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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 welcomes the North East England devolution deal and reflects on our role in the region

This May North East England will elect its first regional mayor: covering an area from the Scottish border to the River Tees, and responsible for two million people.

Due to a ‘trailblazer’ devolution deal announced recently, the new mayor and their cabinet will have additional control over transport, housing and skills – comparable with powers for the mayors of Greater Manchester and the West Midlands.

It was our pleasure to host the official signing of that ‘trailblazer’ deal at the University, with Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young and the seven local authority leaders gathering at our St Chad’s College to put pen to paper.

Our contribution to the region

We’re already worth over £650m a year to the region, and support nearly 11,000 jobs. One in 20 people employed in County Durham works for Durham University. But we’re determined to do even more, working with partners, to drive the North East economy, promote an inclusive region, and improve social mobility.

Our work with NETPark and the Durham Innovation District, and through the Durham Energy Institute, will be key to this. We’re already working with over 60 state secondary schools and further education colleges in the region, and want to extend and deepen this partnership.

We spend around £14m a year on improving access to and success at university for less advantaged students. One in four of our UK students now come to us through initiatives designed to widen access to higher education.

Our students, too, have a passion for improving opportunities for others. Last month we announced our undergraduates will soon deliver literacy programmes for Year 8 pupils at local schools.

As Minister Young said, the signing marked an historic day for the North East. We’re committed to working with the new mayor, their cabinet, local authorities, businesses and others to ensuring the new devolution arrangements make a real difference for our communities, in Durham City, County Durham and the North East as a whole.

Find out more
- Read more about the devolution deal signing
- Find out more about the North East devolution deal
- Explore our contribution to the region