A NEW leader will take the helm at the University of Cumbria later this year.

Directors of the institution have announced that Professor Julie Mennell will become its next vice-chancellor and is expected to start on August 1.

She will take over after Professor Peter Strike, who currently holds the top position, retires on July 31.

Professor Mennell will be the first woman to hold the top job at the young university. Her arrival will be at the start of the university’s 10th year of operation.

Professor Mennell is currently deputy vice-chancellor (development) at the University of Sunderland.

Her appointment follows an extensive recruitment period, which was overseen by a committee appointed by the university’s directors.

The university board of directors had a large and wide ranging field of strong applicants, which was cut to a final short list of six candidates.

Euan Cartwright, chairman of the board, said: “Julie’s strong academic career and extensive experience in management and leadership positions makes her particularly qualified for this role.

“I was sure that, following the final day of interviews, she would be an excellent successor to Professor Peter Strike. “I am confident we have made a first-rate appointment.”

Professor Mennell has said she is “honoured” to be leading the university into the next phase of its development.

She said: “Although the university itself is not yet 10 years old, many of its component parts have, for many years, played a significant role in the cultural and economic life of the region.

“The challenge for us moving forward is to continue to build on this legacy, creating a vibrant institution of high academic merit that provides opportunities for all those who have the potential to benefit from the experience of higher education, with reach and impact across Cumbria, Lancashire and beyond.”

Mr Cartwright also paid tribute to Professor Strike, who has been a key figure in the university’s development.