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Board of Governors

Institutions of higher education are legally independent corporate institutions which have a common purpose of providing teaching and undertaking research. Universities also contribute to economic growth through research and developing links with industry and the community.

The Board of Governors is the governing body of the institution and carries responsibility for ensuring the effective management of the institution and for planning its future development. It has ultimate responsibility for all the affairs of the institution. 

Board of Governors of the University of Sunderland

Shirley Atkinson

Shirley Atkinson Interim Vice Chancellor

Shirley is the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of Sunderland.

She has responsibility for the executive management and oversight of the University, including delivery of its Corporate and Academic Plans, its financial sustainability, and the quality and success of its programmes and graduates.

Shirley 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, a board member of the National Glass Centre, a member of the Sunderland Business Group, a member of the City of Sunderland Economic Leadership Board, a Director of five university trading companies including the London Campus operation and companies in Malaysia and Hong Kong, and is a business Board member of the NSPCC.


Paul Callaghan CBE

Paul Callaghan's photo

Appointed to the Board of Governors in July 2005. Chair of Board of Governors from July 2009, Chair of Nominations Committee and a member of Finance and Development Committee and Remuneration Committee.

Paul also represents the University on the Committee of University Chairs (CUC).

Paul is the Chair of the Leighton Group, and of Red House Academy. He is also a Trustee of Red House Academy, Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust, the Make a Difference Foundation and the North East Theatre Trust.


Derek Curtis

Governor Derek Curtis

Appointed to the Board in 2010, Derek also serves on Audit Committee.

Derek is presently Managing Director of Bond Solutions, a company initially specialising in Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, but which quickly expanded to offering HR and accounts software.

Derek is also involved in a personal capacity with Echo Twenty Three Limited, a company which specialises in business-to-business and business-to-customer PR and digital campaigns, working with clients in industries such as law, finance, manufacturing, sports, fashion and leisure.

Other trusteeships: none.


Margaret Fay CBE DL

Appointed to the Board of Governors in March 2011. Member of Audit, Nominations and Remuneration Committees.

Margaret was Chair of Regional Development Agency, ONE North East from 2003 – 2010. The previous twenty-four years were spent at Tyne Tees Television where she held many roles; the last seven years as Managing Director.

She is currently Deputy Chair of The North Music Trust which oversees the Sage Gateshead, a Non-Executive Director of Northumbrian Water plc, and Fabrick Housing Group.

Other trusteeships: none.

Paul Feechan

Paul Feechan

Paul was the Office Senior Partner in Newcastle and from 1999-2010 was partner in charge of audit in Leeds and/or Newcastle. ‌‌‌

He has more than 20 years experience as an audit partner, serving listed, private equity and multinational clients across a number of‌ industries. He also acted as a national risk partner on a number of PLC clients.   


Sue Forster  NEW Sue Forster

Sue was appointed to the Board in 2015 and is also a member of Audit Committee.‌‌‌‌‌

Sue is a retired qualified accountant and has a public sector financial and audit background. She was previously a Director at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, providing internal and external audit and advisory services to Local Authorities, NHS‌bodies, Higher Education Institutions and Central Government Departments and agencies. She has also worked in both local government and the NHS in the North East.

Other trusteeships: none.


Cllr Cecilia Gofton

Co-opted Board Member from the City of Sunderland Council. Member of Employment Committee.

Celia is a senior member of Sunderland City Council where she is the Cabinet Member holding the Portfolio for Responsive Services and Customer Care. She has represented the constituents of Pallion Ward since May 2006.

Celia represents the City Council on the Association of North East Councils and the City of Sunderland College Board of Corporation.

She is a member of the Sunderland Learning Partnership and is a Trustee of the Empire Theatre Trust and the Parker Memorial Home.


Farooq Hakim

Farooq Hakim

Farooq is the BT Group North East Regional Director representing the local face of BT, protecting and enhancing BT’s reputation by helping key opinion formers appreciate BT’s strategic goals and provide thought leadership for regional communities acting as a driver for regional development and growth.

Farooq has lived in the North East for the past 28 years. He graduated from Sunderland University in 1990 with a BA (Hons) in Business Computing and graduated from Oxford University (Pembroke College) in 2014 with an MSc in Major Programme Management.

He is currently studying at University College London for an Innovation certification. Farooq also spent 7 years as a visiting lecturer at Sunderland University teaching on a number of IT degree courses.


Abraham Obinna‌ NEW Abraham Obinna

University of Sunderland Students’ Union President for 2016/17.‌‌‌

Trusteeships: University of Sunderland Students’ Union.‌


John Mowbray OBE

John Mowbray

John was appointed to the Board of Governors in 2012 and is a member of Audit Committee, Nominations Committee and Remuneration Committee.

