Dr Wright will take charge of the Government's flagship initiative for lifelong learning on November 1. Sunderland University, where she has been chief executive since 1992, has earned a reputation as an innovator of community and industry-linked learning initiatives. It has been running a University for Industry pilot scheme for the past 12 months and set up the successful and influential one-stop education "shop", Learning World, in conjunction with Gateshead College.
The appointment is a personal triumph for Dr Wright - who is a member of the Equal Opportunities Commission and chair of the Committee on University Career Opportunities - and a breakthrough for female representation in top academic posts. A recent survey by the Association of University Teachers found that only six of the 113 members of the Committee of Vice-Chancellors and Principals - and just one in 12 professors - are women.
Dr Wright said: "I am delighted to have this unique opportunity to help set up one of the most exciting initiatives in lifelong learning in decades. The University for Industry will play a crucial role in making learning more accessible for more people."