Estelle Morris is to return to education in her first paid job after leaving politics, after she steps down as Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley in next week's General Election.

The former teacher was yesterday named as provice chancellor of the University of Sunderland, responsible for raising its national profile and developing partnerships with schools, colleges and communities.

Ms Morris, Arts Minister and former Education Secretary, said she believed Sunderland was the "Oxbridge of the new universities" because it had successfully risen to the challenge of delivering access and quality of teaching and research at the same time.

Around 97 per cent of its full-time undergraduates are from the state sector, and 32 per cent are from neighbourhoods without a track record of higher education - far exceeding the Government benchmark of 16 per cent.

Ms Morris, who steps down after 13 years as MP, will join the university in June and will work two days a week as a member of its senior executive team.

She said: "I am passionate about education and I wanted to do education again. Importantly, I want to be able to speak out about the subject without having to defend a certain line. One of the things I care most about is breaking the link between social deprivation and educational achievement. We are making progress but we are nowhere near yet."