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Vice Chancellor Karen O'Brien smiling with her arms folded wearing a red blouse

Durham students and graduates achieve great things – benefiting the world, and our locality. Our Vice-Chancellor, Professor Karen O'Brien, explores our contribution locally and globally.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Sir Harry Evans Global Summit in Investigative Journalism.

The event is held in honour of Sir Harry Evans, a Durham graduate who went on to become one of the world’s great newspaper editors, including at the Durham Advertiser’s sister newspaper The Northern Echo, making his name as a dedicated campaigner, holding power accountable.

He famously campaigned to get free smear tests for women via the NHS and forced a Teesside chemical company to reduce emissions that were casting a damaging fog over the local community.


Like Sir Harry, as a place of learning and enquiry we are committed to evidence gathering and equipping through knowledge.

As part of remembering Sir Harry, we run, with Reuters and his widow Tina Brown, a annual investigative journalism fellowship.

Earlier this month it was announced that the first Fellow, Waylon Cunningham, had – with a Reuters team – been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, journalism’s top honour, for their investigation of Elon Musk’s business activities.

Royal visit

Also among the Durham graduate community worldwide are the founders of Low Carbon Materials, which seeks to develop sustainable, low-carbon materials for use in the construction trade.

Recently, they received Royal endorsement: welcoming His Royal Highness Prince William to visit their Seaham base.

There are also many current students, and staff, doing important work for the benefit of our local neighbourhoods.

We will be celebrating some of their achievements in our annual Volunteering Awards next month.

Achieving the outstanding

There are many such examples of achievement: our student a capella group Northern Lights were recently named national champions; Durham student Max Pepper was part of the England universities rugby union squad to face France; and, of course, Durham graduate Rosemary Coogan has become the UK’s newest astronaut, having completed her year-long basic training with the European Space Agency.

Whether it’s here in the North East, globally, or even in space, Durham people achieve the outstanding.

If you would like to know more about studying at Durham, please visit