Judging the 2020 awards will be specialists from within the Guardian and across the higher education sector in the UK. Guardian journalists on the panel will include Richard Adams, Jane Dudman, Rachel Hall and Alfie Packham.
Richard is the Guardian’s education editor.
Kathleen is pro vice-chancellor (education) at the University of Birmingham, where she oversees all aspects of undergraduate and taught postgraduate education. She is also academic lead of the university’s higher education futures institute, which supports staff with their career-long learning about teaching through open access resources. Before moving into higher education Kathy was a school teacher. She was a sub-panel assessor for the research excellence framework in 2014 and a main panel member for the teaching excellence framework subject pilots.
Liz has been vice-chancellor and chief executive at Staffordshire University since April 2016. She was previously deputy vice-chancellor at Sheffield Hallam University and Derby University after a long career at Teesside. Throughout her career she has focused on new approaches to both teaching and curriculum design. Liz is passionate about the transformative power of digital technologies in the workplace and education. She joined the Jisc board in 2016. She was recently awarded a CBE for services to higher education.
Kalwant is professor of education and social justice and director of the centre for research in race and education at the University of Birmingham. Her research focuses on the experiences of minority ethnic groups in education and explores how processes of racism and exclusion operate in predominantly white spaces with a focus on social justice. Kalwant was recently conferred fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences. She is a visiting professor at Kings College London and was a visiting professor at Harvard University from 2017-2019. Her recent book, White privilege: the myth of a post-racial society, was published by Policy Press.
Alex is deputy chief executive of GuildHE – one of the officially recognised representative bodies in UK higher education, representing 50 universities and colleges. He sits on various sector-wide groups including the UK-wide standing committee on quality assessment, the Home Office’s education sector forum, and observes the Quality Assurance Agency and AdvanceHE boards. He is vice chair of the board of governors at the University College of Osteopathy and on the board of Writtle University College. He has been a school governor in five schools over almost 15 years and previously worked at the 1994 Group, National Union of Students, Universities UK and the European Students’ Union.
Paul is the director of human resources and organisational development at Lancaster University. Paul oversees people strategy, health and safety, equality and diversity, educational development, organisational and staff development, payroll and pensions. He has more than 20 years’ experience in HR in the UK. He is a fellow of the CIPD and a public governor on a trust board of a large acute hospital in the north-west. During his career he has led a number of large-scale change programmes, including the merger of three UK higher educational institutions to create a single university. Paul is the elected chair of Universities Human Resources and sits on a number of national groups and committees including the national pay negotiation board for the sector.
Richard was appointed head of UPP Foundation in July 2016 and was promoted to director in 2018. Working with trustees, he sets its strategy and leads on all aspects of the UPP Foundation’s activities. Prior to joining UPP he was head of policy at the University of Hertfordshire, advising the vice-chancellor and senior management team and leading the university’s public affairs function. He previously worked as a researcher for two MPs in parliament. He graduated from the University of Essex in 2007 and holds an MRes in public policy and management from Birkbeck, University of London.
Nick is vice-chancellor and chief executive officer at Buckinghamshire New University, having been appointed to the position in February 2019. He joined Bucks New University as deputy vice-chancellor in September 2017 from the University of West London, where he had held the role of pro vice-chancellor since 2013.
Nick is a chartered psychologist and associate fellow of the British Psychological Society. He has held posts at London South Bank University, the University of Winchester, the Open University and London Guildhall University. He studied natural sciences at the University of Cambridge, read for a PhD in cognitive science at the University of Edinburgh, then obtained a British Academy postdoctoral research fellowship held at the London School of Economics.
Rachel is professor of higher education at University College London and an executive editor of the British Journal of Sociology of Education. She has conducted research into a variety of topics in the sociology of higher education including international student mobility, the experiences of students with dependent children, and student politics. She is currently leading a large European Research Council-funded project that examines the different ways in which higher education students are conceptualised across the continent. Her recent books included Education and Society, and Materialities and Mobilities in Education (with Johanna Waters).
