HE leaders and heroes

This #InternationalWomensDay, we’re celebrating the Inspirational women of the Alliance – those working in our member universities who have been nominated by their peers and colleagues for their inspirational leadership, outstanding contribution to their field or collaborative approach to their work.

In our first category, these are the HE leaders and heroes of the Alliance, the amazing women who are leading the way in Higher Education, forging a path and inspiring students and colleagues with their drive, passion and commitment to the sector.

You can see all 6 categories here.

Ruth Whittaker, PVC, Education and Students, University of Brighton

Ruth leads with clarity, professionalism and compassion. She is inspiring in her genuine and democratic approach to leading and developing staff, her enthusiasm for improving the student experience and her willingness to really listen to and take on board a range of views, whilst providing a clear direction.

Dr Jen Vanderhoven, Director of the National Horizons Centre, Teesside University

As Director of Teesside University’s National Horizons Centre (NHC), Dr Jen Vanderhoven is leading the charge to establish the Tees Valley as a global centre for bioscience. Dr Vanderhoven joined the National Horizons Centre, a £22.3 million national centre of excellence for the bioscience sector, in September 2020 and has quickly established it as one of the UK’s leading facilities for research, collaboration, skills and training for the life sciences. Working tirelessly to enhance the NHC brand, she has developed key partnerships in the sector ensuring the centre’s provision is driven by the region’s current and future needs for skills, research, innovation and talent. With the Tees Valley being used as one of the centres for the manufacturing of the Novovax COVID-19 vaccine, the NHC, under Dr Vanderhoven’s leadership, will play a vital role in developing the skills of the UK’s vaccine manufacturing workforce. Prior to joining Teesside University, Dr Vanderhoven spent more than 15 years in leadership roles in higher education and the commercial sector where her experience included business development at world-leading businesses such as Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, research at cutting-edge educational institutions and building a 1,300-member network of strategic biotech companies and policy-makers. Prior to this role, Dr Vanderhoven spent four years as a manager of a government-funded Industrial Biotechnology Network, fostering collaborations between academia, industry and policy makers, in order to find new approaches to tackle research challenges, translate research and deliver key benefits in the biotechnology sector. Harnessing her previous experience, Dr Vanderhoven is an advocate for the Tees Valley region; and an inspiration for women in the north-east region and beyond; championing the role of women working in the science sector and acting as a mentor for Northern Power Women. This commitment is reflected at home with her encouragement of her six-year-old daughter Freyja to carry out science experiments in the garden. Her national reach extends to Whitehall, as co-author of the UK Industrial Biotechnology Strategy that was officially presented to UK Government in 2017 and adopted along with its associated road map.

Professor Julie Lydon OBE, Vice Chancellor University of South Wales

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to work with Julie in a number of roles over the years, and she has always inspired me with her personal passion and dedication, and has shown inspirational leadership in guiding her institution, and the Welsh sector, through significant periods of change. Julie is retiring this year, and she will be sorely missed. Julie was the first female Vice-Chancellor in Wales, and will leave a lasting legacy on the higher education sector in Wales and across the UK.

Tracey John, Director of Research, Business and Innovation, UWE

Tracey brings so much energy, clarity and vision to every conversation.

Jav Ghuman, Senior policy advisor, Coventry University

Whatever the issue of the day, you know Jav will cut through the noise to the most important details, as well as seeing the bigger picture, and share an astute and thoughtful response.

Amanda Bright, Head of School of Art, University of Brighton

Amanda is a member of UA’s Heads of School of Arts Network and has inspired through her commitment to do the best by her students, staff and colleagues. Always happy to share how Brighton are approaching challenges, Amanda is a positive collaborative spirit and a tremendous asset to the network.



Chizoma Okaro, Director of HR at the University of Hertfordshire,

Chizoma is a no-nonsense, straight talking professional who never fails to add tremendous value and contribution to the HR network. During her time with the network Chizoma earned promotion to her current role, richly deserved. Chizoma is generous with her advice and wisdom, never a dull a meeting when Chizoma is in attendance.

Professor Bugewa Apampa, Professor of Access and Participation, Birmingham City University

Professor Apampa has an insatiable appetite for ensuring that education serves as a tool for transformation for students across the University. Her work is vital for the University to deliver on its aims of ensuring higher education allows students to achieve their best, and equips them with the skills, knowledge and ability for a future career. She is a pleasure to work with and her passion for her work is tangible in all that she does.

