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Steve Knight: Chief Operating Officer (COO)

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Published on 07 October 2022

Steve Knight
Steve Knight

After seven years of highly distinguished service, Steve Knight, the University of Sunderland’s Chief Operating Officer (COO), has decided to retire on 31 March 2023.

Steve has led vital work across many aspects of the University’s business including stabilising the University budget after a period of turbulence, being part of the core group behind the opening of the medical school in 2019, overseeing significant campus improvements, driving major initiatives in mental health and sustainability, and taking Executive-level responsibility for the development and growth of the University of Sunderland in London. 

At the outset of the COVID pandemic, Steve led the University’s response as he did throughout. As a result, the University came through the worst of that period in good shape. Steve also ensured that the October 2021 cyber-attack was dealt with calmly and efficiently. 

Sir David Bell, the University’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, commented, "Steve Knight has been an outstanding contributor to the University’s improvement in recent years and a great colleague on the University Executive. His frank, open, energetic, determined, and dedicated approach marks him out as someone who has given excellent service to the University of Sunderland.

"At a personal level, Steve was nothing other than endlessly constructive and helpful to me when I came to the University in the autumn of 2018, helping me to settle in very quickly. For that, I will always be in his debt."

At its meeting last night (6 October), the Board of Governors agreed the following with respect to the responsibilities that currently sit within Steve’s portfolio:

· The University of Sunderland of London will transfer to Professor Jon Timmis, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Commercial. In addition, responsibility will transfer for External Relations to Andrea Walters, University Secretary. 

· Student Journey will transfer to Andrea Walters, University Secretary, and, as noted above, so will External Relations from Professor Jon Timmis.

· A new permanent role of Chief Financial Officer (CFO) will be created on the University Executive and occupied by Ben Dale, currently Director of Finance. Ben’s current post will not be replaced but we will be reviewing the organisation of the finance function to ensure that it is appropriately structured

· A new temporary post (from 1 April 2023 to 31 May 2024) of Chief Operations and Campus Developments Officer (COCDO) will be created on the University Executive. The portfolio will include estates and facilities and technical services (which crucially, involves oversight of all University-wide major projects).

Kirsten Black, currently Director of Student Journey, will occupy the role and then retire from it, and the University, on 31 May 2024. Therefore, we will begin the process soon of recruiting a permanent replacement for her as Director of Student Journey.

Kirsten will, like Steve Knight, have a crucial role in convening and co-ordinating a wide range of operational matters across the University, both in steady-state and in response to unexpected matters that may arise.

Additional responsibilities currently held by Steve Knight will be allocated across the University Executive. Further information about the reallocation of responsibilities will follow in due course.

Sir David Bell said, "It speaks volumes about the internal talent that we have available to us that we can reallocate responsibilities and provide new opportunities at Executive level to existing colleagues. The changes announced here will take effect from 1 April 2023.

 "Until the end of March next year, Steve will continue to exercise all of his duties and responsibilities as COO with diligence, drive and focus."