Anne-Marie is the director of social mobility and student success at King’s College London. In 2018 she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to higher education. Anne-Marie is also the independent chair of the Department for Education-led Bradford opportunity area. Anne-Marie has previously worked at University College Oxford and holds a University of Oxford Teaching Award. She studied at the University of York and served a sabbatical term as the president of the students’ union. Anne-Marie is a trustee of the Bridge Group.
Laura is the higher and further education programme manager at Salix Finance, responsible for the delivery of interest-free finance. The programme has funded over 4,000 energy efficiency projects at 100 higher education institutions, totalling £142m to date. Laura plays an integral part in the development of major energy efficiency projects in the UK public sector, with a focus on strategic and holistic planning and development, value for money and the support of clients with long-term energy saving and carbon reduction projects. Prior to her management of the higher and further education programme, Laura coordinated projects in the NHS sector at Salix, following a number of environmental roles.
Laura embodies her work at Salix and lives by sustainable values, including consciously reducing her plastic consumption and purchasing reused and second hand items, composting food waste at home to reduce landfill and spending time outdoors exploring the UK’s national parks, such as the West Highland Way which she hiked in 2019.
Mary Curnock Cook
Mary is an independent education expert serving in a non-executive capacity on a number of boards. From 2010-2017, Mary was chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service. Earlier in her career she held executive and non-executive positions in the education, hospitality, food and biotech sectors. She is a council member at the Open University, a non-executive director at the Student Loans Company and a trustee at multi-academy trust, United Learning and Founders4Schools. She chairs the governing body of the Dyson Institute and the Access Project, which helps students from disadvantaged backgrounds progress to top-tier universities. She is network chair for EdTech venture capital company, Emerge Education, and is on the advisory boards of the Higher Education Policy Institute and Cairneagle Associates. Mary has an MSc from the London Business School and was awarded an OBE in 2000. She is an honorary fellow of Birkbeck and Goldsmiths, and has an honorary doctorate from the University of Gloucestershire.
Jane is the Guardian’s public leadership editor, writing and commissioning pieces on public services for the society section of the Guardian website. She joined the Guardian in 2007 and as part of her work on public policy has a specific interest in the social impact of universities and their role in shaping local places.
As provost for Coventry University Group, Ian is chief academic officer and takes responsibility for driving the highest standards of academic excellence and supporting the leadership of the education and student experience, research and enterprise and innovation pillars of the corporate strategy. Ian has worked at Coventry University since 1992, beginning as an academic in the engineering faculty. He has subsequently taken many roles in engineering and computing before being appointed pro vice-chancellor in 2010, deputy vice-chancellor in 2013 and provost in 2018. He is a member of the Quality Assurance Agency advisory committee for degree awarding powers in the UK and a member of the European University Association steering committee for learning and teaching. In 2016 Ian was voted Inspiring Leader of the Year at the Guardian Higher Education Awards. He is highly engaged in his local communities, working with schools, the justice system and charities.
Anna is a journalist who writes about universities and contributes regularly to the Guardian. She was speechwriter to David Willetts when he was universities and science minister and before that ran the education unit at the thinktank Policy Exchange. At the start of her career she was a journalist at the Times Higher Education.
Paul is registrar at the University of Nottingham, a post he was appointed to in January 2007. Prior to this he was deputy registrar at the University of Warwick. Earlier positions at Warwick included director of student and ancillary services, acting registrar, interim director of the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth and senior assistant registrar with responsibility for quality issues. Before joining Warwick in 1998 he was at the University of East Anglia for six years, where he also worked on quality matters, and Staffordshire University.
As registrar he is responsible to the vice-chancellor for the academic administration of the university. As well as being secretary to the statutory bodies of the university and a member of university executive board, the registrar manages the provision of a broad range of professional services for prospective students, current students and staff. Paul read English language at the University of Edinburgh, and holds a PhD from the school of education at the University of East Anglia. He blogs regularly for Wonkhe as Registrarism.
