University Alliance has appointed a new Chief Executive Officer, Vanessa Wilson, who will take up the role on 18th March 2019.

Vanessa is the current Director of Commercial and Communications at UK Sport, the government’s lead agency for delivering elite sporting success and major sporting event hosting in the UK. A key part of Vanessa’s role has been championing the significance of public funding and National Lottery investment across the c. 55 Olympic and Paralympic sports and c.1100 Olympic and Paralympic athletes that receive funding.

Vanessa has held senior strategic communications, campaigns and marketing roles across Whitehall – including the-now Department for Education (2000-2005) and the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (2005-2011).

Professor John Latham, University Alliance Chair and Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University said:

“I am delighted and excited Vanessa will be joining us in March.

“Vanessa has huge experience of Whitehall and Westminster – as a civil servant and ministerial advisor; in lobbying, campaigning and advocacy; and marketing, partnerships and sponsorship. Her energy, drive and attitude will be a huge asset to the Alliance. She stood out in a strong field.

“Vanessa will be reviewing our core mission, vision and objectives, working to members and working across the sector. We will be strengthening our business model, commercial strategy and member services; sharpening our public positioning; and building a broader coalition of partners. We’ll start setting out these plans in the summer.

“The Alliance has put forward bold policies to create a top-class post-18 system. We have built up a strong agenda to support and establish a top-class technical, professional and vocational skills system. Universities are in a tough, volatile policy, political and public environment – together, our job is to establish consensus for long-term investment and reform in tertiary education, research and innovation.”

Vanessa Wilson, incoming University Alliance Chief Executive said:

“It is a huge privilege to be joining the University Alliance at this critical point in post-18 Education. I am very much looking forward to working closely with all our members -including past and prospective – to effectively represent the significant role that University Alliance universities play in our society in defining and delivering the future of a successful Global Britain.”



About Vanessa Wilson:

  • Vanessa joined the Civil Service from University in 1996
  • Over the course of 15 years Vanessa worked across 4 Government Departments (DfEE, DWP, DfES, Defra) in various communication roles advising Ministers and senior policy officials.
  • It was at Defra that Vanessa joined the Senior Civil Service as Head of the Strategic Communications Unit having established extensive crisis communications plans into the department and advised Ministers / Senior Officials on handling for issues such as Bird Flu, Climate Change; waste reduction, reuse and recycling.
  • In 2011, Vanessa joined UK Sport, the government’s lead agency for delivering Olympic and Paralympic medal success and hosting major sporting events as the Director of Commercial and Communications.
  • During her 7 years at UK Sport, Vanessa worked on four Olympic and Paralympic Games including the Games hosted in London and the historic Rio Games at which Team GB and ParalympicsGB won more medals than were won at the host games in London to secure 2nd position on both the Olympic and Paralympic medal tables.
  • During this time Vanessa played a pivotal role in making the case to Government to secure record investment for Olympic and Paralympic sport as well as establishing UK Sport as the stand out National Lottery distributor for acknowledging and promoting the role that National Lottery Good Cause funding plays evidenced through peak National Lottery sales during the London and Rio Games.
  • Concurrently between 2014-2018 Vanessa was an external trustee and Deputy Chair at University of Lincoln Students Union a role which brought Vanessa to the heart of the issues facing Higher Education from a student and a student union perspective, a role that Vanessa found immensely rewarding.
  • Vanessa juggles her professional career and that of her personal life in particular that of her exuberant 9-year-old who serves to constantly ground her and remind her of the important things in life.


About University Alliance:

  • Alliance universities have been proud leaders in technical and professional education since the industrial revolution and are still crucial to the success of cities and sectors today, educating the professional workforce of the future, providing flexible and responsive R&D to businesses of all sizes and solving the problems facing society locally, nationally and across the globe. We are large enough to take risks, experienced at working with key partners and have never lost the enterprising mindset which says we must constantly innovate to stay fit for a changing world.  Visit:
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