HESPA 2021 > Programme > Speakers



How to get the most out of virtual conferencing with HESPA

Wesley Rennison, Director of Strategic Planning, University of Dundee


Wesley is the Director of Strategic Planning at University of Dundee.  The Strategic Planning team at Dundee works on a wide range of activities including performance management, strategy development and implementation, operational planning, business intelligence, external reporting, liaison with the funding council and outcome agreements, information governance and workload planning for academic staff. He also has contributed to several sector wide policy and review panels in Scotland and is currently part of the HE Funding Model Review Group of the Scottish Funding Council.

Wesley is an accredited mediator with the Scottish Mediation Network and is a practising work-based mediator in the HE Sector, having mediated and facilitated discussions at several institutions.  Prior to working in HE, he worked in information and planning roles in the primary and secondary education sector and practised as a community mediator.


Jackie Njoroge, Director of Strategy, University of Salford


A self-confessed data geek Jackie Njoroge is Director of Strategy at the University of Salford and Deputy Chair of the Higher Education Strategic Planning Association (HESPA). With an early career in management accounting in the Steel industry Jackie is also a qualified accountant and holds a non exec/chair of finance and investment committee role at an NHS trust.


Plenary 1: Policy v Finance: A Rock and a Hard Place

David Sweeney, Executive Chair, Research England


After studying Statistics at the University of Aberdeen, David worked at BBSRC as a consultant statistician. David was a Director at Royal Holloway, University of London, before becoming Vice-Principal. 

As Director of HEFCE, he led the development and implementation of the Research Excellence Framework. He was responsible for research policy and funding, knowledge exchange and university/business relations.

In May 2017 he was appointed the first Executive Chair of Research England, one of the nine research councils that forms UKRI, who are the biggest research funder in the UK with responsibility for university block-grant funding for research and knowledge exchange.


Nolan Smith, Director of Resources and Finance, Office for Students


Nolan Smith is director of resources and finance at the Office for Students (OfS). He oversees a range of OfS corporate services, including human resources, finance, governance, knowledge and information management, IT and legal services. Nolan is also responsible for teaching funding. Prior to the OfS Nolan was Director of Finance at HEFCE, where amongst other responsibilities he led on monitoring the overall financial sustainability and efficiency of the higher education sector.


Business Session 1: BibliU - Coventry University: Creating the Largest eTextbook Program in Europe 

Philip Brabban, University Librarian and Group Director of Learning Resources, Coventry University 


Although having initially trained and worked as an English teacher, Phil swiftly made the decision to alter course, changing career to follow a life of excitement and high adventure in Librarianship.  Phil has worked at the University Library at Coventry for 14 years, the last seven of which as the University Librarian.  Prior to Coventry, he held a number of roles at Durham University Library, most significantly as an accidental Systems Librarian.  In common with all professional Librarians, Phil’s home bookshelves are a model of disorganisation.


Dave Sherwood, Co-founder and CEO, BibliU 


Dave Sherwood is Co-Founder and CEO of BibliU, a learning enablement platform that empowers universities to automate workflows and improve student outcomes with first-day access to eTextbooks from over 2,000 publishers. He is also the Co-Founder and Chairman of Teach Learn Grow Inc, serves as a Board Advisor at Purlos, and is a Founding Member of the Edtech Founders Club. 


Workshop A1: Making friends and getting on in higher education

Dominic Fryer, Managing Director, Professional HE Services Ltd (PHES)


A modern languages graduate from the University of Southampton, Dominic spent 12 years in the voluntary sector, working for two national charities, leading their IT and admin services. He joined PHES in 2014 initially supporting BUFDG and since then has worked closely with the HESPA, AUDE, UHR and CHEIA executive committees and staff to welcome them to the Company. PHES is a not-for-profit company limited by guarantee, and is owned entirely by its member HE institutions. It is a shared service that provides the legal framework for different HE sector organisations to be run effectively, share staff and operational resources. Dominic’s priorities are to develop PHES to support the SIOs in the best way possible, to motivate and develop our people and ensure we operate first-class company governance.


Jane White Ba(Hons), MSc, CMIOSH, Executive Director, Association of University Directors of Estates (AUDE)


Jane White joined AUDE as Executive Director in 2015 after 5 years as Head of Research and Policy for the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH). Prior to this, Jane had a background 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 agile working to the development of the next generation of estates leaders.


Karel Thomas, Executive Director, British Universities Finance Directors'​ Group (BUFDG)


Karel has worked in higher education since 1993, when she made a career change from banking and financial systems. She has been Executive Director of BUFDG since 2003 helping finance directors and their teams in universities support teaching, research, and commercial activities. The unique nature of universities as businesses means that BUFDG members appreciate the specialist help on tax and payroll issues as well as financial reporting, procurement and other management matters that BUFDG delivers through its website, networking events and publications. BUFDG is the founder member of shared service company, Professional HE Services Ltd.


Helen Scott, Executive Director, Universities HR (UHR)


As Executive Director, Helen has led UHR, the HE sector’s professional association for people management professionals, since 2004 and works closely with other professional associations within and beyond HE, and with the CIPD, of which she is a Chartered Fellow. She’s passionate about inclusion, collaboration and helping HE people share, learn and develop together, not re-inventing wheels and improving working lives in HE. Helen has worked in a range of HR roles in HE and beyond for over 30 years, partly on HR consultancy projects and as a university HR Director. She is committed to cross-sector working and learning, and has also worked for the NHS and the private and not for profit sectors. Helen has a History degree from Cambridge. She’s married with a son studying at St Andrews, and outside work, is a JP/magistrate, involved in her local community, and thrives on walking up or skiing down mountains, running by the sea, and gardening.


