussion of the role that international students have in the society and economy of the UK.

Here at Durham, we are unashamedly global and local – a world-leading university attracting high-quality students from around the globe, and Durham’s university: proudly part of North East England.

International students make an important cultural, social and civic, as well as economic, contribution. As our first Durham University Global Week, held in March, showed, Durham is a richer place for the diversity and vibrancy that scholars and students from overseas bring. We have staff and students from 120 countries and we share many festivals and events, from the Spring Festival to colourful Holi celebrations.

Continuing on an international theme: the last in our Ukraine talk series takes place at the Gala Theatre on Thursday 8th June, with experts from the US, UK, Ukraine and elsewhere discussing the geo-security dimensions of the war. Book your ticket via our website.

Focusing on our local contributions 

As well as having a global outlook, we are committed to benefitting communities closer to home. We were delighted that the North East Raising Aspiration Partnership, which includes all five North East universities, won a national Widening Access Partnership of the Year Award recently. This important project supports care-experienced students access university. Currently less than two per cent do so. We’re working to change that.

Elsewhere, perhaps for the first time, all parties with an interest in student housing in the city met to discuss how we can work together to ensure the market works for everyone. We’re grateful to Mary Foy MP for bringing this group together, and we will now be working towards a voluntary Joint Code of Practice for letting and advertising properties to students.

Sustainability, preserving our planet for ourselves and future generations, is key to our purpose as a university, and we recently announced we will be adding carbon ratings to our menus across campus, to allow diners to make better informed choices about the food they buy. Our annual Greenspace Festival takes place on Wednesday 14th June, with sustainability talks, workshops and more. Again, further details are available on our website.

In our university calendar, we’re approaching the end of exam season and students will be looking to celebrate their successes. We are encouraging them to do so responsibly. Many take time after exams to help local good causes – especially with Volunteers’ Week upon us. We have Open Days coming up on June 16 and 17, and are looking forward to graduation and the installation of our new Chancellor, Bishop Auckland-born former US Presidential Adviser Fiona Hill, at the end of June – about which more next month.

Find out more