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Durham University Chancellor to step down after ‘glorious’ decade of service


The Chancellor of Durham University, the international opera singer Sir Thomas Allen, is to step down from his post after more than a decade in the role.


Sir Thomas took up his position at Durham in 2012, succeeding the author Bill Bryson, continuing a long connection with the University that started when he was a talented schoolboy musician.


Sir Thomas, who is one of the University’s longest serving Chancellors, will step down in July 2022 after presiding at the summer graduation ceremonies. An international search is underway for his successor.


The Chancellor is the Head of the University and is a member of the Council and of Convocation. Duties are ceremonial, including graduations and receptions, as well as pastoral, scholarly and ambassadorial.


Previous incumbents include Henry Percy, 7th Duke of Northumberland; the ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn; and actor and filmmaker Sir Peter Ustinov.


In stepping down, Sir Thomas spoke of the “glorious” 10 years in his eclectic role. He said: “Durham has always held a very special place in my heart and it was a tremendous privilege to accept this role in 2011.


“It has exceeded all expectations. I have particularly found it a special honour to be a part of the University congregations. This is one of the biggest days in the lives of our students and their families who come from all over the world to celebrate graduations in the majestic surroundings of the Cathedral.”


Joe Docherty, Chair of Durham University’s supreme governing body, University Council, said: “Sir Thomas has devoted time, passion and commitment to the University over the last decade, across so many fronts. We will be very sorry to say goodbye to him and we are immensely grateful for his service.”


Professor Antony Long, Acting Vice-Chancellor and Warden of Durham University, said: “Sir Thomas Allen has given spectacular service to the University and has been an excellent embodiment of our values in all that he has undertaken in his role.


“From presiding at countless graduation ceremonies to taking part in student concerts, including performing alongside our musicians for Prince Charles at Durham Cathedral. It has been a privilege to know and work alongside him.”