Professor Ebrahim Adia, Vice Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton

Ebrahim’s academic background is in the area of public policy and policy analysis. He taught as a Lecturer and Senior Lecturer in Education for 18 years before moving into academic management.  As the Provost for UCLan’s Burnley Campus, Ebrahim led on the development of a new university campus and as the Assistant Vice-Chancellor for Student Experience and Transformation at the University of Bolton he helped to improve both student satisfaction and student continuation.  More recently, Ebrahim was appointed as a Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Panel Member by the Office for Students which has enhanced his understanding of best practice to support the development of an outstanding student experience that delivers high levels of graduate employability.

Ebrahim has a national and international profile serving as Chair and member of a number of high-profile boards, panels and committees.

He has worked closely with the devolved Greater Manchester Combined Authority where he held the role of deputy portfolio for Economic Strategy and Internationalisation and served as a Board Member of the Manchester Growth Company.  He has also held a number of senior Board roles in the NHS, was appointed by the Government to the Commission on Integration and Cohesion and has served as a Rapporteur at the Council of Europe in Strasbourg.


John Atherton, VP Sales, EMEA, Explorance

John is the VP Sales for EMEA at Explorance. He graduated from Sheffield Hallam University in 2007 with a Business Studies degree and has since worked in the higher education sector, supporting universities with student voice strategies and technologies. In that time, he has worked directly with over half the institutions in the UK and many more across Europe and Africa. John joined Explorance in 2015 to lead the growth and operations for the European region and continues to manage several university partnerships.


Karl Baldacchino, Researcher, Studyportals

Karl carries out market research and data analysis to draw up reports for clients filled with insights from Studyportals’ data. He also prepares and drafts thought leadership pieces with our team of experts and supports senior consultants when preparing client visits or conference presentations, further crystallizing Studyportals’ mission, operating procedures, and client base.


Dr Charlie Ball, Head of Labour Market Intelligence, Jisc

Charlie is Jisc's lead on the labour market for post-18 learners and is recognised as an expert on the professional jobs market. He's a member of research advisory committees for AGCAS and the Institute of Student Employers and of steering groups for HESA and the ONS. He's also a Fellow of the National Institute of Career Education and Counselling (NICEC) and a Visiting Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University. And if you've read any Govt Reviews touching on graduate employability in the last decade, he contributed. 


Dr Diana Beech, CEO, London Higher

As CEO of London Higher, Diana is responsible for leading the organisation’s aims and objectives, being a voice for London’s universities and higher education colleges.

Diana has previously worked in government as a policy adviser to three Ministers of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation. Prior to this she was the first Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI).

You can find Diana on Twitter at @DianajBeech


Dr Tine Blomme, Lead Consultant, Simitive

Tine has more than 10 years’ experience delivering business change for data and software initiatives, working with senior leaders, staff and trade unions. Tine has hands-on of supporting many universities, amongst others via the HESPA network, to gradually grow in their workload management practices in line with organisational strategy.

Key relevant experience includes: Framework Development & Governance, Policy Development, Benchmarking frameworks against sector norms, Business Requirements Mapping, Configuration and Data Insights.


Kirsty Bryant, Senior Institutional Research Analyst, University of Westminster

Kirsty Bryant is a seasoned professional with a deep-rooted passion for elevating the educational experience through meticulous research and data analysis. With over nine years of dedicated service at the University of Westminster and a remarkable 15-year journey within the realm of higher education.

Currently, Kirsty Bryant serves as the Senior Institutional Research Analyst at the University of Westminster, leading a team that is focused on the provision and analysis of a diverse spectrum of management information and business intelligence. Her work involves close collaboration with colleagues across the university, playing a vital role in shaping strategic decisions and enhancing the overall student experience. Through her expertise in data-driven insights, Kirsty facilitates an environment of continuous improvement, ensuring that every student's journey is both enriching and effective.

Kirsty's dedication to student success is further exemplified by her extensive background as a mixed methods researcher, with a particular emphasis on student experience research. Her endeavours in understanding and enhancing the student journey have been instrumental in shaping the educational landscape at the University of Westminster and is described by Explorance as a ‘power-user’ of MLY.

