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Transforming Governance for a new normal: Governance Conference 2020

This year's virtual governance conference took place on 20 November 2020.

This year, our virtual conference focussed on the theme 'Transforming Governance for a new normal'. 

The conference provided a forum to share practice and discuss the key governance issues arising as we face the first full academic year of higher education delivery during a global pandemic, which has already created significant change in the way providers operate. Another key focus of the conference was on how governance enables institutions to move forward embedding inclusivity in all that they do, in order to be truly fit for the future.

We looked beyond the sector, addressing practice, developments and insights and exploring whether, and how, these could be adopted in HE. With a mix of plenary, parallel and panel sessions the event offered an opportunity for those committed to professionalising governance to network with senior peers, engage with the issues of the moment and take new ideas and insights back to their institution.

Join the conversation at #GovConf20

Date: 20 November 2020
Venue: Virtual conference platform
Who: Governors, professional support staff and policymakers

Conference introduction

Aaron Porter, Associate Director (Governance), Advance HE, introduced the key themes for this year's Governance Conference 2020 - Transforming Governance for a new normal.
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Conference programme

Transforming Governance for a new normal: Governance Conference 2020 - Programme

Download our full programme

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Conference abstracts

Transforming Governance for a new normal: Governance Conference 2020 - Abstracts

Download conference abstracts

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A new digital conferencing experience

Following the highly successful virtual Teaching and Learning Conference 2020, this year's Governance Conference was delivered virtually on 20 November 2020. It was re-designed as an immersive and engaging digital experience and offering delegates the following features:

  • a full day of live-streamed sessions of keynotes, panel discussions and workshops addressing current issues facing Boards today
  • On-demand presentations from sector leaders
  • opportunity to interact with other delegates from around the world in a virtual networking space
  • full online support throughout the day
  • access to all the digital content for 14 days after the conference
  • virtual exhibition space, where delegates could engage with Advance HE staff about current projects.

Keynote speakers

Lord Simon Woolley CBE

Lord Simon Woolley CBE is the director and founder of Operation Black Vote (OBV), a commissioner for race on the Equality and Human Rights Commission and chair of the government's Race Disparity Unit’s advisory group.

Focusing on voter registration, lobbying politicians and mentoring schemes, OBV aims to inspire black and minority ethnic communities to engage with public institutions to address the race inequalities in areas including education, health and employment.

Find out more about Simon

Lord Woolley

Professor Eunice Simmons

Eunice is currently Vice Chancellor at the University of Chester and has also previously worked in diverse institutions: Nottingham Trent University, University of London’s Wye and Imperial Colleges, UCLan and the University of Cumbria, in roles that included Course Leader, Head of School, Dean and Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice Chancellor. This has given her a sound understanding of how strategy and operation interlink - and how to build capacity for horizon-scanning and implementation in all of her teams.

Find out more about Eunice

Eunice Simmons


Nicola Owen

Nicola Owen is the Deputy Chief Executive (Operations) at Lancaster University. Together with the Director of Finance, she leads the Professional Services at Lancaster.

She also has responsibility, working together with the Deans, via the Faculty Managers, for the effective operation of the administration across the faculties and academic departments. As Secretary she has responsibility for the operation of governance and support to Council as well as a number of other legal, governance and licensing roles.

Find out more about Nicola

Nicola Owen

Dr Matthew Andrews

Matthew has an extensive university career including roles as Academic Registrar at Oxford Brookes University, and Director of the Graduate School and Director of Undergraduate Recruitment at Durham University. His current role encompasses Student Services, Human Resources, Academic Registry, governance, and regional engagement.  Matthew has an interest in the history of universities as well as the contemporary sector. He is a member of the Editorial Board for three journals covering HE management in the UK, USA, and Australasia.

Find out more about Matthew

Dr Matthew Andrews

Professor Steve West CBE

Professor Steve West CBE, DL is Vice-Chancellor, President and CEO of the University of the West of England, Bristol. He is Non-Executive Director for the Office for Students and Chair of the UUK Mental Health in Higher Education Working Group.

He is Chair of the West of England LEP, Chair of the West of England Academic Health Science Network and Non-Executive Director for the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust.

