Mary Curnock Cook, the chief executive of Ucas, the UK's universities and colleges admissions service, has announced that she will stand down in 2017, after seven years in the role.
Ms Curnock Cook, who took over in January 2010, has led the admissions body through one of the greatest periods of change in the UK higher education sector. Under her guidance, Ucas has transformed into a dynamic digital enterprise, handling more than 4 million applications each year and helping about 600,000 people to secure degree, postgraduate or teacher training places.
“Our unique centralised service means that the UK has the fairest and most transparent HE admissions system in the world,” Ms Curnock Cook commented at the time of her announcement. “It has been an immense privilege to have been able to build on the extraordinary vision of the vice-chancellors of the early 1960s who saw the benefits of a single application process for students and universities.”
As chief executive, Ms Curnock Cook oversaw investment in large-scale technology changes at Ucas and enhanced its services and information for students through ucas.com, which now has more than 220 million page views a year. The website also provides access to a wealth of information and advice about applying to and preparing for higher education.
Sir Steve Smith, chair of Ucas and vice-chancellor of the University of Exeter, said the organisation was “genuinely very sorry” to see her leave, but respected her desire to “move on to another challenge”.
“She has been an exceptional chief executive, and it is going to be very difficult to replace her,” he added. “She goes with our sincere best wishes and our profound thanks for all that she has done to enhance our outstanding admissions service for students and universities.”
The search for Ms Curnock Cook’s successor will begin shortly, Ucas announced.