Kirsty's academic journey reflects her commitment to excellence. She holds a Merit in Psychological Research Methods from the University of Nottingham and boasts a First-Class degree in Psychology from Sheffield Hallam University. These academic achievements, in addition to development training such as Aurora’s Women in Leadership programme underscore her dedication to scholarly rigor and her ability to apply her knowledge effectively in her career.


Ruth Burchell, Quality Enhancement and Standards Specialist, The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA)

Ruth’s HE career working in policy and practice spans 28 years, during which time she has forged strong networks and relationships across the sector whilst working within different types of provider and in wider sector organisations.  During this time, she has developed administrative processes, national advice and guidance and coordinated projects; she has set up student representation systems and offered academic and pastoral support to students.  This wide-ranging experience across higher education affords Ruth a unique overview and perspective of the sector in the UK and beyond.

Ruth has a strong professional interest in the promotion of an enhancement-led quality culture.  Her HE specialisms; include quality and standards in practice and policy, student engagement, student experience, administration, programme coordination and admissions.   Ruth is currently studying for her MA Student Engagement with Winchester University and has recently led on the redevelopment of UK guidance around Supporting and Enhancing the Experience of International Students in the UK and is a leading member of the team currently reviewing the UK Quality Code.


Al Carlile, Director of Strategic Planning and Change, University of Sheffield

Al is Director of Strategic Planning and Change at the University of Sheffield. Al joined the University of Sheffield in 2010 and has extensive experience of working in higher education having held a variety of roles in different universities covering areas such as student  recruitment and admissions, student services and the delivery of change projects.

Al is particularly interested in the ways that strategy is developed in universities and the frameworks that can support or hinder the delivery of strategy.


Mary Curnock Cook CBE, Chair, Pearson UK and the Dyson Institute

Mary Curnock Cook is an independent education expert serving in a non-executive capacity on a number of Boards.

From 2010-2017, Mary was Chief Executive of UCAS. Earlier in her career she held executive and non-executive positions in the education, hospitality, food and biotech sectors.

As a NED with Pearson Education, Mary chairs its Qualifications Committee and also chairs the governing body of the Dyson Institute. She is a non-exec Director at the London Interdisciplinary School, the Student Room and Education Cubed, and a Trustee at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the River Learning Trust.  She recently served as a non-exec on the Student Loans Company Board.

She has the role of Network Chair for Emerge Education, the leading edtech investor in Europe and holds a number of advisory roles with education technology companies.  She is a regular speaker and commentator on education issues and edtech, and is a recognised champion of the student interest.

Mary has an MSc from London Business School and was awarded an OBE in 2000, and a CBE in 2020 for services to further and higher education. She is an honorary Fellow of Birkbeck and Goldsmiths and has an honorary doctorate from the University of Gloucestershire.


Dr Mark Corver, Managing Director, dataHE

Mark is Managing Director and co-founder of dataHE which supports universities in using data better, including forming a view of what the future holds. From 2010 to 2017 he served at UCAS, including as Director of Analysis and Research, and was previously at HEFCE.


Dominic Davis, Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance, City, University of London

Dominic is the Director of Strategy, Planning and Performance at City, University of London.  Since taking this role in early 2022, Dominic has overseen the launch of the new university strategy, alongside projects on Portfolio Review and Workforce Planning.

Other aspects of Dominic’s role include: planning, performance, market and business intelligence, risk management and business continuity.

Dominic moved to Strategy and Planning, having previously been Head of Admissions, and Head of Marketing and Recruitment at the same institution. Before joining City in 2009, Dominic worked in his home city, for the University of Nottingham; having previously studied Philosophy at the University of Birmingham.


