Alexandra Burslem

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Dame Alexandra Vivien Burslem (known as Sandra Burslem), DBE, JP, DL, FRSA (née Thornley; born 6 May 1940) is a British academic and educationalist. Born in Shanghai, China, she was the daughter of Stanley Morris Thornley, the British Ambassador to China.

Sandra Thornley returned to England during the expulsion of foreign nationals that occurred during the Communist Revolution. She afterwards attended the Arnold High School for Girls in Blackpool and was married in 1960. At the age of 28 she enrolled on her first degree course as a single mother at the University of Manchester (mature student)[1] and took a first class BA degree in Politics and Modern History. Following this she became a lecturer at Manchester Polytechnic and rose gradually to be Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Academic Director by 1992.[citation needed]

Her academic career culminated in September 1997 when she was named as Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, where she remained until 2005.[2]


Burslem was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) in the 2004 New Year Honours.[3] She served as High Sheriff of Greater Manchester for 2006–2007 and remains a Deputy Lieutenant of the county.[4][5]

List of posts held[edit]

Dame Alexandra Burslem has held a number of public and academic posts:

  • At Manchester Metropolitan University (formerly Manchester Polytechnic):
    • Lecturer in politics and public administration (1973–82)
    • Head, Department of applied community studies (1982–86)
    • Dean, Faculty of community studies, law and education (1986–88)
    • Assistant Director (academic) (1988–90)
    • Deputy Director (1990–92)
    • Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Academic Director (1992–97)
  • Justice of the Peace, Manchester Inner City Bench (since 1981)
  • Vice-Chair, Learning and Skills Council (2004-?)
  • Chairman, BBC North Regional Advisory Council
  • Member, BBC General Advisory Council
  • Deputy Chair, Higher Education Staff Development Agency (HESDA)

Personal life[edit]

Her first marriage lasted from 1960 until 1971. She married, secondly, Dr Richard Waywell Burslem, FRCOG (died 2001).[citation needed]