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Shirley has responsibility for the executive management and oversight of University of Sunderland, including preparation and delivery of its Strategic Plan.

She is currently a member of Universities UK International Policy Advisory Group, and Innovation and Growth Policy Network, a Director of the Sunderland Business Group, a member of the City of Sunderland Economic Leadership Board and Chair of the Education Leadership Board in the City, and a Director of five university trading companies including the London Campus operation and the Hong Kong operation.  Shirley is also an Executive Board member of Million Plus and a Board member of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA). She is currently a Trustee of a Multi Academy Trust.

Previously Shirley has been a Board member of local FE Colleges, a founding Trustee of a University Technical College and a member of the Social Mobility Working Group.

Before joining the University sector in 2008, Shirley worked in public, commercial and not for profit organisations at Board and Executive level.

She is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (qualifying with honours in 1989), for whom she has delivered over 200 lectures, chaired a number of conferences, and previously held a position on their examinations board. She also holds an MSc in Finance, is an alumnus of Harvard Business Schools’ Global Leaders Programme and is a Fellow of the RSA.