Philip Farrar, National Development Director, Risk Management Partners Ltd

Philip began his career in 1986 with a specialist insurer who insured the Education and Public Sectors and then went on to join Aon in 1992 where he stayed for 12 years working as part of their National Public Sector Team. He joined  RMP in 2004, where he was responsible for service delivery in the North of England and Scotland as well as managing his own accounts.  Since January 2012 Philip has been RMP’s National Development Director. Philip’s specialisms include risk financing and tender management and he has become a recognised speaker at Insurance and risk conferences.

His emotional and financial well being is taken care of by the fact (1) he is a Manchester City Fan and (2) has two daughters and he will leave it to you to decide which party has the greatest influence of which emotion.


Lee Findell, Partner & Head of Education, WA Communications

Lee Findell is a Partner at WA Communications, one of the UK’s leading strategic communications consultancies focused on helping organisations achieve policy and reputational outcomes.

He is a senior counsel and adviser to a range of businesses, organisations and charities on their communication and engagement strategies and is a specialist in sectors where government action, policy development, media interest and public impact intersect.

During a career that spans over two decades he has worked for some of the world’s most recognisable brands, leading high-profile and award-winning communications campaigns. He has extensive knowledge of the education sector and has advised clients across the sector from Early Years through to Higher Education and beyond. He has been deeply involved in the evolving tertiary education debate for over 25 years, working for and advising government bodies, providers, institutions, sector bodies and industry on the policy and communications challenges facing the sector.


Heidi Fraser-Krauss, Chief Executive Officer, Jisc

Heidi's current role is CEO of Jisc. Jisc is a not-for-profit membership organisation that provides the UK universities, colleges and skills sectors with a shared digital infrastructure.

Heidi has worked in higher education for most of her career and held a variety of Board level leadership roles, most recently as executive director of corporate services at the University of Sheffield. Prior to Sheffield, Heidi spent eight years at the University of York, as CIO and deputy COO.

She was a member of UCAS council for 8 years, chair of Universities and College Information Systems Association (UCISA), and chair of the Russell Universities Group IT Directors (RUGIT).

Most recently, Heidi become a governor of York College, her local FE provider.


Nick Garforth, Workload Management Service Lead, Simitive

Nick has more than a decade of experience with resource planning and workload management within the sector. As a former Faculty Business Manager at the University of East Anglia responsible for the management of the university's Workload Model, System and reporting, Nick brings real-life insights into the challenges that can be involved in the adoption of workload planning and the benefits that can be realised.


Emma Hartley, Head of Planning & Performance, The University of Sheffield

Emma has headed up the Planning & Performance team at Sheffield since Summer 2022. A qualified Prosci Change Practitioner and APM Project Manager, she began her career in Alumni Relations before moving into project and change delivery spanning system implementation, service redesign and cultural change projects. Emma is now rolling out the new five year planning cycle at Sheffield, with a focus on staff engagement and process improvement, and an eye on the development of the next strategic framework!


Nick Hillman, Director, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)

Nick Hillman has been the Director of HEPI since 2014. He worked for the Rt Hon David Willetts MP (now Lord Willetts), the Minister for Universities and Science, from 2007 until the end of 2013, as Chief of Staff and then Special Adviser in the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Previously, he was a History teacher and worked at the Association of British Insurers. At the 2010 general election, he was the runner-up in Cambridge.

He has written for a range of think tanks and journals. His journal articles include pieces on the Coalition’s higher education reforms for the Oxford Review of Education (2016), on access to schools and selective universities for Higher Education Review (2014) and on the fifty-year history of student loans for Contemporary British History (2013). He also wrote the authoritative account of being a special adviser for the Institute of Government (2014).

His recent research for HEPI includes a paper on the tenure of vice-chancellors, a history of the Universities Superannuation Scheme (USS), a piece on the likely impact of Brexit on student demand and university governance in a new age of regulation.

In late 2020, he was shortlisted for the first Prospect magazine Think Tanker of the Year Award. He is an Honorary Fellow of both Queen Mary University of London (2016) and the National Conference of University Professors (2022).


David Hughes CBE, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges

David Hughes is Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges, representing and supporting further education colleges to fulfil their role as anchor institutions, supporting over 2 million students each year. He was awarded a CBE for services to further education, particularly during the Covid-19 response.

