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Executive Team

‌Shirley Atkinson
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive

Shirley Atkinson

Shirley has responsibility for the executive management and oversight of the University, including delivery of its Strategic Plan, its financial sustainability, and the quality and success of its programmes and graduates. 

She is currently a board member of the City of Sunderland College, a founding trustee and Director of the South West Durham University Technical College, a member of Universities UK international policy advisory group, and innovation and growth policy network, a Director of the Sunderland Business Group, a member of the City of Sunderland Economic Leadership Board and Chair of the Education Leadership Board, and a Director of five university trading companies including the London Campus operation and companies in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Shirley is also an Executive Board member of Million Plus and a member of the Social Mobility Working Group (led by Universities UK), which has been set up by the Minister of State for Universities and Science to support the sector in improving access and outcomes for under-represented groups.

Before joining the University sector in 2008, Shirley worked in public, commercial and not for profit organisations at Board and Executive level.

She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (qualifying with honours in 1989), for whom she has delivered over 200 lectures, chaired a number of conferences, and previously held a position on their examinations board. 

She also holds an MSc in Finance, is an alumnus of Harvard Business Schools’ Global Leaders Programme and is a Fellow of the RSA. 

Contact: Julie Richardson, Executive Assistant, julie.richardson-1@sunderland.ac.uk, 0191 515 2713.

Shirley Atkinson is also on twitter: @ShirleytheVC


Steve Knight
Chief Operating Officer

Steve Knight COO executive profileSteve is responsible for the University’s professional and support services and for leading key strategies to ensure activities are aligned to deliver the highest standards of quality and cost-effectiveness across the institution.

Steve joined the University from the Kier Group where he was employed as the Director of Education, leading and supporting teams across the business in the development and implementation of strategies to improve business performance. Steve worked with Higher Education institutions to improve the attractiveness of the university to students by modernising the culture of delivery of student support services, enhancing the physical environment and improving efficiency and value for money.

Previous to this he spent eight years at Middlesex University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Director of Corporate Services where he was responsible for a broad range of corporate services. He led on institutional strategies including transformational change management, major capital investments and infrastructure projects, business process improvements and organisational performance.

Prior to Middlesex, Steve had a career in the Royal Air Force and the Ministry of Defence, during which time he had responsibility for the introduction of a number of corporate change management initiatives in the personnel and housing areas. He also had responsibility for the delivery of a wide range of corporate services on multiple sites, both in the United Kingdom and overseas.

Steve has a Master’s degree from Kings College London. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute.

Contact: Pauline Healer, Executive Assistant, pauline.healer@sunderland.ac.uk 0191 515 3493.


Professor Michael Young
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)Michael Young

Professor Young will take full responsibility for the academic portfolio when he joins us on 4 July 2016, including the delivery and quality of programmes and the teaching and learning experience. He will also take responsibility for students’ academic experience and achievement, as well as ensuring teaching and research staff are supported and developed to achieve excellent outcomes.

Contact: Louise Snowdon, Executive Assistant, louise.snowdon@sunderland.ac.uk 0191 515 2715.


Liz-Anne Broderick
Executive Support Manager and Policy Advisor

Liz-Anne is responsible for the provision of strategic policy advice for the Vice-Chancellor and wider University Executive. She is also responsible for the overall management of the University Executive Office.

Previously Liz-Anne was Assistant Director (Research and Innovation) at Northumbria University and has held senior positions within local and regional government, including Senior International Advisor to the Mayor of London. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Contact: liz-anne.broderick@sunderland.ac.uk 0191 515 2042.