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Audit, Finance and Risk Committee

The Audit, Finance and Risk Committee’s purpose is to have oversight of two main areas of work, Audit and Risk Management and; Financial strategy and performance.

The committee is responsible for advising the Board on the integrity of the statutory financial statements and the work of the external auditors. In conjunction the committee reviews the effectiveness of internal control and risk management arrangements. In relation to financial matters the committee gives consideration to the formulation of the finance planning for the organisation, including the annual budget and medium-term financial forecast ensuring the financial health and solvency of Advance HE.

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Chris Sayers (Chair of Committee and Board member)

Chris Sayers was the Chair of the Committee of University Chairs between 2017-2020, and was Chair of Northumbria University until 2020.  He is now a board member of SRUC. Chris became Chair of CUC in April 2017, overseeing the introduction the new CUC remuneration code and working closely with HEFCE, DFE and the OFS in helping to shape the governance requirements of the new regulatory framework.

Since retiring from BT in 2012 where he ran a major IT services division for BT Global Services, he has increasingly spent his time working in areas where education can be used drive social mobility and increase opportunities for young, disadvantaged people. As such, apart from the leadership role that he occupies in HE, he is also on the board of a Social Enterprise, called Building Futures East, which works with young people in disadvantaged parts of Newcastle to help social change through skills training and, with his wife Tessa, he runs a charity that operates two children's homes and a school for very poor children in Southern India, with the aim of using education to break the poverty cycle.

Chris is also currently a non exec director of an IT services company, is the Chair of the Alnwick Playhouse Theatre, and a trustee of The Youth Charter. 

Heather Francis

Heather is Chief Operating Officer at the University of the Arts London. She joined the university in 2019.

Her key responsibilities as Chief Financial Officer are to lead and manage the finance function to meet the needs of the university, ensuring a strong financial strategy and compliance with statutory and regulatory financial requirements.

Heather joined the university from the Victoria and Albert Museum where she was Director of Finance and Resources, prior to this she worked at Save the Children International.

Heather Francis is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants and holds a BSocSc in Economics from Southampton University.

Phil Harding (Co-optee)

Phil is Director of Finance and Estates at Trinity Laban Conservatoire.  He was previously Director of Finance and Business Affairs at UCL for 9 years, and has previous senior leadership roles at City University, the University of Westminster and the University of Bedfordshire. He has held responsibility for leading a broad range of professional services including finance, HR, IT, estates and student services.  Phil is UUK Lead Negotiator on the USS Joint Negotiating Committee, a Trustee of the SAUL Pension Scheme and has held various sector roles including acting as chair of the British Universities Finance Directors Group.  Prior to working in HE, Phil worked in the NHS, and within the private sector.

Graham Hillier (Co-optee)

Graham is the Royal Society Entrepreneur in Residence at Northumbria University. He took this role after being a Governor of the University and Chairing the University’s Employment and Finance Committee for the seven years until July 2020. He is also a non-executive director and strategic advisor to a number of companies.

Prior to this Graham had a long and distinguished career as a strategy and innovation director in the aerospace, materials and construction industries before joining the Centre for Process Innovation where he was Strategy Director and Chief Technology and Innovation Officer as the company grew from 6 to over 500 people. We was also part of the team that created the UK’s High Value Manufacturing Catapult where he was the organisation’s first CTO. He was honoured to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award for his services to Innovation in 2019.  

Graham has a Metallurgy Degree from the University of Sheffield, a PhD from the University of Cambridge and an MBA from the Open University. He is Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and a Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts, Manufactures and Commerce.

Paul Woodgates

Paul is an expert in strategy, operations, change and leadership in universities.

He was previously responsible for building and running the education consulting practice of PA Consulting internationally. He has worked with more than 30 universities in the UK as well as many others overseas. His experience was in delivering major programmes to define strategy, improve academic outcomes, deliver better services, and reduce cost. He has also worked extensively with government departments, regulators and funding bodies in the higher education sector in the UK and elsewhere.

Paul graduated from Durham University with a BA (Hons) in Economics and then qualified as a chartered accountant. He worked as a consultant, programme leader and change manager in a range of organisations particularly in the public sector.

He is a Governor of De Montfort University and works as an independent advisor and writer on change in universities.