David has worked in post-16 education for over 25 years, including a decade as a senior civil servant. Before that he worked in Australia and the UK in community development, regeneration, welfare, employment and social housing.

David holds several Board positions including with the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics and the Bell Foundation.


Simon Jennings, Deputy Secretary & Director of Strategic Planning, Lancaster University

Simon is a member of the HESPA Executive  and joined Lancaster University in June 2016. His current role incorporates strategic and annual planning, business intelligence, strategic projects, corporate governance, legal, internal audit, information compliance and the provision of policy advice in support of the Executive Team & Governing Body. Simon has extensive experience in HE sector with previous roles including Director of Strategy & Policy at the University of Strathclyde, Deputy Director of Universities Scotland, Deputy Director of Planning & Head of Public Policy at the University of Edinburgh and the management UK learning and information services for Jisc.


Daniel Kidd, Director of Registry Services, University of Wolverhampton

Daniel has been working in UK higher education for over 20 years. Having previously worked in student data roles within HE providers, Daniel worked at the Higher Education Statistics Agency as Head of Training and Consultancy from 2006 until 2018. In January 2018 Daniel took up the post of Director of Planning at Arden University with a broad remit across planning and statutory compliance activities. In February 2019 Daniel became Deputy Academic Registrar at the University of Wolverhampton, before becoming Director of Registry Services in August 2022. Daniel co-authored a chapter on ‘Data capability across the information landscape’ within ‘Higher Education Strategy and Planning: A professional guide’ (Routledge, 2018), is on the executive of HESPA and chairs its Development Committee.


Robert Lintzen, Complex Data Products Manager, Studyportals

Robert has worked in the higher education space for over six years. He has progressed from working on the backend of Studyportals’ data analytics and data engineering, preparing Tableau dashboards, to a key product and research development role within the organization. In his current role as Complex Data – Product Manager, Robert conducts research projects using machine learning on public enrolment data, and has performed several data consultancy projects using internal university student records to further the university’s understanding of student performance.


Elena Magrini, Head of Global Research, Lightcast

Elena is Head of Global Research at Lightcast, where she leads research consultancy activities in markets outside of North America. Elena has over seven years of experience in labour market economics, future of work and skills trends. Her recent research focuses on digital skills, the green transition and levelling up. Before joining Lightcast, Elena was a senior analyst at the UK think-tank Centre for Cities and a senior policy manager at the West of England Combined Authority. Elena holds a Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Bocconi University, in Italy, and a Master’s degree in International Public Policy from University College London.


Professor David Maguire, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of East Anglia

Professor David Maguire joined UEA as Vice-Chancellor & President in May 2023. He is the principal administrative and academic officer of the University and de facto chief-executive.

Prof Maguire has more than 25 years’ experience in higher education, having worked at eight universities in the UK and the USA, as well as prominent roles in the public and private sector.

He was Vice-Chancellor of the University of Greenwich from 2011 to 2019 and Interim Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee in 2020 and at the University of Sussex from 2021-2022. Directly prior to joining UEA David was Interim Principal at the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.

David has a BSc (Hons) degree in Biology and Geography from the University of Exeter and a PhD from the University of Bristol. His research interests centre on Geographic Information Systems and Higher Education policy.  He is the author of over 100 papers and seven books.

He has expertise in strategic planning in large and complex organisations; research, innovation and knowledge exchange; learning and teaching; advanced IT development and commercialisation; and international engagement.

He worked for a global technology company, Esri, for 20 years in the field of Geographic Information Systems and is a former Chair of the Board of Jisc – the UK digital, data and technology agency focused on tertiary education, research and innovation. He was also a member of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) advisory board and the Universities UK Board.

In his spare time David enjoys squash, walking and guitar music. 


Dr Debbie McVitty, Editor, Wonkhe

Debbie McVitty is Editor of Wonkhe. Debbie is a former chief of staff at Universities UK, director of policy at the University of Bedfordshire, and head of policy at the National Union of Students, and is a founding member of Wonkhe’s editorial group.


