Alistair Jarvis named as Universities UK chief executive

Former deputy steps up to lead as Brexit and funding challenges loom

August 7, 2017
Alistair Jarvis

Alistair Jarvis has been appointed as the new chief executive of Universities UK, as the organisation continues to grapple with the challenges of Brexit and an English funding system now under pressure.

Mr Jarvis, whose appointment is effective from 7 August, succeeds Nicola Dandridge, who has been chosen as chief executive of the Office for Students, the body that will be the new regulator for the English sector.

UUK is one of two organisations, alongside GuildHE, that represents the sector in talks with the government. Mr Jarvis was formerly deputy chief executive at UUK – a role in which he led its work on Brexit – and then acting chief executive following Ms Dandridge’s departure. Prior to those roles, he was director of communications at the University of Birmingham and also at the 1994 Group, the now defunct mission group for smaller research-intensive institutions.

Mr Jarvis takes over the chief executive role at a time when UUK is trying to secure the best possible outcome for the sector from the UK government’s Brexit negotiations, in terms of the rights of EU staff currently working at UK universities as well as the future immigration regime for EU staff and students. Whether the UK will remain a member of EU research programmes post-Brexit is another major issue yet to be resolved.

UUK’s other current priorities include ensuring that the government’s visa regime does not deter non-EU students. The £9,000 fees system in England – the general principles behind which UUK has defended – is also under intense pressure following the election impact of Labour’s policy to abolish fees and a report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies highlighting key flaws.

UUK’s members are the vice-chancellors of British universities – currently under intense scrutiny over their salary levels.

Mr Jarvis took his undergraduate degree at the University of Kent, before postgraduate study at the University of Leicester, the UCL Institute of Education and the University of Cambridge.

He said: “It is a privilege to be taking on this role to represent the UK’s world-class university sector. Our universities are united in shared values of openness, tolerance, creativity and a commitment to discovery and learning. Given the current economic and social challenges, it is crucial that these values and the voice of our universities are heard.

“I look forward to working with our new president and with university leaders to ensure that our sector continues to thrive and to support universities to further their positive impact across all four nations of the UK. My early priorities will be to strengthen the voice of universities in current policy debates, promote the many and diverse strengths of our sector, and enhance our engagement with members in all corners of the UK.

“I would also like to pay tribute to the work of my predecessor, Nicola Dandridge, for the exceptional contribution that she has made to UUK and to the higher education sector over her eight years as chief executive. I look forward to building on her legacy together with the talented and committed team at UUK.”

Janet Beer, the University of Liverpool vice-chancellor, took over as UUK president on 1 August.

She said: “The challenges and opportunities afforded by the current economic, social and political climate mean that UUK was seeking a chief executive with a strong track record in campaigning, political advocacy, and the ability to connect with a diverse range of stakeholders. Alistair’s skills, experience and sector knowledge made him an outstanding candidate.”

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