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Sir Lenny Henry set to end eight-year spell as campaigning university chancellor

Comedian Sir Lenny Henry is to step down as chancellor of Birmingham City University after eight years.

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The comedian, actor, TV presenter and writer is stepping down as chancellor after eight years in the role

Dudley-born Sir Lenny will step down from his role as chancellor at the end of 2024.

The actor, comedian, television presenter and writer became chancellor in 2016 with the initial intention of fulfilling a five-year term, but said he found his time at the university so rewarding that he extended his tenure.

He said: “I’ve watched this university change the landscape of this city and the lives of thousands of talented young people.

"It’s been a privilege representing an institution that’s given hope and opportunity to many who have had to overcome financial and social hardship and I know there are transformative times ahead for a place that has become very special to me.”

Sir Lenny’s departure from Birmingham City University (BCU) follows his recent decision to stand down from hosting Comic Relief, the BBC fundraising telethon he co-founded and fronted since 1985, with his last appearance as host at next month's special.

His appointment proved a perfect fit for BCU as, together, they celebrated and campaigned for issues close to their hearts.

Sir Lenny Henry said it had been a privilege to represent Birmingham City University

This included their support for the city of Birmingham, a belief in the importance of creative arts, and the need to provide transformational opportunities for young people from a wide range of backgrounds.

Among Sir Lenny’s most notable achievements at BCU was the co-founding of the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC) in 2020.

It advised Channel 4 on its Black to Front Project, which builds on the broadcaster’s commitment to improve Black representation on screen and more widely in the TV industry.

It was also shortlisted for a Times Higher Education award for Outstanding Contribution to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion in 2021.

Sir Lenny will continue to play an important role in the ongoing development of the LHC, which he created with BCU’s professor of broadcast journalism Diane Kemp, Marcus Ryder MBE and former director of undergraduate studies Marverine Duffy, all leading figures in the effort to increase diversity and inclusion in the UK media industry.

Professor David Mba, BCU’s vice-chancellor, said: “I’d like to thank Sir Lenny for everything he has done during his eight years as chancellor of the university.

“BCU is committed to the arts and widening participation - and Lenny was a great fit as a strong advocate for Birmingham and the underrepresented.

“I wish him well for what will continue to be a trailblazing career as a one-of-a-kind national treasure. I’m sure the BCU community will give him a send-off that he’ll never forget.”

The university’s search for Sir Lenny’s successor is already underway, with a new chancellor expected to be in place by the end of this year.