Sandie Okoro OBE appointed as first female Chancellor of the University of Birmingham

Preeminent lawyer, equality rights champion and Birmingham graduate Sandie Okoro OBE to become next Chancellor, succeeding Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea CBE.

Sandie Okoro

The University of Birmingham is delighted to announce the appointment of one of the country’s preeminent lawyers and equality rights champion as its new Chancellor. Sandie Okoro OBE brings a remarkable record of accolades recognising her contribution to diversity, equality and female rights, and is currently Group General Counsel of Standard Chartered where she leads the Bank’s Legal, Group Corporate Secretariat and Shared Investigative Services functions.

Sandie Okoro is the University’s eighth Chancellor since it was established in 1900. She succeeds Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea CBE, who will step down as Chancellor in July after 10 years in the role; and follows in the footsteps of the Right Honourable Joseph Chamberlain and the Right Honourable Anthony Eden, the Earl of Avon.

I am truly honoured and delighted to be appointed Chancellor. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to give a little something back to the amazing University that has given so very much to me and my family.

Sandie Okoro OBE

Sandie is a proud University of Birmingham alumna, graduating with a degree in Law and Politics from Birmingham before qualifying as a barrister at City, University of London. After switching roles to solicitor, she held posts including Head of Legal for Corporate Services at Schroders, Global General Counsel at Barings and General Counsel for HSBC Global Asset Management. Sandie was also Senior Vice-President and General Counsel, and Vice-President for Compliance, for the World Bank Group.

Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, said: “We are excited to welcome Sandie as our new Chancellor. She is a highly respected trailblazer in the corporate legal sector and is of course a proud University of Birmingham graduate. To hear her talk about breaking glass ceilings and aiming high is inspirational and reflects the attitude and passion of our university and our commitment to championing equality, diversity and inclusion.”

The Chancellor is the ceremonial head of the University. They preside at degree ceremonies, celebrating with and inspiring students on their graduation day. They also perform an important role in engaging with the community and stakeholders and working as an advocate to raise the University’s profile and promote its reputation regionally, nationally and globally.

To hear [Sandie] talk about breaking glass ceilings and aiming high is inspirational and reflects the attitude and passion of our university and our commitment to championing equality, diversity and inclusion.

Professor Adam Tickell, Vice-Chancellor, University of Birmingham

On accepting the post, Sandie Okoro said: “The wonderful University of Birmingham is the alma mater to three generations of the Okoros, my mum, me and my son. So my connection to it is very special indeed. I have followed the University’s outstanding progress very closely since my days there as a student on a full grant back in the 1980s – its dedication to impactful research, its focus on creating an inclusive environment for talented, minority students and educational excellence are themes very close to my heart.

“I am truly honoured and delighted to be appointed Chancellor. It's a fantastic opportunity for me to give a little something back to the amazing University that has given so very much to me and my family.”

Sandie was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2024 New Year Honours for her services to Diversity in International Finance. She has also received a lifetime achievement award from the UK Black Solicitors Network and was named one of the Power 100 Women by City A.M. and 100 Women to Watch by Female FTSE Board. She received the Howard University 2019 Vanguard Women Award for her accomplishments as a woman of colour who has blazed the trail and her commitment to mentoring young women and advancing the rights of women and girls globally. She is also the recipient of the Beyond the Glass Ceiling Award presented by the Leadership Institute for Women of Color Attorneys (2019), the Chambers 100 Outstanding Global General Counsel (2019). Sandie is an Honorary Bencher of Middle Temple in the United Kingdom.

Sandie was appointed inaugural Chair of the UK-based charity Women of the World Foundation in June 2021, she received an honorary lifetime Emeritus membership of the Law Societies’ Compact and Forum for Sustainable Development Goal 16 in June 2022 and is a Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company. Sandie has previously been a council member of the human rights organization JUSTICE, Ambassador for the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme and sat on the Equality Standards Panel of the Premier League.

Notes for editors

For more information please contact the University of Birmingham Press Office on pressoffice@contacts.bham.ac.uk / +44 (0)121 414 2772.

  • Previous Chancellors of the University of Birmingham include: The Rt Hon Joseph Chamberlain, 1900-1914; The Rt Hon Robert Cecil, 1st Viscount Cecil of Chelwood, 1918 -1944; The Rt Hon Anthony Eden, the Earl of Avon, 1945-1973; Sir Peter Scott, 1973-1983; Sir Alex Jarratt, 1983-2002; Sir Dominic Cadbury, 2002-2013; and Lord Bilimoria of Chelsea CBE, 2014-2024
  • The formal responsibilities of the Chancellor are set out in the University’s Legislation. They presides at Degree Congregations and confers degrees of the University.
  • The University of Birmingham is ranked amongst the world’s top 100 institutions, its work brings people from across the world to Birmingham, including researchers and teachers and students. 
  • The University is home to over 40,000 students. Around 80% of its students are from state schools. Around 25% of our students come from the West Midlands and more than 40% of Birmingham graduates choose to make their home in the city after graduation.
  • The University plays an integral role in the economic, social and cultural growth of local and regional communities, working closely with businesses and organisations. Its recent Impact Report highlights the significant impact the University makes to the West Midlands and UK economies – totalling £4.4bn and supporting nearly 20,000 jobs.