Chris is director of policy at Universities UK, where he leads on the development and delivery of UUK’s policy work. Previous to taking up the director role, he was assistant director at UUK and led on a number of areas of work including how universities can be run more efficiently and on the regulation of higher education. Chris has significant expertise in research policy. Prior to working at UUK, Chris worked at the General Medical Council. He holds a degree from the University of Sussex and an MSc from University College London.
Rachel is the Guardian’s universities editor. She writes and commissions pieces on higher education policy and campus life for the universities section of the Guardian website.
Matt founded Intelligent Metrix Ltd, the company that provides the statistics and rankings for the Guardian’s university guide. Responsible for designing the guide’s unique value-added score, he has developed this as a means of illustrating gaps in attainment between different student groups. He is also director of strategic planning and change at Buckinghamshire New University.
Helen completed her first degree in English literature from Newnham College, followed by an MA with the Open University and a PhD at Birkbeck College. Helen is provost and deputy vice-chancellor at Aston University where she is chief academic officer and leads on learning and teaching. She is professor of higher education learning and management and a national teaching fellow. Her current research includes intercultural training for staff and students and research into employability competencies and diversity. Helen was awarded the OBE in 2011 for services to higher education and in 2017 was appointed as a deputy lieutenant for the West Midlands.
After starting her career in the voluntary and charitable sectors, Lucy started working in higher education in 2000 and has worked at Imperial, Oxford University, De Montfort, Aberystwyth and now Birmingham City University – the last three in planning roles. She was founder-chair of the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association from 2011 to 2016, putting it on a sustainable footing as an institutional subscription organisation and an established professional network, which is now going from strength to strength.
Debra took up post as vice-chancellor of the University of Brighton in December 2015. In 2017 she was elected to chair the Universities UK student policy network and was subsequently returned in March 2018 to serve a further three years. In addition, she chairs the UCEA clinical academic staff advisory group. From September 2019 Debra took up the role of chair of the University Alliance. Debra joined the University of Brighton from Imperial College London, where she held the position of vice-provost (education) between 2012 and 2015. As an openly LGBTQ+ senior leader in higher education, Debra is passionate about equality and diversity.
Lucy Hunter Blackburn
Lucy is an ESRC-funded postgraduate research student at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in student funding, particularly cross-UK comparisons of student debt. She previously worked as a senior civil servant in the Scottish government, including a period as head of higher education. Before starting her PhD she established a successful blog on higher education policy, Adventuresinevidence, and has been published widely, mainly on student finance and access, by specialist organisations and in the media. She is a former winner of Wonkhe’s wonk of the year award.
Chris is a university leader, academic, educationist and public servant. He has served as vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University since January 2016. Prior to joining Sheffield Hallam, Chris was director of the Institute of Education (2007-2015) and then vice-provost at University College London (2014-2015). Chris is also chair of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) and board chair of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa), Yorkshire Universities Board, and the Doncaster Opportunity Area Partnership Board. He was also appointed to the board of Universities UK in August 2019.
Kevin is emeritus professor of equality and diversity in sport, leisure and education at Leeds Beckett University. Kevin is the first black professor to hold this title. Kevin’s research is world-leading in regard to race research in sport and education. Kevin authored Race and Sport: Critical Race Theory (Routledge, 2009) and Contesting Race and Sport: Shaming the Colour Line (Routledge, 2018). Kevin is visiting professor at the University of South Wales and was previously head of the research centre for diversity, equity and inclusion in the Institute for Sport, Physical Activity and Leisure at Leeds Beckett University. He is patron of the Equality Challenge Unit’s Race Equality Charter and a patron of the Black British Academics. Kevin is co-editor of the Routledge critical series on equality and social justice in sport and leisure and board member for the International Review for the Sociology of Sport, and the Journal of Global Sport Management.
