A NORTH-East university has become the first in the UK to appoint a female Muslim chaplain.

Mahshid Turner, a part-time PhD student at Durham University, has taken up the post on a voluntary basis.

The 58-year-old is a trained social worker in the mental health field and has worked for Age Concern, Sure Start and as a stop smoking adviser for the NHS.

Her PhD study focuses on psycho-spiritual aspects of mental health, particularly in Islam.

Durham University, which has not previously had a Muslim chaplain, has around 500 students registered as Muslims.

But Mrs Turner, a former vice-president of the university’s Islamic Society, said her door, at St Aidan’s College, was open to students of all faiths and none.

“I don’t think about whether I’m a man or a woman, I’m just there to give support.

“I forget who I am when someone is experiencing problems. It’s not about me – it’s about them,” she said.

Dr Susan Frenk, principal of St Aidan’s College, said for several years the university had felt the lack of a Muslim chaplain was a gap in its service and she was delighted and privileged to host Mrs Turner.

A Durham University spokeswoman said Mrs Turner’s appointment was part of its commitment to diversify its chaplaincy and faith provision as the student body becomes increasingly diverse.