Lancaster University has appointed former Health Secretary Alan Milburn as its new Chancellor from  January 1, 2015.

The Chair of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission will take over from mountaineer Sir Chris Bonington CVO CBE DL, who will have served for 10 years.

Alan Milburn was Labour MP for Darlington (1992 to 2010) and now runs his own consultancy, advising governments and corporations worldwide. He is also involved in a variety of charitable projects as diverse as working with Tony Blair in Africa, to acting as a trustee for Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

He credits the skills he learned at Lancaster, where he studied history, as a foundation for the whole of his working life and career. He was later awarded an honorary degree in 2000.

Following his graduation he ran a radical bookshop, became active in the trade union movement and took a leading role in a campaign to save Sunderland's shipbuilding industry.

He eventually won the Darlington seat next to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency in 1992 and was immediately identified as one of the Labour party's modernisers.

He went on to serve within the UK Government as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Health (1999 and 2003) and as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, before his resignation from party politics in 2010.

His more recent focus has been on social mobility. In 2009, Alan Milburn chaired a governmental commission, the Panel on Fair Access to the Professions.

Its report recommended improvements in social mobility by acting at every life stage - school, university, internship and recruitment.

This work continues as Chair of the newly created Commission on Social Mobility and Child Poverty to which he was appointed by the Coalition Government.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark E. Smith said: “We are delighted to welcome Alan as Chancellor in the year of Lancaster’s 50th Anniversary, especially as an alumnus. The University, like him, is committed to making sure that higher education is open to all young people to develop their talents, whatever their social or economic background.

“I would also like to pay tribute to Sir Chris Bonington who retires this year after ten tremendous years of being committed to Lancaster as our Chancellor. We look forward to a continuing association with Chris.”

The Rt Hon Alan Milburn said: “I am honoured to follow in Chris’s footsteps. He has been an outstanding Chancellor of a great university. It is a privilege to become Chancellor of the university that gave me such strong foundations for my life and career.

"Now, as then, Lancaster is leading the way in creating opportunities for young people to realise their aspirations in life. I look forward to working with students and staff in making Lancaster University even more successful in future.”

Alan Milburn will be Lancaster’s third Chancellor, the first being the founding Chancellor HRH Princess Alexandra who served from 1964 – 2004 and was one of the longest serving university chancellors in the UK.

You can watch a video of Alan Milburn remembering his time at Lancaster.