News Round-up

We provide a brief insight into key news items that are causing a stir locally and globally.


On 1 April 2018, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) was formalised. The result of significant reorganisation of the UK’s research funding system, UKRI brings together the seven Research Councils, Innovate UK, and the newly formed Research England. Its overall aim is to bring a new level of cohesion and future collaboration amongst the UK’s science sector to ensure the sustainability and development research and innovation in the UK. Under the direction of Professor Sir Mark Walport, former Chief Scientific Advisor to the government, UKRI will oversee the distribution of £6 billion in funding each year.

One of the first initiatives being implemented by UKRI is the Future Leaders Fellowship scheme (FLF) with the key ambition of developing and retaining research and innovation talent in the UK. It will provide up to seven years of funding, for at least 550 early-career researchers and innovators, with outstanding potential in universities, UK registered businesses, and other research and user environments including research councils’ institutes and laboratories.

This new structure has already gained much recognition and continues to develop at pace.
Saxton Bampfylde have been delighted to assist in the appointment of a number of positions within UKRI including:

Sir Professor Mark Walport, Chief Executive, UKRI;
Ian Kenyon, CFO, UKRI;
Professor Melanie Welham, Executive Chair, BBSRC;
Professor Lynn Gladden, Executive Chair – EPSRC;
Professor Jennifer Rubin, Executive Chair – ESRC;
Dr Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair – Innovate UK;
Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair – MRC;
Professor Mark Thompson, Executive Chair – STFC; and
Dr Marta Tufet, Executive Director – UKCDS.

Non-Executive Directors, UKRI:

Sir John Kingman;
Fiona Driscoll;
Mustafa Suleyman;
Sir Peter Bazalgette;
Professor Julia Black;
Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz;
Lord (John) Browne of Madingley;
Sir Harpal Kumar;
Professor Max Lu;
Professor Sir Ian Diamond;
Professor Alice Gast;
Vivienne Parry;
Lord (David) Willetts; and
Professor Dame Sally Davies


Leaders at universities across Europe are pushing for the implementation of a new ‘excellence initiative’, which they argue would help increase the competitiveness of higher education systems. Having been initially discussed at a strategy day for European university leaders held in January 2018, the proposed ‘European Excellence Initiative’ would see the European Union provide institution-level funding.

It would be up to each EU member country to choose whether to participate in the initiative, which would primarily be funded by national funds and money from the EU structural funds, supplemented with finance from the EU research and innovation programme. Similar initiatives have already been implemented successfully in countries such as Germany and China.



The latest data from HESA has been made publicly available for free for the first time, under a Creative Commons licence. Detailed extracts from HESA’s student data collection has been made available as open data as part of a push by HESA to encourage reuse of data.

The data has been presented according to a number of key themes, including: who’s studying in higher education; what they’re studying; where they come from; where they study; and student progression rates and qualifications.



In early 2016 Saxton Bampfylde launched a piece of research looking at the changing role of the Chair in the higher education sector: Evolve or die? A view from the chair on the changing face of the university council. Over the past two years, we are delighted to have had the chance to host a total of 104 senior figures in the sector, including 45 Chairs, 40 Vice-Chancellors and 14 Registrars at a series of 12 events held across the country.

During these events, discussions were held about the pertinent issues facing the sector: governance, internationalism, diversity, funding and value for money.

Download our research here.



In March 2018 Dr Jennifer Barnes, Partner for Global Higher Education and Arts and Culture practices, was the Chair and moderator at a higher education symposium held in Oman. The theme of the event was the future of higher education in the age of artificial intelligence: its potential impacts, and the corresponding need for continual development of the next generation through higher education, ensuring their contributions to society go above and beyond AI.

Jennifer is a member of the International Advisory Board made up of leaders in higher education strategy from around the world who advise the Omani government on the developments of the forthcoming University of Oman.



Earlier this year the Leadership Foundation (now integrated into Advance HE) announced its intention to develop a framework outlining ‘diversity principles in practice’ to support higher education institutions to increase the diversity of their boards. The framework is intended to help institutions meet HEFCE’s target of achieving 40 per cent women on boards by 2020 but will also look at diversity in a broader sense.

The organisation is working in collaboration with leading executive search firms for the sector, including Saxton Bampfylde, to look at the role they can play in challenging the higher education sector’s approach to diversity. The project will be informed by a report published in March 2017 by the Leadership Foundation, titled ‘Increasing the diversity of senior leaders in higher education: the role of executive search firms’.

The proposed framework is part of a broader project commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and the Department for the Economy in Northern Ireland, which includes a number of intended outputs aimed at increasing the diversity of higher education governors.

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