Jennifer Summerton, Executive Director, Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA)

Having worked in the higher education sector for more than ten years, Jen joined HESPA in September 2014 as its first official staff member. She has since worked to develop HESPA's profile and to professionalise strategic planning in the sector, ensuring that the voice of planners is heard and represented in sector-wide discussion and debate. Jen has led the transformation of HESPA's membership services, increasing the provision of strategic planning-related training and forging stronger links between members to enable more collaborative, efficient and effective working practice. Jen is heavily involved in external stakeholder liaison and ensuring that clear pathways exist for members to also engage externally. Advocacy also forms a large part of Jen’s role with HESPA, particularly now at such an interesting, challenging and transformative time in the sector.

Prior to her role with HESPA, Jen worked at the Universities of Leicester and Nottingham in various marketing, communications and international roles.

Jen is a qualified practitioner of PRINCE2 and MSP. Before the education sector, she worked as a journalist and PR consultant in London and Islamabad.


Workshop A2: Institutional Ownership of the HESA Student Return

Ruth Hall, Head of Planning and Student Management Information at Aston University



Ruth heads the Planning Team at Aston University, leading the development and delivery of management information reporting, analysis and student statutory reporting across the provider and sector as a whole. Ruth also heads a student systems team, leading on the development and maintenance of key student systems and reporting tools at Aston University.

With over 13 years experience working in the fields of analysis and reporting, Ruth started her career as an analyst and has worked across a range of different sectors including the Police, NHS and Fire Service. Ruth has worked in the higher education sector for the past 8 years, with a focus on enhancing quality and awareness in relation to statutory reporting as well as the development of meaningful and accessible reporting and analysis which drives decision making and operational activity.


Shereen McIntosh, Senior Planning & Student Management Information Analyst, Aston University


Shereen manages the Planning & Student Management Information team at Aston University. The team delivers management information reporting through the provision of high-quality strategic analysis. The team provides an array of technical support, advice and information to key stakeholder’s while reporting, developing and delivering key statutory returns.

Shereen has over 10 years’ experience working in various analytical roles, 8 of which is working within higher education. Shereen started her career as an analyst during her placement year of University, working within the Planning Team at the University of Wolverhampton and from there went on to work in insurance for a short period of time.  A year into working in the Insurance sector, there was a position available within the Planning team at Aston University and the rest, as they say, is history.

Shereen’s motivation and drive for the team is to continue providing high quality analysis and management information reports that will inform decision making and strategic steer at both University and sector level.


Workshop A3: The Covid 19 Pandemic and its impact on University Student Number Planning at Universities. 

Beverley Joshua, Head of Corporate Reporting, Oxford Brookes University


Beverley has worked at Oxford Brookes University for three years co-ordinating budgeting and management accounting across the University. In this time she has worked closely with the university planning team on student number planning and forecasting tuition fee income, including modelling different scenarios for recruitment as a result of the pandemic. In 2020 she implemented a new budgeting and student number planning system to improve financial and student number planning at the University. Prior to working in the University sector Beverley worked in a professional body and two International charities. Beverley is a trustee of Pegasus Theatre and a director of I have a voice.


Dean Stokes, Director of Planning, University College London


Dean joined UCL in October 2017 as Major Projects Portfolio Director in the Planning Team. He is currently Director of Planning, with oversight of data and insight, strategic planning and institutional risk, and the major projects portfolio function.

Previously Dean was at City, University of London for five years as Director of Strategic Planning & Performance, having held a variety of positions in local and central government, and at the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development which runs major projects in eastern Europe and central Asia. He was Head of Strategy & Projects at the London Borough of Camden, and a Senior Policy Analyst at HM Treasury working on reform of UK public services.


Chaired by Shabana Akhtar, Associate Director Strategic Planning & Business Intelligence, University of London


Shabana has over 15 years of experience in higher education with particular expertise in strategic planning, business intelligence, marketing, student opinion research, diversity and recruitment.

She is currently the Associate Director, Strategic Planning and Business Intelligence at the University of London. Her team are responsible for Statutory Data Returns to the OfS, ensuring the robustness of data quality and reporting; the development, prototyping and embedding of data visualisation tools and techniques; and the delivery of a suite of organisational performance measures to provide direction on academic, operational and strategic planning at a truly global scale.

Her previous roles in the sector include Director of the Strategic and Business Planning Office and the Head of Widening Participation and Recruitment at Oxford Brookes University.

Shabana is an Executive Member of HESPA and a member of the UCAS Data Group.


Plenary 2: HE Strategy and Planning 2021: Taking stock of the state of play and what others in the sector are doing

Catherine Lu, Director of Strategy and Planning, The University of Law


Catherine is the Director of Strategy and Planning at The University of Law. The Strategy and Planning team at ULaw is responsible for strategy development, implementation and delivery, through provision of insight and business intelligence, performance reporting, operational planning and project management.

Catherine was formerly a strategy consultant at PwC Strategy&, where she delivered strategy and M&A due diligence projects to corporates and private equity clients, across a diverse range of sectors including education, financial services, technology, healthcare and retail.

Catherine holds a First Class MSci Chemistry (incorporating Bachelor’s level study) from Imperial College London.


Gideon White, Director of Strategic Planning, University of East London 


After reading Theological Studies at Exeter in the hope then of a ‘decent’ job, Gideon eventually began his HE career in a data-crunching junior planning role in 1995 at Birmingham University. A few years on, he developed exposure to the workings of a large ambitious comprehensive institution via a range of roles and levels including central admissions; student records; merger project; Business School Manager; VC’s Office for strategic projects; information services; capital project programming in hospitality and accommodation services, and then finally as an inaugural College Director of Operations. The time came to look for stretch and so made the obvious move to his current role at East London where there is a fantastic planning team. 


