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“Where this university is in its development is incredibly exciting to me – that’s why I’m here”

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Published on 16 October 2018

Dr Richard Darby-Davis
Dr Richard Darby-Davis

Richard Darby-Davis is quick to apologise for Coventry’s City of Culture 2021 victory.

Born and bred in the West Midlands, he realises the win could still smart in the city he has just relocated to.

But while Sunderland may have missed out in the culture title, Richard sees his decision to migrate north as one of endless opportunities.

Appointed as the new Head of Psychology at the University of Sunderland, he is excited at exploring these opportunities both inside and outside the institution.

“What’s not to like?” He asks from his office in Shackleton House. “The potential to have an impact on the students, the city and the region is a dream – new beginnings are always exciting and this is right up there.”

It’s been a long journey up north for Richard who was a psychology undergraduate at University College London (UCL) before moving to Cardiff University where he completed his PhD in 1994.

From there he returned to UCL as a research fellow before heading to the University of Warwick under a Medical Research Council (MRC) fellowship.

In 1999, Richard joined the University of Wolverhampton and, for the next 19 years, made his way from senior lecturer to Head of Psychology.

But after hearing from a colleague about the “friendly and welcoming” atmosphere at the University of Sunderland, Richard made the decision to apply for the post and head up north

So why, after 19 years, make the move?

“A couple of things,” he says. “Firstly where this University is at in terms of its development, I found to be very interesting.

“It’s rare to find that potential – the opportunity to impact on a city, on a region and on the students was very real, and very exciting.

“This is a city with the University at its core and we must all work together in a holistic way to ensure we get the best for everyone.

“Even from my first interview, I knew this faculty thought the same way, they were welcoming, friendly and gave the impression that this was just a really nice place to live and work.

“Secondly, seeing the range of experience, talent, passion and enthusiasm within the Psychology team here was inspiring.

“They are forward thinking, skilled, friendly, but most of all dedicated to what they do, making the student journey as good as it possibly can be.

“I’m a person who strongly believes in celebrating our differences but in the sector today we need to stand apart, we need to have something unique.

“It’s the effort we put into developing courses and making sure we provide something that is wanted, something that is needed by applicants, that is really our unique selling point. We take an integrated, holistic approach and we are fearless.”


It’s been a big few months for Richard, meeting his staff, settling into a new job, new home. So, what does he think of his newly adopted city?

“Well, I do talk to a lot of people when I’m out and about,” he says. “And I’m amazed they are so blasé about living beside the seaside. I mean, it’s amazing.

“I love the coast and so far I’ve been as far south as Seaham, through to Sunderland and Shields and then up the North Tyneside coastline.

“My partner and I have a property in Gran Canaria and we are big fans of the seaside – you don’t see much of that in the West Midlands.

“I’ve lived in Coventry since 1996, so even though I feel the need to apologise over our City Of Culture win, I’m happy to be up here and supporting the University and the city.”

Anything else he’s looking forward to?

“Yes, I have a dinner and spa voucher for Seaham Hall to use, although I might skip the spa and go straight to the dinner,” he adds.

“And the other thing I’ve found out is that you need cash to pay for the Tyne Tunnel – I learnt that lesson the hard way.”