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GDP: Leading the Board for new and aspiring chairs

Supporting those who are new to leading, or aspire to lead, governance in higher education.

Leading the board is designed to support those who are new to leading, or aspire to lead, a governing body (or committee) of a higher education institution. This event is delivered online with a focus on many of the current challenges of leading a board, including during a time of crisis.

Delivered with the support of the CUC – the membership body for Chairs of higher education institutions -  the event will provide an opportunity to discuss and examine the role of the Chair in leading the board and the importance of creating a boardroom culture which enables effective governance, enabling attendees to develop confidence, skills and knowledge.

The next cohort date is to be confirmed.


Register your interest

Who is the event for?

This online event is designed to support those who lead, or aspire to lead, a governing body. The Chair is responsible for the leadership of the governing body or sub-committee and ensuring it operates effectively and efficiently. Those who take on the responsibility play a central role in establishing the culture by which the governing body operates and the extent to which openness and debate at its meetings is encouraged.

Experienced governor/chair


9:00 Introduction & Welcome (and breakouts)
9:20 Policy keynote
Dr Alexis Brown, HEPI
10:00 Leading the Board during a period of change - reflections of a panel of chairs
Chris Pomfrett, Falmouth University
Anulika Ajufo, UEL
Gary Dixon, Chair, University of Leicester
11:00 Break
11:15 Moving the dial on academic assurance and student engagement
Ed Marsh, Middlesex SU CEO
Fiona Cownie, Deputy Chair, De Montfort University 
Claire Taylor, DVC, Glyndwr University
12:00 Board effectiveness and equality, diversity & inclusion - the role of the Chair
Victoria Holbrook
12:30 Break
12:45 How might higher education governance need to change over the next decade?
Breakout discussions
13:15 Feedback from breakouts
13:30 Close

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Aaron Porter

Associate Director (Governance)
Advance HE
Aaron leads on Advance HE governance activity through the delivery of our national Governor Development Programme which engages with around 900 governors across the UK on an annual basis. He has extensive experience leading reviews of over 25 governing boards. Aaron was previously President of the National Union of Students (NUS) and also chair of trustees for the organisation.

Anulika Ajufo

Chair of UEL, Founder of the Sequoia Platform and Venture Partner Europe, Middle East and Africa, The Sagana Group
University of East London
Anulika Ajufo
Anulika is mother to a vibrant 17 year old, Head of Investments for Europe, Middle East and Africa and leads on early and growth stage impact investments in Europe, Middle East and Africa. She is also Chair of the Board of Governors at University of East London and Founder of the Sequoia Platform, a leading educational not for profit focused on social mobility in the United Kingdom. She is committed to Finance and Economic Justice through development as well as the need to promote equity and social justice in the world's most fragile countries- all of which she continues to support across roles in finance and philanthropy.

Chris Pomfrett

Chair of the Board of Governers
Falmouth University
Chris Pomfrett
Chris was chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership since its inception in 2011 until Autumn 2015. In this role, he secured substantial public funds to drive economic growth in the county, and has overseen strategy development for UK and EU economic development funds for 2015-2020.

Dr Alexis Brown

Director of Policy and Advocacy
Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)
Dr Alexis Brown
Alexis Brown is Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). Previously, she worked at the Russell Group and UCL, and holds a PhD in English literature from the University of Oxford.

Ed Marsh

SU Chief Executive Officer
Middlesex University
Ed Marsh
Ed Marsh-Rowbotham is Chief Executive Officer Middlesex University Student Union (MDXSU)

Claire Taylor

Deputy Vice Chancellor
Glyndwr University
Claire Taylor
Claire joined the University as Deputy Vice-Chancellor in August 2016. She is responsible for academic provision and the quality of student learning opportunities across the University, overseeing the work of: the Academic Schools; Strategic Planning; Communications, Marketing, Recruitment and Admissions; Academic Registry and the OpTIC Centre at St Asaph.

Victoria Holbrook

Assistant Director, Governance
Advance HE
Victoria Holbrook
Victoria joined Advance HE in February 2019 from the Office for Students and after 11 years at its predecessor the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). As Assistant Director, Governance she leads the development and delivery of Advance HE’s approach and work to support good governance to ensure it meets the needs of its members and clients in their rapidly evolving operating environments.

Gary Dixon

Chair of Council
University of Leicester
Gary Dixon
Gary Dixon trained as a Chartered Accountant with a major global firm following his 1987 graduation from the University of Leicester in Physics with Astrophysics. After gaining an MBA from Warwick Business School, he left the accountancy profession in 1994 and moved to work within financial services. He became the CFO of a small, diversified group and was primarily responsible for finance, regulation and governance of the group’s banking, insurance, pension and fund management businesses.

Professor Fiona Cownie

Deputy Chair of Governors
Fiona Cownie
Professor Fiona Cownie is Deputy Chair of Governors at De Montfort University in Leicester and Professor of Law Emerita at Keele University, where she was Pro Vice Chancellor (Education and Student Experience) from 2014 - 2017.
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Related content


Victoria Holbrook, Assistant Director Governance, Advance HE, talks to John Rushforth, Executive Secretary, CUC. In this video John discusses the common issues that new chairs face when they start in post and shares advice on how to create a healthy board culture.

Watch the video, Governor Dialogues – Board Culture and Governance

This film explores a number of key elements that help make a board effective as well as exploring how boards create a culture that facilitates good governance, creates healthy debate and fosters diversity of thought.

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