Aashish Khadia, Director of Planning, University of Leicester 


Aashish is the Director of Planning at the University of Leicester and is responsible for strategy development and delivery, governance and assurance services and data reporting and insights.  He is a member of the HESPA executive and sits on the Office for Students TEF Metrics Peer Review Group.  Aashish started his career at Cheshire County Council before moving into higher education working at University College Birmingham, St. George’s, University of London, Brunel University London and the University of Bedfordshire. 


Tina Egan, Director of Strategy & Planning, University of Leeds 


Tina is the Director of Strategy & Planning at the University of Leeds with a broad remit across: strategy, planning and performance; business intelligence and data analytics; and HE policy, funding and regulation. Tina has over 25 years’ experience working in the HE sector in national, regional and institutional roles, with remits spanning strategic, regulatory, operational and business change. Prior to joining the University of Leeds Tina was Regional Consultant (Yorkshire & the North East) at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). During her 6 years at the University of Leeds Tina’s focus has been on delivering a modernisation agenda across her brief in response to a multitude of internal and external drivers – including institutional preparedness for HESA Data Futures, strategically realigning business intelligence, data analytics and business change functions, and leading the design and implementation of a new approach to corporate planning - whilst maintaining business continuity and delivering interim improvements to business as usual.   


Live Yoga

Naomi Drinkwater, Head of Planning and Data Insight, University of Essex


Naomi Drinkwater is Head of Planning and Data Insight at the University of Essex and an active and engaged member of HESPA’s Development Committee. As a certified yoga instructor in her spare time, Naomi has very kindly accepted an invitation to offer HESPA members this free and informal post-work yoga session on the first day of our annual conference. To read more about Naomi’s yoga practice, you can visit her website: Nin Yoga.


Plenary 3: Institutional Autonomy: does it still exist and does it matter?

Smita Jamdar, Partner and Head of Education, Shakespeare Martineau


Smita is Relationship Partner for Shakespeare Martineau’s education clients and advises on strategic, regulatory, constitutional, governance and student matters. Her approach is best summed up by Chambers & 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." Smita is a member of the Higher Education Commission and an enthusiastic contributor to sector debate through the firm’s education blog, Going Further & Higher and her Twitter feed. She has an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree for services to higher education from the University of Warwick.


Business Session 2: Studyportals - Around the World with Data: How 2020 changed International Student Interest. Case of Coventry using Student Behaviour Data

Thijs van Vugt, Director Studyportals Analytics and Consulting Team


Thijs van Vugt is the strategic power of the Analytics and Consulting Team at Studyportals. He
has been a consultant since 2006 and is managing partner of iE&D Solutions BV. With over 30
years of experience in international education, he brings to the table experience as an entrepreneur, consultant, trainer, author and board member. Some of his recent clients include University of London, University of Glasgow, University of Bristol, University of Exeter, Durham University, University of Manchester, University of Kent, Karolinska Institute, Sciences Po, VU University Amsterdam, Rotterdam School of Management, the European Commission, UC Irvine, Colorado State University, University of Arizona, University of Western Australia, University of Auckland and ASML.

Thijs is the founder of the Expert Community Marketing & Recruitment of the EAIE. He was chair
of M&R (2002-2008) and a member of EAIE’s Executive Board (2004-2008). In 2006 he published a book on The Impact of Tuition Fees on International Student Recruitment and in September 2009 was awarded the Bo Gregersen Award for Best Practice of the EAIE.

Thijs holds a Master’s in International Economics from Tilburg University and post-graduate
diplomas in Public Management (Tias Business School) and Customer Relationship
Management (Beeckestijn Business School)


David Pilsbury, PVC Global, Coventry University 



Pilsbury is currently Deputy Vice Chancellor, International at Coventry University, a position he has held since 2008. He is responsible for all international activities including joint ventures, recruitment, collaborative delivery, curriculum internationalization, mobility and enhancement.

He has implemented an ambitious agenda involving a more than 6-fold increase in recruitment; establishing the UK’s largest overseas collaborative delivery programme with over 20,000 students in ~30 countries; and developing the world's largest international enhancement programme which has ranked No.1 for overseas mobility since records began.

He has won many awards including a Queen’s Award for Enterprise and the premier award of EAIE. He holds a number of Board level positions including with JISC, China-Britain Business Council and Emirates Aviation University and advisory positions including with IDP Connect, StudyPortals, EURIE, NARIC and the Hainan Provincial Government. He Chairs the UUK International Pro-Vice Chancellors Steering Group on the future of Global Engagement and is a HK VTC Honorary Fellow.

Pilsbury was founding CEO of the Worldwide Universities Network, Head of Research Policy for HEFCE and Assistant Director R&D at Cambridge University Hospital. 

Pilsbury spent a number of years in strategic consultancy and investment banking after a D. Phil and postdoctoral research at Oxford University.


Business Session 3: EAB - Overcoming Hidden Enemies to Strategy: Lessons from University Planning Processes…and Cognitive Psychology

Rachel Tanner, Director of Research, EAB 


Rachel is a Director in EAB’s Research Advisory division, where she focuses largely on helping partner schools to set institutional and academic strategy and to ensure their relevance for future students. She specializes in teaching Presidents, Chief Strategy Officers, and Provosts how to use futurist methodologies to think more boldly about the future. Rachel also regularly delivers workshops on enhancing diversity and inclusion among faculty, improving student experience from recruitment to graduation, and creating sustainable academic program assessments. 

Rachel was a first-generation college student who has devoted her career to making college easier for students to navigate. Before joining EAB, she served as Assistant Director of the first-year writing program at the University of Oregon. She has also worked in curriculum development, international student advising, and facilities management. Rachel holds a PhD in Literature and Rhetoric from the University of Oregon, an MA in English from NYU, and a BS in Management and Organizational Behavior from NYU Stern. She lives in Brooklyn, NY, with her two cats, and listens to a lot of soul music. 


Riley Power, University Secretary, University of Bradford 


Riley joined the University as University Secretary in 2019. 

