The University’s former Deputy Vice-Chancellor has been Interim Vice-Chancellor since last September and now takes up the post with immediate effect.
Ms Atkinson has been with the University since 2008 having previously held a number of strategic leadership roles in public and private sector organisations.
With a strong understanding of how universities contribute to the economic and social well being of their localities, combined with an acute awareness of the value of higher education, she is exceptionally well placed to drive forward an exciting, and invigorating future for the students, staff and stakeholders of the institution in the UK and across the world.
The University of Sunderland Chair of the Board of Governors, Paul Callaghan, said: “The Board is absolutely delighted with Shirley’s appointment. We all agree she is without doubt the right person to lead the University.
“Since taking up the Interim Vice-Chancellor post last September Shirley has shown all the qualities demanded of someone in this role. The Board has no doubt whatsoever that the future of this excellent University is in the best possible hands.”
Ms Atkinson said: “It is an honour for me to take up the role of Vice-Chancellor at this wonderful University – an organisation I care about passionately. I feel very proud to be leading and supporting such inspirational, dedicated and uplifting staff, who work so hard to ensure our students achieve their aspirations and goals.
“The University of Sunderland is in a strong position to face the future. Our role as an anchor institution in the North-East continues to be acknowledged, as we help shape the region and City in which we are proud to be located. Our global footprint is extensive with 30,000 alumni based all over the world.
“Our academic community, alongside their research and practice, work closely with students and industry partners to ensure programmes are relevant and current and our students enjoy excellent teaching. Our aim is for graduates to have the confidence, thinking capability, creativity, curiosity and adaptability to become the leaders of tomorrow.
“This strong and confident position comes from the excellent achievements under the previous Vice-Chancellor, Professor Peter Fidler, whose leadership gives us a solid platform for the next period, work on which starts now.”
The University of Sunderland Students’ Union President Bilal Raja said: “We are delighted to hear that Shirley Atkinson has been confirmed as the new Vice-Chancellor of the University of Sunderland. It’s great to have someone with so much valuable experience taking the lead and who will put students first. I really look forward to working with Shirley and to helping raise the profile of the University and the Students’ Union within the city and beyond.”
Ms Atkinson’s first official role will be on Monday (July 6) when she oversees a week of graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light, which will host 11,000 people over five days and are estimated to bring £1m to the city and region’s economy.