Smita is relationship partner for Shakespeare Martineau’s education clients and advises on strategic, regulatory, constitutional, governance and student matters. Smita is a member of the Higher Education Commission and an enthusiastic contributor to sector debate through the firm’s education blog and her Twitter feed. She has an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University of Warwick. Her approach is best summed up by Chambers and Partners: “She is very knowledgeable about the sector, very well informed about the challenges the sector faces, and insightful about how we could change and adapt.”
Tricia runs consultancy and coaching company TKCC to help universities and schools flourish in turbulent and changing times. She was among the first generation of professional leaders to sit at a higher education top table and ran many multi-award-winning university departments over a two-decade career. For 11 years she was on the Birkbeck leadership team as pro vice-master for strategic engagement and then spent three years as vice-president, global engagement at the Council for the Advancement of Science and Education working to build resilience and capacity with university and school leadership teams across the world. Her specialism is in integrating the power, impact and story of externally facing professional teams.
John is vice-chancellor of Norwich University of the Arts, where he has worked since 2009. He has worked in specialist arts higher education for more than 25 years. He is chair of the United Kingdom Arts and Design Institutions Association and past chair of the Group for Learning in Art and Design. He has been a board member of the Higher Education Statistics Agency and the Higher Education Agency, and was a trustee and vice-chair of GuildHE from 2012-2018. John is chair of the New Anglia local enterprise partnership’s digital creative industries group, and is on the board of two school trusts, the East Anglia Art Fund, Norwich for Jobs, the Forum Trust and the Britten Sinfonia. In 2017 he was appointed an OBE in the 2017 Queen’s birthday honours list for services to higher education.
Emma Jane Leech
Emma is director of marketing and advancement at Loughborough University, overseeing communications, marketing, recruitment, web and digital, widening participation, admissions, the international office, fundraising and development. She started her career in fashion and consumer PR in 1988, working in tourism and destination marketing before settling in higher education in 1997. A founding chartered PR practitioner, chartered marketer and chartered manager, she has won a string of awards over more than two decades spanning PR, marketing, innovation, fundraising, digital, and web. Emma holds an MBA and various PR, marketing and management qualifications. She is the Chartered Institute of Public Relations president 2019.
Lynne is deputy vice-chancellor (academic) at the University of Central Lancashire. She is a director at a number of charitable organisations and a member of a local enterprise partnership skills and employment board. She has a keen interest in working with employers and communities to expand opportunities for students and graduates to achieve success in their chosen fields. She is committed to the university’s mission to widen participation and achievement. Before taking up her current post Lynne was dean of law and a practising lawyer. She has a strong professional and academic interest in equality and diversity, as well as improving social mobility and access to justice.
Bashir became vice-chancellor at the University for the Creative Arts in 2017. In an academic career spanning 22 years, he has specialised in creating overseas partnerships and spearheaded the creation of three new Chinese campuses. He is a prolific writer, editor and artist and has exhibited at a range of high-profile venues and events including the Hayward Gallery, Tate Liverpool, 2013 Venice Biennale and the Aichi Biennale in Japan. He is a published author who has written several books about Palestinian art and themes of conflict and identity, including the The Origins of Palestinian Art and Conflict and Compassion.
John was appointed executive director of marketing and external relations at the University of Salford in June 2016. He is a higher education marketing specialist with more than 20 years of responsibility at a senior level in both consumer and corporate marketing, marketing strategy, student recruitment, internationalisation, institutional development and fundraising and communications. He has worked in five universities during his career and has responsibility for the university’s branding and marketing strategy, as well as its global student recruitment activities.
Michelle is a higher education consultant. Previously she was associate professor and associate dean of the student experience at Bournemouth University. She was the creator and project lead of a £2.7m Higher Education Funding Council for England grant looking at postgraduate results in the sciences. Michelle is extensively published in the area and has developed a detailed student transitions model to advise colleagues on how to improve the experience of students across academic and non-academic activities.
Ilyas is the race equality project manager at the University of Sussex. He previously served two terms at the National Union of Students where he represented more than 1.5 million students of colour in colleges, universities and apprenticeships. He is a graduate of the University of Manchester, which he entered through its widening participation scheme, the Manchester Access Programme. Ilyas writes and campaigns on racism in education, civil liberties and the hostile environment.
