Outside In: Leveraging External Perspectives in Higher Education

CANVAS Higher Education Edition 2023

We are delighted to share the latest Higher Education edition of our leadership insights publication – CANVAS.

The years since the pandemic began in 2020 have seen universities innovate, take risks and embrace new modes of working, as they respond to major and shifting challenges within an ever constrained funding and regulatory environment.  This trend is only partially true when it comes to the selection of leaders for senior roles.  Some university panels have – perhaps understandably – taken a more cautious approach to selection, whereas others have embraced a level of risk and made out-of-sector appointments or backed potential over experience.  It has been fascinating to observe this trend through our work.

There is perhaps more of an appetite now to test other talent pools for senior roles in higher education than ever before.  Shortlists for senior roles are becoming more sector-diverse, and, encouragingly, more diverse in general.  These trends will lead us as a sector to richer senior teams with more leadership breadth, and a wealth of experience to call upon.  Adjacent sectors will also benefit from the cross-pollination of talent, and it is possible that higher education and its myriad external partners, stakeholders and collaborators will benefit enormously in the long run.  This could add resilience in the face of the increasing headwinds in our sector.

In this edition of CANVAS, we are delighted to welcome two senior leaders, appointed by Saxton Bampfylde, who have stepped outside their sectors to take on strategic leadership roles: in one case from the private sector into higher education, and in another, from higher education into government. Both highlight how the diversity of thought and approach to leadership, organisation, governance and people can enhance and reap positive rewards.

We were delighted firstly to speak to Grainne Brankin, College Secretary and General Counsel at Imperial College London, as she approaches the end of her two years in the role in December 2023. Grainne’s stellar career has been predominantly within the private sector working for global law firms, plc and private equity businesses. Her move to Higher Education in early 2022 encouraged her to review and reset some expectations, as she transferred into a sector within its own unique model. She welcomes the collegiality from her peers across her institution and beyond.  Her ‘outside’ voice has been sought on an increasing basis and is now being embraced throughout the organisation.

We are also delighted to talk to Professor Jas Pal Badyal, who was appointed Chief Scientific Advisor to the Welsh Government in January 2023.  A Professor of Chemistry at Durham University Jas Pal has driven much collaboration between science, academia and business, resulting in significant patent applications from his department. Further to his academic work his passion for self-development and a desire to help others took Jas Pal to work in refugee camps where he used his scientific approach and planning to address a number of humanitarian challenges. He tells us how this wide-ranging experience, deep belief in science as a route to change society’s future for the better, and a commitment to engendering wide-ranging views all influenced his decision to take on this new role.

In this addition of CANVAS we are also very happy to introduce our colleague Dr Eugenia Gonzalez as she shares some personal snippets, as well as professional experience and snapshot insights into the sector. Eugenia joined the team as a consultant in 2022 and brings a wealth of experience in higher education executive search.



Read CANVAS – Higher Education 2023