Hefce leadership search enters interview phase

Hefce interviews for chief executive post: will a woman get the nod at last? John Morgan reports

July 18, 2013

England’s funding council has moved closer to choosing its next chief executive, holding interviews for arguably the biggest job in the sector.

Names said to be in the frame to lead the Higher Education Funding Council for England include Sir Ian Diamond, vice-chancellor of the University of Aberdeen; Dame Julia King, vice-chancellor of Aston University; Dame Julia Goodfellow, vice-chancellor of the University of Kent; and Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of Oxford Brookes University.

Steve Egan, Hefce’s deputy chief executive, who has a background in accountancy, has been the favoured choice for some senior figures in the sector. However, Hefce’s previous five chief executives since its foundation in 1992 have all been former vice-chancellors.

There has never been a female Hefce chief executive or Universities UK president - the sector’s other most senior position - so the appointment of a woman would be warmly welcomed by many.

Hefce held interviews on 12 July for the post, thought likely to come with a salary of about £230,000 a year.

The appointment will be made by the business secretary, Vince Cable, on the advice of the funding council.

The choice of candidate may reflect the fact that research will be an even bigger priority for Hefce in the future. Research funding will form the vast bulk of the money it allocates as teaching grant diminishes and is replaced by tuition fee income.

Andy Westwood, chief executive of GuildHE, said that the looming prospect of the research excellence framework and its consequences “may make all the difference” to the choice. This was “in many ways a bigger issue for Hefce in the coming period” than tuition fees and student number controls, he added.

Wealth of experience

Sir Ian is a former chief executive of the Economic and Social Research Council (and author of a 2011 UUK report, Efficiency and Effectiveness in Higher Education), while Professor Goodfellow is a former chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Professor King is a council member of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and has a wealth of experience on the applied side of research, including senior executive posts at Rolls-Royce.

Her role as a member of the Browne Review panel will make her an unpopular choice for some, but it will have given her experience of politics and policy.

Sir Alan Langlands, Hefce’s current chief executive, becomes vice- chancellor of the University of Leeds on 1 October.

He is thought to be leaving because he favours a job closer to his home near York (Hefce’s offices are in London and Bristol).

Sir Alan is also said to feel that the Hefce role is no longer the job he took on in April 2009 - a result of the organisation’s shrinking importance under the new fees and funding system, in which it will allocate a far smaller proportion of total funding and carry less influence.


You've reached your article limit

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 6 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Featured Jobs

Most Commented

United Nations peace keeper

Understanding the unwritten rules of graduate study is vital if you want to get the most from your PhD supervision, say Kevin O'Gorman and Robert MacIntosh

David Parkins Christmas illustration (22 December 2016)

A Dickensian tale, set in today’s university

Eleanor Shakespeare illustration (5 January 2017)

Fixing problems in the academic job market by reducing the number of PhDs would homogenise the sector, argues Tom Cutterham

poi, circus

Kate Riegle van West had to battle to bring her circus life and her academic life together

Houses of Parliament, Westminster, government

There really is no need for the Higher Education and Research Bill, says Anne Sheppard