Find out more about Steve

Professor Steve West CBE

Michael Queen

Michael is currently the Chair of the Committee of University Chairs and Chair University of Surrey. Formerly, he was the Chief Executive of 3i Group plc, the global investment company where after 25 years he retired in 2012 having developed 3i’s activities in the infrastructure sector through founding 3i Infrastructure plc.

In 1994 he was seconded to the HM Treasury to help to develop the potential for the Private Finance Initiative in the NHS as Head of the NHS Private Finance Unit. In 2002 Michael was Chairman of the British Venture Capital Association. Between 2010 and 2012 he was a member of the Prime Ministers Business Advisory Group. He is currently a Director of BTL Limited, a company developing the Thames Tideway tunnel, a Director of Coller Capital Limited, a Director of TAQA, a Saudi based industrial company, and is also an advisor to Indian and Chinese companies.

Find out more about Michael

Michael Queen

Dr Emyr Roberts

After an initial career with the National Farmers’ Union, Emyr joined the Welsh Office in 1991, and undertook a variety of roles including health, finance, culture and recreation, and economic development. Within the Welsh Government he was Chief Executive of the Wales European Funding Office, Director Social Justice and Regeneration, Director General Public Services and Local Government, and Director General Education and Skills. In 2012 Emyr was appointed Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, and led the creation of the new environmental body for Wales which integrated the work of the previous legacy bodies. He retired at the end of 2017.

Emyr is now the Chair of Council at Aberystwyth University, Chair of the Chairs of the Universities of Wales, and serves on the CUC Executive Committee, Glas Cymru, the Teachers’ Pay Review Body for Wales.

Find out more about Emyr

Dr Emyr Roberts

Beatrice Fraenkel Hon FRIBA FRSA

Beatrice is an industrial designer and ergonomist specialising in designing systems and designs that are based on meeting the evidenced needs of recipients and end users. She is passionate about this approach as properly done it delivers a design outcome that makes a real and measurable difference to lives.

As Chair of Mersey Care NHS FT Beatrice is heavily involved in cross sectorial Place Making in Cheshire and Merseyside; a trustee of NHS Providers and a member of the NHS Confederation mental health board.

Find out more about Beatrice

Beatrice Fraenkel

Monica Chadha

Currently Monica is Vice Chair of Queen Mary University of London where she also chairs the Remuneration Committee; Chair of the British Independent Film Awards Advisory Board; Advisor to the European Women’s Leadership Programme in Cinema; Advisor to Onboarding Officers which is an accelerated Non-Executive Director Programme for exiting military officers; and a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for AI. She regularly undertakes freelance speaking, coaching and consultancy engagements.

Find out more about Monica

Monica Chadha

Janet Legrand QC (Hon)

Former Senior Partner and Board Chair of global law firm DLA Piper, Janet is the Senior Lay Member of Court at the University of Edinburgh. 

She has significant governance experience in higher education; in particular from her prior roles on the Audit Committee of the University of Cambridge and as Deputy Chair of Council at City, University of London, where she was also a Trustee of the Student’s Union. She is a member of the Advisory Panel of IntoUniversity and was a founding Board member of PRIME, the legal profession’s social mobility alliance. 

Find out more about Janet

Janet Legrand QC (Hon)

James Aston MBE FCA

James is a partner and the National Head of Education at BDO LLP. He has worked extensively in the education sector over the last 25 years and works across both the public and private sectors.

James has been the external audit partner for 22 universities over the last 15 years and oversees BDO’s ongoing engagement with over 60 HEIs, the OfS and the DfE.

James is nationally renowned (and sought out by government, private equity and the sector) for his work on governance, data assurance and strategy.  He understands the education sector, and its history, and is known for constructively challenging custom and practice and engaging with both government and the sector on developing and improving practices and resolving issues.

Find out more about James

James Aston MBE FCA

John Rushforth

John is a nationally recognised expert on UK University governance. He is responsible for the key documents that underpin the governance of all publicly funded UK HE institutions namely the CUC HE Code of Governance, the HE Senior Staff Remuneration Code, a range of illustrative practice notes e.g. Academic Assurance, Recruitment of VCs, etc and a Leadership Foundation publication on the relationship between Vice Chancellors and Chairs. He has collaborated on, as joint editor and contributor to, a book on HE governance Governing Higher Education Today, International Perspectives (Routledge May 2019).

