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Vice-Chancellor and Principal

As Vice Chancellor and Principal at the University of Chester, Professor Simmons acts as the University’s Chief Executive responsible for the leadership of the institution, leading on the implementation and delivery of strategies across the staff and student bodies and the community.


Professor Simmons has a wide range of responsibilities across the University through her role as a member of the governing University Council, Chair of the Strategic Executive Team (SET) and Strategic Leadership Team (SLT), ensuring the implementation and development of the University's Citizen Student Strategy. Additionally, as Chair of Senate, Professor Simmons ensures that the University’s core academic activities, teaching, learning, research and knowledge exchange, are of the highest quality, producing excellent outcomes for students and project partners.

As part of her current priorities, Professor Simmons leads on a wide-ranging review of how the University utilises its built estate with the aim of achieving improvements to the workplace, learning facilities and environmental performance. She also plays a key role in liaising with external stakeholders to ensure the University delivers its objectives for each of its communities. This includes serving as a member of regional committees and boards for economic development, business, innovation and skills.

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Throughout Professor Simmons’ career, she has pursued her twin interests in education and the environment. Her teaching often centred on ‘real-life’ student projects with external clients, while maintaining a strong external network through numerous voluntary Board roles on regional conservation projects and education-centred organisations, including:


Professor Simmons’ research interests are in the fields of landscape and ecology, leading her to participate in research projects in continental Europe, Japan and the Americas. As one example, in Sabah, East Malaysia, she supported the development of a large-scale reforestation project in logged tropical forest through co-supervision of Bachelors and Doctoral students.


Professor Simmons joined the University of Chester as Vice Chancellor in January 2020 with a wealth of experience. This appointment followed her many roles in the higher education sector, including:

  • Head of the Academic and Student Affairs directorate and Deputy Vice Chancellor at Nottingham Trent University
  • Dean of the School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences at Nottingham Trent University
  • Dean of Faculty of Science and Natural Resources at the University of Cumbria
  • University of London’s Wye and Imperial Colleges
  • University of Central Lancashire

Professor Simmons’ educational management roles have included Course Leader, MSc Director, Head of School, Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor.


Driven by her keen interest in environmentalism, Professor Simmons earned a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Manchester followed by a Master of Science in Conservation of Soil Fertility from the University of Kent and further a Doctorate in Forest Ecology from the University of London. These achievements further fuelled her goal to become an educator, which also led her to gain a PGCE from Roehampton Institute and a Principal Fellowship of Advance Higher Education, the sector body for teaching and learning.