Riley is a highly experienced corporate governance professional with an extensive background in UK higher education governance, policy development and public and administrative law. 

Riley was previously the Head of Governance at Glasgow Caledonian University, leading the delivery of effective and comprehensive governance support for the University and its governing body. Prior to this, Riley worked with Queen Margaret University, Edinburgh, supporting the governing body through the delivery of effective governance support and advice. 

Before moving to the UK from Australia in 2012, Riley was a senior lawyer with the Australian Tax Practitioners Board and was an auditor for the Australian Taxation Office. 


Workshop B1: Strategic Risk Management

Dr Mike Baxter, Director, GoalAtlas.com


Originally trained as a psychologist, Mike was Dean and Professor at Ravensbourne for 5 years and has completed over 10,000 hours of strategy consultancy for some of the world’s biggest brands, including Cisco, Google, HSBC, Lilly, O2 and Sony PlayStation. He is the author of University Strategy 2020 (published in April 2019) and The Strategy Manual (published September 2020). He has published over 15 strategy models on Creative Commons (freely available for you to use in your own institution) including 2 on strategic risk assessment.


Workshop B2: Data governance at SHU

Rav Ubhi-Adams, Head of Data Governance, Sheffield Hallam University


Rav’s career has been led by her passion for data, holding analytical roles across industries from utilities to higher education. She has over 15 years’ experience working in HE, through the Planning department at Sheffield Hallam University. Her expertise spans several areas including: statutory reporting to HESA, OfS and DfE; managing funding contracts; scenario planning using data modelling; the establishment of business intelligence.

In January 2019, Rav began her current role as Head of Data Governance. Utilising her wide range of networks and her combination of strategic and operational knowledge, she has progressed the need to address data accountability and management across the University. Both Rav and her team strive to work collectively with colleagues to operationalise the university’s data strategy, contributing to realising the business’ objective of becoming data driven.


Plenary 4: Regulatory Horizons

Richard Puttock, Director of Data, Foresight and Analysis, Office for Students


Richard Puttock is director of Data, Foresight and Analysis directorate at the Office for Student’s (OfS). He oversees OfS data and analysis activities, including management information, data assurance, and sector financial analysis. Prior to taking up his role at the OfS Richard worked in Higher Education (HE) data with HEFCE for 24 years. Richard has played a key role in most aspects of HE data in his career being actively involved in definition of all of the HESA data streams, many HEFCE data collections and the National Student Survey.


Hannah Falvey, Head of Statistics, HEFCW


Hannah is HEFCW’s Head of Statistics, leading the team at HEFCW with responsibility for data collection, data analysis, HESA liaison and funding calculations. She joined HEFCW in 2002, after a number of years working at the Office for National Statistics as a methodologist and the Higher Education Funding Council for England as an analyst.


Chaired by Sally Turnbull, Chair of HESPA’s Higher Education Data Insight Group


Sally has over 20 years of experience in strategic planning, the majority in higher education. Her work focuses on strategy development, using data to inform decision-making, achieving clarity on priorities and intended outcomes and enabling decision makers to utilise a range of planning tools to spark creativity, drive delivery and manage risk. A member of the National Executive of the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) and Chair of the Higher Education Data Insight Group, Sally has a strong interest in the ways in which data on higher education are used to inform the public narrative about the sector.


Plenary 5: What’s next? Exploring key questions for future universities

Dr Ant Bagshaw, Principal, Nous Group


Dr Ant Bagshaw is a Principal management consultant at Nous Group with experience in higher education across the UK, Australia and Canada. He specialised in strategy, policy and leadership, and has worked in regulation, student engagement, academic quality assurance and institutional governance. His consulting experience includes working with universities, vocational education providers, governments, membership organisations and technology providers. Prior to Nous, Ant was Deputy CEO at Wonkhe. He is co-editor of Influencing Higher Education Policy and is a member of the council at the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology.


Professor Kathleen Armour FAcSS, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education), University of Birmingham 


As Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) and member of the Executive Board, Kathleen is responsible for delivering the University's Strategic Plan for Education. Kathleen is also leading a major change programme including making revisions to the University's academic teaching year, programme architecture (with a renewed focus on employability), student administration systems, and timetabling. She is academic lead for the University's Higher Education Futures institute (HEFi) which is an open-access staff development unit designed to support the career-long development of academic staff in teaching and learning, and share good practice internally and externally. 


Peter Edwards, Information Architecture Lead, Deakin University 


In his 30+ year career, Peter has held a wide range of IT-centric roles within a number of diverse organisations across several industries.

His first 10 years saw him follow a technical path in the Banking, Insurance, and Telecommunications sectors, before spending the next 20 years split between co-founding two start-ups, and taking on program and project management roles in the Telecommunications, Utility, Transport, and Higher Education sectors.

Peter was engaged by Deakin University in January 2017 as a Program Manager, and recruited into the Deakin Architecture team in 2018 to develop, embed and grow a Solution Architecture practice.

Since 2019, he has taken a lead role in pushing for an enterprise-wide approach to the management of information at Deakin, and in 2020, was given a new role - to develop, embed and grow an Information Architecture practice.

At Peter’s core are the beliefs that everything is connected, and that for true understanding, we only need look to nature.


Kim Eccleston, Customer Adoption Lead, UCAS 


Kim is responsible for ensuring that UCAS’ customers are ready for the changes it delivers, and for supporting them to make the best possible use of new systems and features. Acting as a translation layer between UCAS’ development teams and customer groups, Kim joined UCAS at the end of 2019 having previously been Head of Undergraduate and Postgraduate Admissions at the University of Warwick for five years. During this time, Kim represented the sector in roles including member of the Clearing Working Group and Chair of the UCAS Undergraduate Advisory Group. Kim has worked in various areas in Higher Education administration, including roles in university governance, and in outreach and widening participation, and has a particular interest in process review and efficiency. 


