DURHAM University has announced the surprise retirement of its vice-chancellor, Chris Higgins.

Professor Higgins, 58, will step down on September 30, after seven years leading the North’s top university.

In a statement, he said it had long been his intention to retire by his 60th birthday, in June 2015.

He said he would be very sad to go but the timing was right, with the University and its colleges “probably in the best shape it has ever been”.