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A prime mover in determining the future direction of higher education and medical education nationally and globally has been appointed as the University of Chester’s new Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Professor Helen O’Sullivan will be central to ensuring that the University grows into and progresses the new strategy being introduced by Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eunice Simmons, and will have responsibility for overseeing the institution’s academic work.

She currently sits alongside Professor Simmons as one of 13 Board members of Advance HE, whose priorities for the university sector include transformative leadership and management; teaching and learning; equality, diversity and inclusion; and effective governance.

Also at a national level, Professor O’Sullivan is the Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Association of Learning Technology (ALT) and a member of both Universities UK International’s Transnational Education Advisory Board, and the Horizon Group for Jisc, which provides technological solutions for UK education and research. She established the UK Council for Teachers of Professionalism and her research focuses on the role of emotional intelligence in developing professionalism and leadership in doctors. She also has a particular interest in how innovations in digital education can support social learning.

Professor Simmons said: “I am thrilled to have someone of Professor O’Sullivan’s vision, intellect and standing to join our Strategic Executive Team, which is guiding the University of Chester into the next stage of its development.”

Canon Dr Jeff Turnbull, President of the University Council, added: “On behalf of the University’s governors, I am delighted to welcome Helen as our new Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. With her gifts and experience she will bring great strength to our Strategic Executive Team and be an excellent Deputy to our Vice-Chancellor.”

After graduating in Molecular Biology at the University of Liverpool, Professor O’Sullivan gained a PhD in Bacterial Genetics, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship there, then moved to a lectureship in Biological Sciences at what is now Liverpool Hope University. Hope, like Chester, is a member of the Cathedrals Group of church-founded institutions, committed to widening access to higher education. She became interested in the psychology of learning and undertook a range of leadership roles including Dean of Sciences and Social Sciences.

In 2006, Professor O’Sullivan returned to the University of Liverpool to lead the Centre for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, whose work helped to shape how medical professionalism is taught across medical schools in the UK and internationally. She was promoted to Professor of Medical Education in 2013 and was Associate Pro Vice-Chancellor for Online Learning at the University of Liverpool.

Currently Pro Vice-Chancellor for Education at Keele University, Professor O’Sullivan has strategic leadership for all aspects of learning, including flexible, online and transnational delivery.

Wirral-based Professor O’Sullivan said: “I have already picked up the importance of the strong community at the University of Chester and a sense of excitement about the future, so I am really looking forward to channelling the energy which will see the new strategy coming to fruition.

“The thread running through my career is innovation in the design and delivery of education that develops students as individuals, as well as preparing them for life after university. The new strategy really aligns with my personal beliefs in the purpose of university education, giving opportunities to those who might not have been able to benefit otherwise. 

“I am excited about all aspects of the curriculum at Chester, particularly, given my background, the prospects for the new Medical School and for developing the Science and Engineering offer.

“Having lived and worked in the area for many years, I’m familiar with the University’s history and foundation and already have connections with the city through regularly rowing on the River Dee as a member of the Rex Boat Club.”

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