Business Session 4: Simitive - Workload Management to enable strategic planning 

Paul Sheppard, Managing Director, Simitive 


With over 20 years experience in the strategic planning and development of organisations, Paul has spent the last 8 years leading Simitive in working with Universities to develop software and consultancy services to help address the challenges and strategic imperatives of the sector. The Simitive Team currently work with 43% of UK Universities, providing expertise in Academic Workload planning, management and modelling and Costing and contribution analysis. 


Business Session 5: Billigence - How to link planning with agile analytics

Adam Shooter, Principal Consultant - Reporting, Visualisation & Data Governance, Billigence


Adam started his career at the University of Nottingham, most recently as Head of Data Governance.  Adam now leads our data governance and visualisation practice and is our resident expert on university data.


Hamish Lawson, Sector Lead, Higher Education, Billigence 


Hamish helped to launch the higher education practice at Billigence a few years ago. He now works with over fifteen universities on developing data-driven institutions and helping to unify the use of data across each institution. 


Workshop C1: Breaking data out of silo; the why, what and how

Alex Leigh, HE data consultant, The Leigh Partnership (www.leighpartnership.com)


Alex has worked with over a hundred organisations including 54 universities.  He designed and developed the HEDIIP data capability framework, and co-developed the UCISA Higher Education capability model. Alex also founded the UK Higher Education Data Governance network.

Alex has extensive experience in creating data strategies, data governance frameworks and sustainable data management approaches. Alex believes that ‘one size fits none’, so takes a blended approach between best practice and individual university objectives.

You can find out more at www.leighpartership.com


Workshop C2: What if you didn’t have to sit there, what if you didn’t have to sit at all?

Richard Billingham, Executive Director of Human Resources and Organisation Development, Aston University


Richard Billingham is the Executive Director of HR and Organisational Development at Aston University.  He has extensive experience working with leaders and organisations, across public and private sectors, both in the UK and internationally, to bring about change.  

He has previously held a number of executive level roles focusing on leading complex workforce and culture change. He joined Aston from Bristol City Council where he was Director of Human Resources and Change.

Richard is a governor of Aston University’s Engineering Academy and also a pension trustee. He is recognised by friends and colleagues as an out and out, total enthusiast (and cricket fan)! He is passionate about working with organisations and people, to help them become the very best that they can be.  


Lisa Gregg, Director of Organisational Change, Aston University


Lisa Gregg is the Director of Organisational Change at Aston University. She has held various roles at Aston, including the Head of Planning & Student Management and has previous connections with the HESPA community.

She has held roles in the Higher Education sector for over 16 years and has experience in Central Services and Schools with particular interest in developing people and change management.

Lisa is a Trustee of a Primary Multi-Academy Trust, after having served on a local Governing Body for 3 years and acting as Chair for an additional 3. She is an avid reader of all genres, an optimist and a tremendous people person.


Workshop C3: When Coronavirus ate Horizon Scanning for breakfast (and how we might avoid indigestion)

Miranda Routledge, Director of Planning, Loughborough University


Miranda has worked at Loughborough University since 1997 and has held a variety of roles within the organisation. Her current role includes managing a small, highly skilled team and coordinates the establishment of effective monitoring and reporting processes. Miranda is responsible for integrating the University’s planning processes with the delivery of the University strategy and the preparation of the University’s budget. Miranda provides advice and guidance on key policy and funding issues whilst supporting major projects that have a University-wide dimension.  Miranda is currently working on the next strategy for Loughborough University alongside the senior leadership team.

Graham Howard, Director of Estates and Facilities Management, Loughborough University


Prior to joining Loughborough University in early 2019 to lead the Estates and Facilities Management team, Graham was a director in KPMG’s Management Consulting Operations division generating business development opportunities and leading teams on engagements delivering complex programmes and projects. For over 30 years he served in the RAF and UK Joint Forces reaching the rank of air-vice marshal. His last uniformed appointment was as the Assistant Chief of Defense (Logistics Operations) responsible for the logistics support to all UK Armed Forces globally.


Workshop C4: Digital experience insights & learning analytics: working with staff and students to maximise data-driven decision making and interventions

Steve Hoole, Head of Learning Analytics, Jisc


Steve Hoole is part of the Jisc Learning Analytics team, which runs the Learning Analytics Service for Universities and Colleges. This includes analytics, business intelligence, research and data management and a range of mobile apps.

He provides expert support to institutions as they implement the service, on-site consultancy and training.  He also supports institutions during the main rollout of their project, addresses their requirements and ensures they have a successful implementation and ROI.

Steve has been in commercial and public Higher Education sector for over 20 years working with multimedia development, system administration, project management and technology-enhanced learning.


Kat Heywood, Head of Business Intelligence, Jisc


Dr. Kat Heywood is Head of Business Intelligence within Jisc’s Data and Analytics directorate, with responsibility for delivering all products and services across the business intelligence portfolio and working with HE, FE and a variety of commercial sectors. This includes data consultancy, tailored datasets, Heidi Plus, Digital Experience insights, the online surveys service and collaborations for bespoke interactive insight products. Her previous experience encompasses strategic planning and business intelligence in the higher education sector and leading the government’s higher education statistics function as it moved across government departments (which now resides with the Department for Education), informing and evaluating the full breadth of HE policy areas. 


Plenary 6: Tackling Racial Inequality

Amatey Doku, Consultant, Nous Group


Amatey has supported a number of organisations to tackle racial inequality and is a regular contributor to sector wide discussions on anti-racism in higher education through numerous articles, keynotes and workshops. Last year he chaired the Black Lives Matter event as part of the Wonkhe at Home series, attended by over 900 people across the sector.