Dr Louise Bright, Director of Research and Business Engagement, University of South Wales

She’s never one to shout about her achievements but has quietly and substantially been a key leader in our work on equalities, business networking and partnerships development and in actively supporting researchers across the University

Professor Mary Wild, Head of School of Education, Oxford Brookes University

Creative problem solving; empower and embolden others; can see ideas from a range of perspectives; intellectual and approachable

Rosie Fean, Change Manager, University of Greenwich

Rosie has been the driving force behind getting the University of Greenwich’s Women’s Network off the ground. She is passionate, inspirational and driven, and a genuinely a lovely person!

Heather Sears, Head of Researcher Capability and Development,  Coventry University

Heather’s enthusiasm for her work, supporting the development of researchers at Coventry University, is both inspiring and infectious for those she works with and for. You can always rely on Heather to come up with an innovative way to engage researchers, which has been invaluable during the Covid months of online delivery. Heather understands people and knows how to get the best out of them, giving researchers, as well as those who work with her, the confidence to express themselves and their work. She is also very good at creating connections between like-minded colleagues.

Dr Louise Owusu-Kwarteng, Associate Professor of Sociology 

She inspires staff and students in equal measure with her steadfast commitment to both the university and ensuring that students excel in their studies.

Jo Midgley, Registrar and Pro vice chancellor for student experience, UWE Bristol

Jo is an inspiration because she has such a positive, can do attitude. She cares passionately about our students and our commitment to helping them be the best they can be. She leads with kindness and purpose, and makes me proud every day to be at such a great institution

Sarah Madden-Queralt, Deputy Director of Sport & Estates Strategic Projects, Oxford Brookes University

Sarah has worked for the University for 13 years. During that time she has risen from sports administrator to the Deputy Director of Sport. In the last two years she has expanded her involvement in the Estates & Campus Services Directorate by firstly working on secondment in Campus Services as an interim site manager, managing a range of operational staff on one of campuses, and latterly coordinating our Covid operations and recently as strategic projects deputy director. Sarah does everything with excellence in mind and is constantly looking to develop herself and others. She is an inspiring role model for women in sport and within estates.

Karen Barton, Director of Learning and Teaching, University of Hertfordshire

Karen is an inspirational leader. She empowers all around her, encouraging and enabling all to succeed. Her calm, collected leadership of technology enhanced learning meant that our shift to more online teaching and assessment during Covid has been very successful and we’ve seen benefits for many of our students

Professor Carol Doyle, Head of School of Nursing and Midwifery, Birmingham City University

Professor Carol Doyle’s effort and contributions are always exceptional, but have been utterly extra-ordinary since the first lockdown in March 2020 and have highlighted her skills in leading and managing with compassion. She truly has been an inspiration. Professor Doyle has led the Birmingham City University School of Nursing and Midwifery in an exemplary fashion and her strength and compassion is an inspiration. The “perfect storm” of lockdown induced rapid switch to online learning, the impact of the Nursing and Midwifery Council Emergency Standards, the Health Education England directive to deploy students have literally created an unprecedented level and intensity of change to curricula and the way in which we have had to work with our practice partners. The way in which Carol has stayed calm and levelheaded, clearly and visibly leading and steering the School of Nursing and Midwifery has been an inspiration to her School Management Team – but has had a ripple effect on those throughout the School. Carol’s commitment to ensuring excellent partnerships with practice has also been inspirational. It has meant that the School of Nursing and Midwifery has been able to navigate difficult decisions with relative ease – always remembering the people at the heart of every interaction. Carol has diligently stayed in communication with both academics and students and sharing her own personal experiences with staff during the darkest days of lockdown and how she managed her own lockdown/working from home life also been an inspiration for all. These communications were honest and laced with warmth and compassion. These were very much valued by staff and heads of department and it contributed to the feeling of support that all School staff feel. Carol has been extremely sensitive of the impact that COVID has had on both staff and students. She has shown kindness and compassion and always has considered the welfare of the staff and students when making difficult decisions. Carol has supported course leaders throughout these times, attending webinars and shouldering decision making through direct communications with students. Whilst making initial recovery plans, Carol valued the contribution the senior team made in making decisions in these unprecedented times. The way she works empowers people and gives strong and confident direction in their own decision making. She truly cares about who she works with, and for, and has never lost sight of her nursing background. That, in itself, provides inspiration.

Professor Jane Turner OBE DL, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise & Business Engagement), Teesside University

Jane is a force of nature, working tirelessly to inspire and raise the aspirations of young people across the North East. A proud champion of young female leaders, she received the Lifelong Inspiration Award at the Tees Businesswomen Awards earlier this year in recognition of her outstanding work. Insightful, dedicated and determined, Jane is a wonderful colleague and an inspiration to all who know her.