John became President of the North East Chamber of Commerce in June 2011 and is a member of the board. He retired from Northumbrian Water in August 2012 where he was Director of Corporate Affairs.

He has been a Director of TEDCO, a Non Executive Director at Husband and Brown, and a Non Executive Director at Press Ahead. John chairs the Foundation of Light Development Board, the Percy Hedley Foundation Appeal Committee, and the Sunderland Education Leadership Board.

John is also a member of Castle View Enterprise Academy Trust Board, he is a Trustee of Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust and Ryhope Engines Trust, and he is a member of Durham Cathedral.


Paul McGowan

Appointed to Board of Governors in July 2011. Member of Employment Committee and Remuneration Committee.

Paul is a Solicitor and is founder and Principal of Collingwood Legal. Prior to establishing Collingwood Legal, Paul was a partner in the Employment and Education Department at Watson Burton LLP.

Other trusteeships: none.


Saul Nassé

Appointed to the Board of Governors in July 2011. He is currently Controller of BBC Learning and is a former Editor of Tomorrow’s World.

Saul was the Creative Head of Development for Specialist Factual in 2006, after which he moved to Mumbai where he was General Manager and Creative Head of BBC Worldwide Productions India, producing series such as the Indian version of Strictly Come Dancing and the critically acclaimed ‘India and Pakistan season in 2007.

Other trusteeships: Teaching Awards Trust.


Umesh Patel MBE

Umesh Patel

Umesh was appointed to the Board of Governors in 2012. He is a member of Employment Committee and National Glass Centre Board.

Umesh is a well-known local community pharmacist who has worked in Sunderland for over 30 years.

A graduate of the University and mentor to pharmacy students, he has been a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain since 1979 playing an active locally and in many campaigns within his profession. In 2001, he joined the board of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee and is Chair of the PSNC Audit Committee.

Umesh has also been involved in many charitable and fundraising activities, including trusteeships of the Manav Kalyan Trust and the National Pharmacy Association.


Bob Paton

Bob Paton

Currently the Managing Director of Accenture’s North East Delivery Centre. Bob jointly led the initiative to set up Dynamo the North East IT Forum. The primary aims of the Forum are to grow the North East IT industry and to help address the IT skills shortage.

Bob is the Chair of RTC (Regional Technology Centre) North, a not for profit organisation set up to help/aid technology in the North East. Bob is also the Chairman of the Board of Governors for Studio West, the new vocational school which opened up in Newcastle September 2014.

Since April 2015, Bob has been the Chief Executive of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Bob is also the chair of the Proposer Group for the recently approved IT and Health Care Sciences University Technical College which is sponsored by the University of Sunderland.


Sean Percival

Sean PercivalStaff Governors elected by non-teaching staff of the University in 2015.‌‌‌‌‌ ‌ ‌

Sean is a University of Sunderland graduate, who then worked as the Sport and Recreational Officer for the Students' Union. He has worked for the University for 15 years initially as a recruitment assistant, which involved recruiting students to the University from all around the UK.

Sean was appointed as the first Sports Development Officer for the University and has progressed to Development Manger within the Institute of Sport and student Learning Services. Sean also has experience working in the private sector, County Sports Partnership and Basketball England.


Ellen Thinnesen 

Ellen is Principal and Chief Executive of Sunderland College and is the Board member with experience of education.  With a wealth of experience in further education, Ellen came to Sunderland from Tameside College where she was Deputy Principal.  Prior to this, she held various senior management and teaching roles at Grimsby Institute of Further and Higher Education.


Alison Thain OBE Alison Thain

Alison was Group Chief Executive of Thirteen Group before retiring this year and has a vast range of experience in the social housing sector with a number of housing associations. ‌ ‌

Alison also served on the former regional development agency body, One North East and she is a current member of the Regional Council of the CBI and is Vice Chairman of Darlington Building Society.  


Mark Winter 

Mark WinterMark is the Head of Undergraduate Business Programmes at Sunderland Business School and takes the academic lead on the development of national and international programmes covering all the business subject areas of undergraduate full time and part time education. ‌‌

As a teacher Mark leads the undergraduate teaching on the international business environment and on business ethics.


Catherine Young

Catherine is a chartered accountant and has worked with businesses, not-for-profit organisations and service providers in the North East region for over 20 years.

She was an audit director with a national firm of accountants and then Commercial Director of North East MRO Technology Propeller and is currently working for Leathers LLP.

Catherine is also Chair of the Audit Committee of the national charity Breast Cancer Care.

Other trusteeships: none.


Kirsty Paterson Kirsty Paterson

Kirsty is the Student Representative for the Board of Governors‌‌.‌



All Staff Representative 

This post is currently vacant. 

For more information on University governance contact Legal, Governance & Business Assurance or go to the Governance Section of the University's Publication Scheme.