Dr Thomas Owen-Smith, Suitability Practice Lead, SUMS Consulting 

Tom leads SUMS Consulting’s work in sustainability, external engagement and impact. He has helped numerous institutions develop organisation-wide strategies, robust plans and approaches for transformation, integrating sustainability and societal impact goals with their strategic context.

An advocate of sector collaboration around complex challenges, in 2023 he published the sector report Integrating climate into strategy and planning in universities in partnership with HESPA, and he co-chairs HESPA’s Special Interest Group on Sustainability in Strategy and Planning.

Tom joined SUMS in 2022 from King’s College London’s Strategy, Planning & Analytics Directorate. Previously, he worked in academia, and the development and media sectors in the UK, India and Nepal.


David Pilsbury, Chief Development Officer, Oxford International Education Group

David sits on the advisory boards of JISC, China-Britain Business Council, Times Higher Education, StudyPortals, EURIE, ECCTIS, Emirates Aviation University and Macao Millenium College. He is a member of the UK’s International Higher Education Commission. Previously Deputy Vice Chancellor of Coventry University, David led its transformation to become an internationally focussed university as the UK’s 3rd largest recruiter of overseas students; the largest provider of programmes overseas; and host of the world’s largest global enhancement programme. His contribution to global higher education has been recognised by The Queen’s Award, EAIE’s premiere award and an Honorary Fellowship from Hong Kong’s VTC.


Archie Pollock, Senior Analytics Consultant and Team Lead, Studyportals

Archie has been working in international education since 2008, in a number of roles covering student enrolment and admissions consultation, CRM management, and digital marketing. With Studyportals, his role is to provide stakeholders with relevant data to support their strategic planning and decision making processes across multiple university departments.


Dr Brooke Storer-Church, Director of Strategic Academic Engagement, Birmingham City University

Dr. Brooke Storer-Church joined Birmingham City University in September 2022 as Director of Strategic Academic Engagement. Her responsibilities include co-delivering and managing the university’s academic strategies so that the university achieves its mission to be the university for Birmingham.  Working closely with the PVC Education, Dr. Storer-Church is also responsible for oversight of BCU’s APP, engaging strategically with stakeholders and contributing to the improvement of university policies and processes to ensure positive outcomes for all students. Before joining BCU, she spent 10 years working at the Office for Students and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), developing and leading a range of policy areas including graduate outcomes, degree apprenticeships, digital skills, technical education, degree apprenticeships, healthcare, and knowledge exchange.


Chris Taylor, UK Client Partnership Manager, QS - Quacquarelli Symonds

Chris has been working in Higher Education for over 20 years, primarily focused on Student Recruitment and Global Branding, including international & domestic marketing and reputational performance. Chris has worked in a number of roles across HE, in the UK, Internationally and recently played a key role in setting up the University of Birmingham Dubai. He joined QS in May 2023 and now supports universities across the UK in reviewing their Global Reputation through institutional performance, brand awareness and strategic marketing.


Dr Becki Vickerstaff, Higher Education Senior Consultant, Jisc

Becki is a Higher Education Senior Consultant with Jisc supporting the Building Digital Capabilities Service for Higher Education. She comes from an extensive background of over 19 years working within Higher Education in a digital education capability. Her PhD in technology enhanced learning encapsulates the processes and barriers of implementing digital tools and capabilities within Engineering Education, which is where the passion for digital capabilities and confidences really began.


Jonathan Woodhead, Policy Adviser, Birkbeck, University of London

Jonathan is presently Policy Adviser at Birkbeck, University of London. He leads on all aspects of public affairs, stakeholder engagement and policy development.

Jonathan has experience of the world of politics and higher education having worked as a Political Assistant to Mark Prisk MP, the former Business Minister and latterly as a Policy Adviser to The Rt. Hon. David Willetts MP, now Lord Willetts of Havant. He was also the Senior Public Affairs Officer at Universities UK and a former Executive Officer to a London based Vice-Chancellor.

He holds a BA in International Relations and an MA in War Studies from King’s College, London.

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