Zac Ashkanasy, Principal, Nous Group


Zac is an award-winning Principal with Nous Group. Zac brings almost 25 years’ business, consulting and facilitation experience across a range of clients in in the UK, Canada, South-East Asia and Australia. He has extensive experience working with higher education institutions. His broad expertise covers business strategy and organisational design, public policy, change management and digital strategy, and leadership development.


Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement, University of Leeds


Louise Banahene is the Director of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds. She provides leadership and strategic direction, across the full student lifecycle to facilitate access and success of the brightest and best students regardless of background. This includes school partnerships, contextual admissions, bursary and scholarship provision, and student success. This includes to address awarding gaps at both undergraduate and taught postgraduate level.

With BA(Hons) English and MEd Lifelong Learning, her career has largely been within higher education but has included positions teaching English as a foreign language. A passionate advocate for the benefits of higher education and social mobility, Louise worked in a similar role at the University of Salford. Louise leads the Go Higher West Yorkshire, a collaborative Partnership of the twelve HE providers in the region, and is a trustee for The Gorse Academies Trust and AccessEd. In 2018, she was awarded an MBE for services to Higher Education. 


Kaushika Patel, Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at De Montfort University (DMU) 


Kaushika is the Deputy Pro Vice Chancellor for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and Deputy Dean for the Faculty of Health and Life Sciences at De Montfort University (DMU). 

Kaushika’s Deputy PVC role of leading Equality, Diversity and Inclusion includes being Director of the Decolonising DMU project, deputy chair of the university Race Equality Charter Committee, Chair of the University EDI committee, as well as the chair for her own Faculty EDI committee.  Her role also requires having oversight and providing support to the University Staff Networks, the Athena Swan SATs along with the range of charter work the University engages with. 

Kaushika also formally mentors and coaches BAME staff at DMU. As an academic Kaushika is keen to support BAME staff to have a voice within their university - and the wider HE sector. 


Business Session 6: Nous | Cubane - Using data well to make better decisions

Phil Copestake, Managing Director, UK & Europe, Cubane


Phil leads Cubane’s business in the UK and Europe. Before joining Cubane he was a senior member of the higher education practice at PA Consulting, with wide-ranging experience of supporting universities across the UK and internationally. He worked many institutions to develop and implement major transformation programmes to improve efficiency and service standards, and also in developing and stress-testing global expansion and other investment plans. Phil specialises in strategy development and execution, preparing robust business cases to aid good decision making, and designing new customer-centred service delivery models. 


Karen Banks, Director of Strategic Change, University of Liverpool 


Karen is Director of Strategic Change and is responsible for managing the portfolio of projects contributing to institutional change at Liverpool. Prior to joining Liverpool, Karen was Director of Student Recruitment and Admissions at Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU). 


Dr Michael Wykes, Director of Policy, Planning & Business Intelligence, University of Exeter 


Michael is Director of Policy, Planning and Business Intelligence, leading a team of highly-skilled policy, BI and planning officers who provide evidence and strategic insights to support the decisions taken by the University’s senior management. Prior to joining Exeter, he completed a DPhil on the subject of access to essential medicines at the University of Oxford following previous employment in the pharmaceutical industry and public-sector headhunting. 


Ariel Rainbow, Manager, Cubane Consulting 



Ariel leads Cubane’s consulting and insights delivery for the UK and Europe. She is responsible for working with UniForum members to provide university leadership teams with a detailed understanding of the relative efficiency and effectiveness of their professional services organisation, incorporating insights from UniForum data and case study research. Prior to joining Cubane, Ariel was a management consultant at KPMG, contributing to strategy and transformation projects for corporate and government clients, with specialisms including business case model development. 


Jessica Weereratne, Manager, Nous UK


Jessica is a Manager at Nous UK. She is an effective policy and communications adviser, with strengths in digital strategy, policy development, open innovation, stakeholder management and internal transformation. She has over eight years’ experience providing policy and communications advice to public, not-for-profit and private organisations. Jessica is also an experienced project manager and has worked with international governments and organisations on how to drive cultural and transformational change. 


Workshop D1: Tackling Racial Inequality – DMU’s practical approach

David Bryan, Director of Strategic Planning Service, De Montfort University


David Bryan became Director of Strategic Planning Service at De Montfort University in December 2017, and has worked at the University for over 15 years. 

As Director of Strategic Planning, David is responsible for supporting the university deliver its Strategic Plan. Managing a team that coordinates work across the university supporting business information, performance and risk management, as well as coordinating the university’s annual planning cycle.


Dr James Evans, Deputy Director of Strategic Planning Service, De Montfort University


James Evans has worked for De Montfort University’s Strategic Planning Service since 2017. At DMU, James leads on strategy and performance, risk and enterprise resilience and regulation. James also plays a key role in delivering the University’s annual planning cycle. Previously, James has led research and evaluation teams for public sector organisations and has managed a variety of skills and education focussed research.


Workshop D2: Data Governance and Data Science: moving from stand-off to handshake

Helen Butler, Head of Data Governance in Strategic Planning, University of Birmingham


Helen is the Head of Data Governance in Strategic Planning at the University of Birmingham and is also one of the convenors of the national Data Governance Network for Higher Education professionals. Prior to taking up this role, Helen was an Assistant Director in Registry at Birmingham, responsible for curriculum management and development, statutory external and internal student reporting and systems development and maintenance. Helen has also worked as Faculty Registrar, Head of Registry Services and Academic Registrar at universities in the South West, responsible for institutional matters relating to student administration, progression and award, regulations, policy and quality assurance.


Dr Garrick Fincham, Head of Planning, University of East Anglia


Garrick is the Head of Planning at the University of East Anglia and chairs the new HESPA special interest group on Data Science. Prior to taking up a career in university planning, Garrick worked for NIACE (the National Institute of Adults in Continuing Education) where he worked on, amongst other things, understanding the role FE played in skills development. He originally trained as an archaeologist, running large data models on Roman era landscape studies, but went on to co-author a book on museum education and the use of the past to inspire disadvantaged and excluded groups. 