Find out more about John

John Rushforth

Mary Curnock Cook

As well as being the Chair of the Dyson Institute (recently awarded New Degree Awarding Powers by the Office for Students), Mary Curnock Cook holds a number of non-executive roles in the education sector.

She is Chair of Trustees of the Access Project and a Trustee at multi-academy Trust, United Learning, and Founders4Schools. She is also a Council member at the Open University and on the Board of Education and Youth Think Tank, LKMco. She Chairs an advisory Board for EdTech in HE and FE and is also an investor and advisor to a number of EdTech start-ups. She is on the Advisory Board for the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Find out more about Mary

Mary Curnock Cook

Robiu Salisu

Robiu Salisu is an experienced Higher Education practitioner with several years of experience in student engagement. He is currently a member of Courts at the University of Bristol, where he also work as the student inclusion officer responsible for improving Black Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) Undergraduate Students’ experiences. He provides institutional guidance on matters relating to the experience and inclusion of BAME students. Robiu was awarded the University of Bristol Staff Member of the Year award for all of his work in supporting BAME students at the University at the 2019 Bristol Students’ Union Award.

Find out more about Robiu

Robiu Salisu


Alison Johns

Alison was appointed chief executive of Advance HE in autumn 2017.

Prior to that she was the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation. She has worked in higher education for 25 years. Before becoming chief executive, she was head of policy for leadership, governance and management at the Hefce (now the Office for Students), where she established both the Leadership Foundation and the Equality Challenge Unit. 

She is a past president of the Association of University Administrators (AUA) and represents the UK on the Association of Commonwealth Universities Human Resources Management Network and has recently joined the British Council’s planning committee for Going Global, the major international higher education conference. 

Find out more about Alison

Alison Johns

Andy Shenstone

Andy offers a deep understanding and experience of UK and international HE policy, governance and management.  He is Advance HE’s Director of Business Development and Delivery, and an experienced Higher Education (HE) consultant with 20 years’ track record of successfully working with Universities, sector agencies and Ministries in the UK and overseas. His experience encompasses over 40 different UK and overseas HEIs and all of the sector’s main agencies, representative bodies and funding councils.  Andy has led multiple national reviews reporting to Government Ministers, Agency Chief Executives and Vice Chancellors. 

Find out more about Andy

Andy Shenstone

Aaron Porter

Aaron leads on Advance HE governance activity through the delivery of our national Governor Development Programme which engages with over 900 governors across the UK on an annual basis. He has extensive experience leading reviews of over 20 governing boards. He has served on the council of the University of Leicester and has previously been a Non-Executive Director on the Board of a range of sector agencies including the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the Higher Education Academy (HEA), the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA). 

Find out more about Aaron

Aaron Porter

Victoria Holbrook

Victoria joined Advance HE in February 2019 from the Office for Students (OfS) and previously HEFCE. As Assistant Director, Governance, Victoria manages relationships to ensure members are supported fully by Advance HE’s work across learning and teaching, leadership and governance and EDI -  enabling them to deliver for their staff and students by understanding their needs.  She also leads work to support good governance – including undertaking governance effectiveness reviews -  bringing expertise and perspectives from her time at HEFCE and the OfS, as well as from serving on the Boards of a Multi-Academy Trust (2014-19) and Plymouth Marjon University (2019-). During 19-20, Victoria has spoken at several conferences on governance and leadership issues.

Find out more about Victoria

Victoria Holbrook

Kim Ansell

An MBA graduate, Kim combines strategic insight with a sound understanding of operational excellence. She has worked across higher and professional education providing support to both senior leadership teams and Boards, to facilitate strategic planning and performance improvement. Kim’s work at Advance HE focusses predominantly on reviewing and helping shape organisations’ future direction, stakeholder engagement, and embedding new practices. Kim is a co-opted governor at the University of West London, Workforce Committee.

Find out more about Kim

Kim Ansell
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To view the highlights of last year's Governance Conference 2019, please visit our web page here.


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Governance Consultancy and Development and Governor Development Programme brochures for 2020-21

Please complete and submit the form to receive your copies of the Advance HE Governance Consultancy and Development and Governor Development Programme brochures for 2020-21.

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