CEO update, March 2020

It has been a busy 12 months at London Higher and many changes have been taking place. In the autumn of 2019 following an organisational review and approval of a new business strategy, we embarked on a restructure of operations and core staffing. The aim of this being to enable us to place greater focus on external engagement, advocacy of the achievements and impacts of London’s wonderfully diverse HEIs and telling these stories to different audiences.  One of the first projects has been the London Impact Catalogue showcasing the research and knowledge exchange work of London’s universities. With over 50 case studies already gathered, this important resource which London Higher will continue to build on, will be used to reach out to regional and national bodies.

Over the coming months amongst other activities we will be campaigning for a more robust measure of participation than POLAR, forming a new collaboration to focus on tackling racism in institutions, and developing our work on mental health and wellbeing for students and for staff. At the moment, and as we have at different points since 2003, London Higher is getting ready to prepare and advocate the case for maintaining London weighting in funding formulae. Today in terms of the recurrent teaching grant alone this is still worth c.£64M to London’s world class HEI cluster.  Over all of this, and unforeseen until recently, we will be looking at what we can do to assist the effort to overcome the coronavirus outbreak.

On the staffing front much has also changed over recent months.  A few of our long serving colleagues have moved on and new colleagues have joined London Higher. In February we welcomed Chloe Bukata into the new role of Head of Communications and External Affairs, and Alec Webb joined as senior policy officer.  Looking further ahead, I can now tell everyone that later in the summer I will be stepping down as CEO.  By then I will have been with London Higher for over 18 years, creating a forum in which members can share thoughts and ideas, work together on projects of common interest and act as a voice for London’s universities.

The coronavirus crisis has led to the cancellation of a number of events, including our London Impact civic engagement event.  We will be looking to rearrange these, but meanwhile we will be using our website and social media to promote some of the key messages.

Since I first joined back in 2002, London Higher has weathered many storms in and around the sector and has adapted successfully to fluid times.  There have been some notable successes, a few rollercoaster rides and an awful lot has been accomplished.  If I was to pick out just one highlight now it would be the initiation and delivery of the highly acclaimed Podium project that led engagement of higher and further education with the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games, in London and nationally.  Most of all, though, over the years it has been my pleasure and my privilege to work with some wonderful people – colleagues in the sector, Board members, and Chairs. And of course I have been on this journey with some fantastic team colleagues – without whom the achievements would have been far fewer – and some not gained at all.

The coronavirus situation may well prove the toughest challenge for decades for London Higher, London HEIs and indeed the capital, the UK and beyond.  One thing I am certain of is that our institutions and the people in them will be a part of the solution to dealing with, and recovering from, this worldwide crisis.  London Higher will do whatever it can to bring collaborations together, share emerging good practice, convene discussions and also promote positive stories that will emerge.  Working together is key to success.

It will be natural and appropriate time for me to exit at the end of the summer and I look forward to seeing someone with new energy and vision ushering in a new era for London Higher – an organisation that is and will remain close to my heart.  Between then and now I will in some of my blogs look back over the years and talk about a few of the memorable moments, as well as of course providing regular updates on other activities including the London Higher and London HEI responses and initiatives related to the coronavirus outbreak.