Daniel Farrell, Head of Data Transformation, University of St Andrews


Daniel is the Head of Data Transformation at the University of St Andrews and a member of the Data Governance Network committee. Daniel chairs the national SITS:Vision User Group Executive and Data Quality Advisory Group. He is particularly fascinated with the role of institutional culture in a world of digital change. Daniel has worked in the education sector for the past 35 years as both an academic and leader specialising in data management and business governance activities. After reading classics in the USA and UK, Daniel began his career as a FE lecturer in London before working in Greece and Oxford, and since 2004 in Scotland. Outside of the office Daniel works with local communities to bring history to life through collaboration and technology.


Workshop D3: Delivering a research planning process – tales of the unexpected

Dr Sophie Collet, Director of Strategy, Information and Operations, Research & Enterprise Division, University of Bristol 


Sophie has over 18 years’ experience working in Higher Education, leading the development of research policy and strategy, and delivering evidence and insight to inform strategic decisions. After completing a PhD in behavioural ecology at the University of Bristol, she first moved to the University's Research and Enterprise Division in 2004. As Director of Strategy, Information and Operations, she leads across a range of integrated functions: Research and PGR Strategy, Research Information and Evaluation (including the delivery of the University’s submissions to the REF and support for institutional Research Information Systems) and Divisional Operations. Sophie is a member of the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA).  


Lita Denny, Head of Research Services, University of Manchester  


Lita joined the Higher Education (HE) sector in 1993 following 9 years working across the public and private sector in areas as diverse as the benefits system, financial services and manufacturing. Lita began her career in HE supporting activities which would later be described as “knowledge exchange”. Building relationships and services intrinsically linked to research across Law, Health and Psychology disciplines. This early role illustrated the powerful impact research can have on society and following successful completion of an MA in Marketing Communications she continued to work on a range of projects covering technology transfer, regional development, business engagement, volunteering and public engagement across 3 institutions in Manchester. Lita moved back into a research management focussed role at the University of Manchester in 2004. She has been the Head of Research Services since 2011 and during this time has overseen a restructure of the Research Service structure, led the team responsible for administrative delivery of REF2014 and a range of research information system implementations at Manchester. Lita has previously held an ARMA Directorship, presented at a number of national and international research management conferences and is currently chair of the UKRI Research Organisations Consultation Group (ROCG).  


Karen Kay, Interim Head of Research Planning, University of Birmingham



Karen has been part of the University of Birmingham Strategic Planning Office since 2012. Having recently supported the delivery of the REF21 submission she is currently the Interim Head of Research Planning. She leads a team focused on supporting the delivery of the Strategic Framework; enabling Research, Engagement & Impact strategy development across Colleges and building a clear and robust research information provision to enable evidence-based decision making and planning.

Karen has led the implementation and management of research information systems and processes, working closely with research support, library and academic teams to consider how robust research information can help to support research planning. She is a member of ARMA and co-chair of the UK User Group for Pure (Research Information System).


Workshop D4: Embedding a Coaching Culture in a Third Level Institution - What we have learned in the first six years 

Ruairí Kelleher, CEO, EDelia Group 


Ruairí is the Owner, CEO and learning specialist at EDelia Group. He has over 35 years of experience in learning and learner development at second and third level. Ruairí has led the growth and development of a coaching and mentoring culture at Munster Technological University in Ireland over the past six years. Spent eight years developing, delivering and assessing the mentoring syllabus with the National Induction Programme for Teachers, now known as ‘Droichead’ and was also on the steering committee of the Teaching Council of Ireland for three years. Designed and delivers the mentoring modules on the Masters in Teaching and Learning at Munster Technological University. EDelia Group www.edeliagroup.com is an agile training and leadership development company based in Cork City, Ireland.  


Dr. Richard Beaumont, UK Lead Consultant, EDelia Group 


A qualified executive coach, Richard specialises in working with individuals in times of transition with a focus on emotionally intelligent leadership.

Until recently a Faculty Deputy Dean, he has extensive experience in supporting a culture where coaching leadership styles can thrive.

Richard’s coaching is based on creating partnerships where joint, experiential learning is underpinned by values of equality, fairness, and respect. He encourages the attainment of balance and fulfilment as core aspirations. Richard is passionate about the role coaching can play in stimulating life-changing moments as part of a creative, playful and stimulating experience. Richard’s coaching recognises the wider systems within which we operate, as shown through his membership of the Climate Coaching Alliance.


Marese Bermingham, Head of the Teaching and Learning Unit, MTU


Education Specialist and Advocate, Mentor, Member of several national and international Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Student Engagement Networks. Founding member of emerging Global Forum on Student Success. Member of several national TLASE Advisory groups. Co-chair Working Group on Teaching, Learning, Assessment and Student Engagement for MTU. MTU rep on National Forum for Teaching and Learning. Strong history of attracting funding, sustaining and growing award winning innovative teaching, learning and student engagement projects beyond pilot.

Marese has led the development of Teaching, Learning Assessment and Student Engagement programmes at MTU, initiating and embedding innovative student/staff partnership, distributed leadership and coaching and mentoring approaches across disciplines and central functions. This work has been recognised as a national exemplar, having won the Student Engagement and Communications Award at the Irish Education Awards 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020 and by the Irish Higher Education Authority who awarded significant performance related funding to MTU in 2020 based on our work.


Plenary 7: Putting the pieces together: Learning to do planning with an American accent

Olivia Kew-Fickus, Assistant Provost and Executive Director, Planning & Institutional Effectiveness, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA


Olivia Kew-Fickus, British-born but American-educated, spent 16 years at the University of Birmingham before returning to the US in 2019. She was Birmingham’s Director of Strategic Planning from 2012-2019 and an active member of HESPA from its inception. She is now Assistant Provost and Executive Director for Planning & Institutional Effectiveness at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. Vanderbilt is a private research-intensive university with about 13,000 students.


