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Professor Tim Blackman

Professor Tim Blackman

Professor Tim Blackman became Vice-Chancellor of The Open University in October 2019. He was previously Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University in London. Tim was Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Scholarship and Quality at the OU between 2011 and 2015.


After a year at sea as a deckhand, Tim studied Geography at Durham University and, following a spell as a community worker in Belfast, returned to Durham to complete a PhD. He went back to Northern Ireland as a Lecturer in Social Policy at the University of Ulster, where he met his partner, Roberta Woods, who many years later became MP for the City of Durham after they had moved back to North East England, Tim initially as Head of Research at Newcastle City Council.


Tim returned to higher education in the mid-1990s, first as a Deputy Dean at Oxford Brookes University and then as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at Teesside University in Middlesbrough. In 2004 he took up a Chair in Sociology and Social Policy at Durham and over eight years served as Head of the School of Applied Social Sciences, Director of the Wolfson Research Institute and Dean of the University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton-on-Tees.


Tim has held a large number of other positions on company, public services and charity boards mainly in the housing, health and community sectors, He has reviewed for research councils extensively and was an assessor for the UK Research Excellence Framework exercise in 2014. He worked for several years as an advisor to the UK government on neighbourhood renewal and currently advises government on skills policy. He has taught and researched across social and urban policy, writing on housing, planning, health, social care, research methods and higher education, He is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Royal Society of Arts.


Outside his professional life, Tim has a great interest in the natural world – he almost studied Biology at university – and music, especially but not solely twentieth century classical music. On being appointed as Vice-Chancellor, he commented that what had always drawn him to the OU was the words ‘Learn and Live’ on the University Shield, which for him is a profound statement of what it means to be human.

Image by Julien Riedel