Nicky leads Universities UK’s in-house communications and external relations team, which covers media, government and political affairs, social media, digital and campaigning activities and events – including the MadeAtUni campaign launched in December 2018. Before joining UUK, Nicky was chief of staff for the CEO and head of corporate communications for the Education Funding Agency, part of the Department for Education. She also led on public affairs for the Building Schools for the Future programme. Before working in government, Nicky was a head of press and information for the University of Oxford. She originally trained and worked as a print journalist.
Alfie is deputy editor of the Guardian’s Universities site.
Colin took up the post of president and vice-chancellor at Cardiff University in September 2012. Previously he was vice-chancellor of the University of Essex, having been appointed in October 2007. He moved to Essex from Newcastle University, where he had been pro vice-chancellor and provost of the faculty of humanities and social sciences since August 2005.
Colin is chair of The Conversation (UK) and a board member of Advance HE and the Edge Foundation. He is a Fulbright commissioner and chairs Universities UK’s Outward Mobility Strategy Group.
David is chief executive of the Conservatoire for Dance and Drama. He was previously chief executive of Equality Challenge Unit and before that he was a practising solicitor for 21 years; latterly as director of legal policy at the Equality and Human Rights Commission of Great Britain following a career in private practice as a partner at and founder of the department of education, equality and disability law at Levenes Solicitors. David is also a visiting professor of law at Birkbeck University, London, a trustee of Action on Disability and Development, a member of the Rights and Justice Committee of the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, a member of the Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Advisory Board of the Wellcome Trust and a fellow of the British American Project.
Pete has more than 30 years of experience in libraries within the public and HE sectors. In 2016 Pete joined the executive board of Sconul, and in 2018 he became its chair. In his current role at Canterbury Christ Church University he is a champion of the student experience, learning spaces and the research endeavour, and is committed to the student and researcher voice in service development. He is an active member of a tripartite collaboration between Canterbury Christ Church, Greenwich and Kent universities, developing a shared service at the Medway Campus. Currently Pete is developing a joint medical school library in partnership with colleagues from the University of Kent.
Chris is co-director of climate change campaigns at student activist network People & Planet, where he manages the fossil fuels divestment campaign at UK universities including Divest Barclays, the campaign against Barclays bank funding fossil fuel extraction. He also works on the People & Planet university league, which ranks UK universities by ethical and environmental criteria. Chris writes regularly on climate politics and social movements for various outlets including the Ecologist and Novara Media. He is working on a book about climate justice for Pluto Press.
Julie is deputy vice-chancellor and professor of English literature and drama at Newcastle University. She leads on academic strategy across the three faculties at the university, for which she has special responsibility for equality, diversity and inclusion, and environment and sustainability as well as the social justice and engagement and place agendas. As a researcher and educator, she has international recognition in the fields of early modern literature and adaptation studies and has published many books and articles as well being a series editor of the Early Modern Literary Geographies series for Oxford University Press.
Jenny is student experience director for Unite Students. In 2014, she established a student services function for Unite, the first of its kind, and directed national research into student wellbeing and resilience. She chaired the Unite Foundation between 2014 and 2017. Before this she worked at senior level in the UK higher education sector to widen participation in higher education and open up new pathways to university for marginalised groups. She has worked for the universities of Hull, York St John and Middlesex, and provided consultancy to the Higher Education Academy, the Equality Challenge Unit and Supporting Professionalism in Admission.
Anand is the chief executive of Brightside. Established in 2003, Brightside is a social enterprise which creates inspirational online mentoring relationships that help young people make confident and informed decisions about education and careers. Brightside currently works with more than 60 organisations including universities, charities and leading businesses and supports 10,000 young people a year across every region of England. Anand has served on the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s strategic advisory committee on teaching excellence and student opportunity and also on the Universities UK practitioner advisory group on social mobility. He has written for the Guardian and Wonkhe on issues relating to social mobility and widening participation, and speaks regularly at national conferences on access and outreach.
