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Ada takes the helm of Teesside University’s governing body

06 March 2023


Ada Burns has taken over the helm of Teesside University’s governing body, as the first woman to chair the institution’s Board of Governors.

Ada is no stranger to achieving notable success in senior positions. Prior to joining Teesside University as a governor, she was the first female chief executive in Darlington Borough Council’s 150-year history.

And in the week that International Women’s Day is being celebrated, Ada reflects on being the first woman to hold such prominent roles, saying: “I’m very proud to be the first.

“I have had brilliant female role models throughout my career. I was fortunate on three different occasions to have a woman boss and it was these women who said, ‘go for that job’. As women, we suffer from imposter syndrome. We always have a feeling that maybe we’re not good enough, we have not got enough experience. I believe we can, and should, say to each other, ‘go for it, you can do it’.

“My advice would be, push though the barriers, get all the support you can. There is a lot of support out there for you and be proud of what you can achieve.”

Originally from Ireland, Ada, who moved to the region in 2005, added: “I was the youngest of four girls and the first in my family to graduate. All my sisters went to university and got their degrees when they were aged in their twenties and thirties. It’s never too late to realise the ambitions that you might have.”

Ada, who has been a Teesside University board member since 2019, said: “I worked with Teesside when I was chief executive of Darlington Borough Council and saw the impact the University has on our economy, along with the many opportunities it offers. I was proud to be associated as chief executive with the development of the University’s Darlington campus and National Horizons Centre.

“I’m very proud to be the chair of the Board of Governors. The Board plays an important role in agreeing where we are going as a university and makes sure we deliver on the mission that we have set.

“This institution transforms lives and is transforming economies in the Tees Valley, and globally. I was interested in becoming involved as a governor because of the impact we make. I’m really excited about continuing to serve such an important institution as chair.”

There is a lot of support out there for you and be proud of what you can achieve

Ada Burns

Ada was Chief Executive of Darlington Borough Council for thirteen years, up to 2018. Prior to moving to the region in 2005, Ada held senior positions in London local government in housing, regeneration and development.

She has held leadership roles in the Tees Valley and in surrounding region and has experience in governance of further education and sixth form institutions. Ada is currently a Non-Executive Director of the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, and a Trustee of a community arts centre in Barnard Castle.

Ada said: “The University, along with the NHS Trust and hospitals, are very important anchor institutions in the Tees Valley, in terms of the number of people we employ, and also in the way we create opportunities and change peoples’ lives.

“Teesside University is an incredibly important partner to the NHS as we help to train nurses, allied health professionals, paramedics and soon optometrists, so developing that partnership is important. But it goes beyond my interest in health. The work we are doing with games, animation, business development and the arts is really important to our economy, and the wellbeing of our communities.”

Ada added: “Our corporate social responsibility mission is to create opportunities, to enable our students to realise their ambitions and to contribute to their communities. And it is not just our home students. We recruit very extensively from partner countries across the world. Those students who come here make a huge positive impact on Middlesbrough and the Tees Valley.

“If you sign up for a course at Teesside, you will have the very best experience. That is what I am passionate about. The investments we have made, and continue to make, in our campus and facilities for students is really exciting.”

Ada added: “I think the region is really going places and Teesside University as an anchor institution is a big part of that.”

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