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Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme

Explore the contemporary contexts and challenges of being a female senior leader.

The shortage of senior women at the most senior levels in institutions is still a challenge, despite some improvements at executive and board levels in recent years.

Advance HE’s Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme is one of our women-only programmes designed specifically for women in senior positions in HE to help them take the next step up or extend their role, profile and impact. It aims at creating more gender parity in senior leadership within higher education.

In the programme we create a safe space for senior women leaders to explore the complexity of navigating through conventional organisational structures and to build foundations for transformation and paradigm shift.

The programme strikes a balance between enhancing technical knowledge of key strategic areas of operation (including institutional finance, structures and governance) and exploring individual leadership styles, leadership legacy, personal impact and developing political skills. 

Enquire about Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme

Booking information

Bookings are now open for the next cohort.

Starts 6 April 2022

Book now

I found the programme invaluable, with space to explore the challenges of women’s leadership in HE as well as to examine critical issues such as university governance and finance. I especially enjoyed the opportunity to be amongst other senior female leaders in HE.”

Dr Emily McIntosh, Director of Student Life, Student Experience Team, University of Bolton

How is the programme delivered?

Taking place over the course of 4 months, the Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme consists of an introductory session, 4 online days and an additional action learning set. 

Day 1: Introduction to Senior Women Leading

6 April 2022
- Introducing the remits of the programme: key principles
and frameworks
- Building a safe container for deep leadership explorations
- Setting the scene for Senior Women’s Leadership in the
current HE context

Day 2: Finance and Governance in leadership

27 April 2022
- Exploring the organisational and decision making frameworks of the UK’s HEIs
- Examining universities’ Annual Report and Accounts or equivalent publicly available financial data
- Understanding funding and finance, governance, accountability and regulation contexts of the higher education sector

Day 3: Finance and Governance in leadership

28 April 2022
-Developing practical strategies for navigating organisational frameworks in HE
- Using a real play methodology to explore decision making at the executive level
- Applying scenarios for planning financial sustainability in universities

Day 4: Facilitated Action Learning Sets

24-27 May 2022
Half way through the programme the participants meet in smaller groups for their action learning sets. You will be encouraged to discuss practical issues pertinent to their leadership roles and work on solutions using the collective intelligence of the group through non-directive, coaching approaches.

Day 5: Organisational politics and culture in HE

22 June 2022
- Using Mythodrama to understand organisational culture and politics in higher education
- Developing practical skills to influence positive organisational changes
- Working with real life scenarios to impact the internal politics

Day 6: Leadership in a New HE sector. Strengthening your leadership narrative.

23 June 2022
- Exploring leadership skills needed in the current HE context
- Learning about successful leadership from senior women leaders
- Enhancing leadership impact through developing compelling narrative about personal purpose and legacy

Delivery team


Barbara Bassa

Programme Director, Senior Leadership and Organisational Development Adviser and Executive Coach
Advance HE
Barbara Bassa
Barbara works for Advance HE as a Programme Director, Senior Leadership and Organisational Development Adviser and Executive Coach. She heads a number of national and bespoke leadership programmes for the Higher Education Sector, including Aurora, Senior Women’s Leadership Development and Transforming Leadership Programme.

Gill Ball OBE

Advance HE
Gill Ball, Senior Women’s Leadership Development Programme
Gill spent the majority of her career within Higher Education with the last 20 years as Director of Finance at the University of Birmingham until she retired from that role at the end of 2014. She was awarded an OBE for services to Higher Education in 2012.

Simone Clarke

Director of Academic Services and Academic Registrar
Staffordshire University
Simone Clarke
Simone has 25 years of experience working in a range of academic and management roles in a diverse range of universities in England and Wales.

Phyllida Hancock

Advance HE
Phyllida Hancock
Phyllida is a workshop designer and facilitator. She is an Associate of Advance HE, Olivier Mythodrama, Leaders’ Quest, Mary-Louise Clark Associates and Ranmore Consulting, and recently joined Warwick Business School as a Teaching Associate.

Jo Chaffer

Key Global Associate
Advance HE
Jo Chaffer
With in-depth Higher Education expertise, Jo works with HEIs, HE agencies and Ministries internationally supporting and enabling leadership development, strategic approaches to leadership and governance with a particular interest in feminized leadership.


Julie Lydon OBE

University of South Wales
Professor Julie Lydon OBE
Julie became Vice-Chancellor of the University of South Wales on 11 April 2013. She previously held the roles of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Glamorgan from April 2010 and Deputy Vice-Chancellor from April 2006.

Zainab Khan

Pro Vice Chancellor Teaching & Learning
London Metropolitan University
Dr Zainab Khan
Zainab has worked in HE for 15 years, prior to this she trained as a barrister before embarking upon her academic career. As well as being Pro Vice Chancellor at London Metropolitan University, she is also Director of the Centre for Equity & Inclusion

Diana Beech

Chief Executive Officer
London Higher
Diana is an established higher education policy professional, currently working as CEO of London Higher - the umbrella organisation representing 40 London universities and higher education colleges.

Annette Hay

Senior Research Delivery Support Partner
Coventry University
Annette Hay
Annette is currently a member of the Senior Management Team in the Research Office at Coventry University. After completing her Social Studies Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Warwick, she went on to complete her Masters in ‘Leadership and Management’ at Coventry University.

The programme's outcomes

Through the programme participants:

  • enhance their sense of presence to be able to engage in an organisational dialogue in a more impactful way
  • develop skills and confidence related to finance, governance, culture, politics and influence 
  • understand the organisational and decision-making frameworks of the UK’s HEIs and their links to institutional purpose
  • build understanding of their unique leadership style, personal impact and legacy 
  • start exploring the leadership needed in the post-pandemic HE
  • create a momentum in their career progression through renewed commitment and supportive network of senior women.  


ADVANCE HE | 13 JAN 2022

'An empowering experience'

Participant feedback from the Senior Women's Leadership Development Programme
Read more

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