Claire Sosienski Smith
Claire is the vice-president of higher education for the National Union of Students. She cares about free education for all, life-long learning, climate justice, solidarity with trade unions, decolonising education and ending harassment on campus. Before her role at the NUS, she was the full-time women’s officer at Cambridge University’s Students’ Union. She graduated from Selwyn College, Cambridge in 2018 with a degree in English literature. In addition to her role at the NUS, Claire sits on the Universities UK review into admissions, the trustee board of the Quality Assurance Agency, the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, and the board of the European Students’ Union.
Vivienne is the director of Universities UK International (UUKi). UUKi helps UK universities engage with international partners, and represents their distinctive strengths and interests overseas. Prior to her role in UUKi, Vivienne was head of political affairs at Universities UK where she was responsible for developing and implementing the political strategy for the membership body representing 134 UK Universities. She previously worked at the UK parliament for the chair of the education and skills select committee. She is a graduate in English literature from the University of Cambridge.
Rama is the academic lead and chief executive of Canterbury Christ Church University. He joined the university in October 2013 and has led the institution forward in a number of areas including the establishment of the school of engineering, technology and design and a school of medicine. In addition, Rama was chair of the Higher Education Academy between 2015 and 2018 and was also a Ucas board member between 2010 and 2013. Rama has been a member of the Universities UK board since 2017. He is a non-executive director of the Medway NHS foundation trust and chair of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities.
Jon is chief commercial officer at Jisc, the education sector agency, funded and owned by government and the universities’ representative bodies. Jisc’s vision and mission is for the UK to be the most digitally advanced higher education, further education and research nation in the world.
Jon has been leading education for 20 years, with experience in several blue chip organisations and the public sector, and is a strong advocate for universities and business to work together.
Jon has worked on teaching excellence in schools, colleges and universities. He holds an MBA from the London Business School, is on the board of several local schools, where he advises on employment and skills.
Kevin is principal consultant of higher education at the British Council, where he leads the British Council’s work in the areas of transnational education (TNE) and partnerships. For more than a decade Kevin has been regularly asked to author articles on UK transnational education and student mobility and has presented at conferences all over the world. His recent research project include the impact of transnational education on host countries (2014); transnational education data collection systems: awareness, analysis and action (2015); TNE: a classification framework and data collection guidelines (2017) and a review of transnational education in six countries in sub Saharan Africa (2019).
Greg is the chief executive of MillionPlus, the association of modern universities. Greg is a university governor and former deputy chief executive of Colleges Wales, having previously served as acting director of Universities Wales. He has been a member of a number of Higher Education Funding Council for Wales committees between 2006-16 and played a significant role in the much-praised Diamond review on higher education funding in Wales in 2016. Greg is completing an MBA in higher education management at University College London. Greg taught political science at Cardiff University in the mid-2000s, where he later gained a PhD.
Andy is a professor of government practice and vice-dean of humanities at the University of Manchester. He is a former special adviser to ministers and has worked at the Treasury and at the Departments for Education, Communities and Local Government and Innovation, Universities and Skills. He has also worked for the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development, the International Monetary Fund and the European Union. He writes for Wonkhe, the Guardian, HE/Research Fortnight and for pretty much anyone who asks him.
Jane joined Association of University Directors of Estates as executive director in 2015 after five years as head of research and policy for the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health. Jane previously worked in local and central government estates and facilities management and spent time on the UN’s Work Safe programme. In her present role she leads on AUDE’s work to support university estates and facilities management teams. AUDE works with estates directors and their teams on a wide variety of issues, from sustainability to the development of the next generation of estates leaders.
Andy is a writer, speaker and strategic data advisor. Formerly the director of data policy and governance at Hesa, Andy has been at the leading edge of data issues across higher education for nearly 30 years. He now helps universities and related organisations navigate their way through an increasingly data-driven world.