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Profile picture of Professor Karen OBrien Vice Chancellor of Durham University

Our Vice-Chancellor Professor Karen O'Brien shares news with a global impact.

Here at Durham University we are both a global and a local university. The impact of our research is going farther than ever before, and we are doing more than ever before to support our city, county and region, including encouraging students from the North East to consider Durham as an option for their studies.

A happy, if busy, coming together of news and events this week captures this in a nutshell.

Our rise in global rankings

On Tuesday, it was announced that Durham has risen 14 places in the QS World University Rankings, to 78th. The QS rankings are the most highly respected of all; very important in Durham attracting the best international students and establishing partnerships with others among the world’s best universities.

Particularly pleasingly, we ranked joint 30th worldwide for sustainability, recognising the world-leading environmental research at Durham, our commitment to reducing our own environmental impact and our work with local partners to ensure Durham continues to be such a special place to live, work and study.

Our success is a credit to the hard work, dedication and innovation of our staff and students, even in challenging times, and I hope it is an achievement in which you, our neighbours and friends, can also take pride.

Our new Chancellor

Today (Thursday), we officially install Dr Fiona Hill as our new, and 13th, Chancellor – the ceremonial head of the University.

Born in Bishop Auckland, Fiona has gone to enjoy a stunning career. An expert on Russian and European geopolitics, she has advised US presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. In her own words, she has gone from ‘the coalhouse to the White House’.

All the time, she has retained a pride in her family upbringing and the values instilled in her as she grew up in County Durham. We hugely value her commitment to education for all and her belief in the transformational power of education – a belief that is central to the values of Durham University.


Also today (Thursday), we begin six days of Congregation ceremonies. The current generation of students have been through a great deal, but I am constantly impressed by their resilience. As they go out into whatever life holds for them next, they take a little of Durham with them, and become ambassadors for Durham the world over.

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