Plenary 8: Policy, Preparedness and Planning: working together strategically with VCs

Diana Beech, CEO, London Higher


As Chief Executive of London Higher, Diana is responsible for leading the organisation’s aim of being a voice for London’s universities and higher education colleagues. Diana joined London Higher from the University of Warwick, where she led the institution’s Government affairs function.

Diana has previously worked in government as a policy adviser to three Ministers of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, advising on all aspects of Higher Education policy. Prior to this she was the first Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and she has published widely on several aspects of UK higher education policy.

Diana holds a PhD in German from the University of Cambridge and has held academic positions at universities in Canada, Germany and the UK.


Professor Nic Beech, Vice Chancellor, Middlesex University 


Nic is Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University having previously been a Vice-Principal of the University of St Andrews and Provost of the University of Dundee. He is President of the British Academy of Management, Hon. Treasurer of the Academy of Social Sciences and a Council member of IFSAM. His research focuses on identity, diversity, learning and change leadership and he has worked extensively with creative industries, cultural policy and the health service. 


Workshop E1: How to run a successful political affairs campaign

Karmjit Kaur, Assistant Director, Political Affairs, Universities UK


Karmjit is responsible for leading Universities UK's political engagement and relationships with ministers and advisers. She leads Universities UK’s influencing and political campaigning among parliamentarians and key policymakers. Before joining Universities UK, Karmjit led on public affairs at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and was Senior Government Relations Adviser for Save the Children UK. She is a mentor with Into University.


Workshop E2: Data and Analytics roundtable: Sharing best practice

Paul Cotter, Head of Planning and Business Intelligence, UWE Bristol 


Paul Cotter is Head of Planning and Business Intelligence at the University of the West of England. His role encompasses managing and influencing faculty and professional service strategic planning processes and decision making, overseeing student number planning, income forecasting and all operational planning tasks (including academic workload allocation) and leading on the development and implementation of business intelligence at the university. Paul has worked at UWE for 11 years undertaking a variety of roles in Admissions, Planning and Business Intelligence. He gained career experience outside of the HE sector with Newcourt, GE Capital and Carillion before joining UWE in 2003. 


Kim Summers, Head of Insight and Analytics, Unite Students 

Kim started at Unite Students 18 years ago as a trainee accountant at their factory in Stroud. She gained her ACCA qualification in 2008 and worked in a number of different commercial finance roles including Business Development Manager where she produced the financials for an OJEU bid. In 2014 she moved into to the External Insight team where she developed her knowledge of the sector and created an annual process for understanding the market supporting development, acquisition and disposal decisions. Since then Kim has increased the scope of the insight team to include research and surveys and recently taken on responsibility for the Business Intelligence team.

She set up a wider insight group in 2019 with a few University partners including Paul Cotter with the hope of creating a network of people to share ideas with. The pandemic has impacted their progress with this so they would like to use this session to explore the potential benefits of these kind of working groups.


Plenary 9: What future should our university strategies be pushing us towards?

Professor Jonathan Grant, Professor of Public Policy, King’s College London and Founding Director, Different Angles Ltd.


Jonathan’s research interests are in health R&D policy, research impact assessment, and the social purpose of universities in the 21st century. Jonathan was formerly Vice President & Vice Principal (Service) at King’s College London. He joined King's in 2014 to set up the Policy Institute at King’s, and was its Director until 2017, when he stepped down to 'hold the pen' on developing King's Strategic Vision 2029. He continues to work on a part time basis at the Policy Institute, where he is Professor of Public Policy. For the other half of his time he runs Different Angles, a consultancy that focuses on the social impact of research and universities. Jonathan’s new book, The New Power University. The social purpose of higher education in the 21st Century, was published in March 2021.


Professor Ross Renton, Inaugural Principal of ARU Peterborough 


Professor Ross Renton is the inaugural Principal of ARU Peterborough, a brand-new University for Peterborough opening in September 2022. In his previous role as Senior Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester, he held a wide range of strategic responsibilities, including leading on a range of transformative student focused initiatives. 

His experience has included being Vice Chair of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education, a designated Widening Participation Expert, and a main panel member of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) Subject Pilot. He is also a Visiting Professor at the Open University, and has held a number of senior roles prior to joining Worcester, including Dean of Students at the University of Hertfordshire. 


Mimi Harmer, Panelist, Office for Students 


Nominated as 'One to Watch' at the Northern Power Awards, Mimi has carved out a career in performing arts education: consulting, advocating and representing. She is a Panelist for the Office for Students and Co-Chair of the Student Network for the European Association of Conservatoires, also working in EdTech at Leeds Beckett and as a teacher at Leeds Junior Conservatoire.  

Alongside her expertise in the education sector, Mimi is actively involved in the music industry as a cellist and composer. Her compositions have been premiered by members of the LSO and ENO, and is currently working on her first virtual reality experience. Mimi was also recently appointed as Director of The F-List for Music: the UK's largest directory for female and gender minority musicians. 


Chaired by Debbie McVitty, Editor, Wonkhe


Debbie McVitty is editor of Wonkhe, the home of the higher education policy debate, contributing to Wonkhe articles, email briefings, events, and the Wonkhe Show podcast. Debbie is interested in the social impact of higher education, learning, teaching and curriculum, institutional change and innovation, and in bringing to light under-represented voices in the HE policy debate. She has previously worked in policy and communications roles at Universities UK, the University of Bedfordshire and the National Union of Students. She holds a DPhil in English Literature from the University of Oxford and an MRes in higher education research, evaluation and enhancement from Lancaster University.




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