Karen Stanton, Vice Chancellor

After a significant career in higher education, Professor Karen Stanton joined York St John University as Vice Chancellor in September 2015, one of the few female Vice Chancellors in the UK. In 2017 still only 1/5th of universities were led by a woman. As the head of one of York’s key anchor institutions, Karen Stanton not only contributes to changing people’s lives through education, but leads a large organisation with a multi-million pound turnover that is a major employer and contributor to the local economy. 

Before her roles within higher education, Karen Stanton worked as a researcher for the Home Office and at the BBC. She gained her first degree in History from the University of Sheffield and her postgraduate qualification in Information Science from Manchester Metropolitan University. As the first in her family to attend university, she is both personally and professionally committed to the pursuance of social justice, and the promotion of equality and diversity, for the University’s students, staff, and the local community. The extension of the franchise to women, fought for by the Suffragette movement, was a pivotal moment in the still-continuing campaign for social justice.

Her leadership has seen the continuation of York St John’s commitment to widening participation and almost 17% of the University’s students come from neighbourhoods where participation in higher education is low. In 2016, the University became one of only two UK Universities to receive the Social Enterprise Gold Mark, awarded to organisations that operate with the central aim of using income and profits to maximise positive social and/or environmental impact, which takes precedence over a requirement to maximise personal profits for owners and shareholders. York St John has also been ranked in the Stonewall Top 100 Employers for four years in a row standing at 24th in the 2018 index.

Alongside her role as Vice Chancellor, Karen Stanton is also a non-Executive Director of Make it York, the city’s destination management organisation which focusses on the development and promotion of York as a centre for culture, arts, study and business. Make It York has six distinct areas of activity: tourism marketing, Science and Innovation, city centre management, events and festivals, business support and inward investment. During her tenure as a board member, she has worked with her board colleagues to support Make it York’s work in areas such as building on York’s reputation as a festival city, running festivals, including Illuminating York and the Christmas Festival, assisting almost 400 businesses across a range of sectors to access growth support and advice including support for over 80 start-ups, facilitating several international visits from countries such as the USA, Canada, India and China with a specific focus on IT/Digital and Biotechnology, and the establishment of the York Culture Awards.  

Culture and art is not only a focus for her Make it York role, there is clear focus on this at York St John as well. As Vice Chancellor, she has overseen the University’s involvement in the York Mediale, the Media Arts Guild and the Cultural Leaders Group.  



Professor Fiona Thompson