Chief Executive-designate appointed to lead new HE sector agency

11 September 2017

Alison Johns has been appointed the Chief Executive-designate for a new higher education sector agency. The new agency will be formed in 2018 from a merger of the Equality Challenge Unit (ECU), the Higher Education Academy (HEA), and the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education (LFHE).


The process of forming the new agency follows the publication of the Bell Review of higher education sector agencies by Universities UK and GuildHE in January 2017.

The Chief Executive-designate will lead work with the shadow board of the new sector agency on building the strategy and business model of the new agency. Alison Johns has a 25-year track record of achievement in the higher education sector in areas relating to leadership, learning and teaching, and equalities. She is the current Chief Executive of the LFHE.

Nigel Carrington, Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Arts London and Chair of the Shadow Board creating the new agency, said: "Despite strong competition for this role, we are convinced that Alison Johns is the right person to forge the future of the new agency. Alison demonstrated an exceptional level of enthusiasm, forethought and capability for the role. I am sure that under her leadership, planning for the new agency will be in the most capable hands."

Alison Johns said: "I'm delighted to be asked to take up this critical role to plan, develop and deliver the new agency to support higher education. I am totally committed to work closely with colleagues across the sector and the agencies in the coming weeks and months. I want to listen and learn about their views on how we can take advantage of the opportunities ahead, and how we can build on our strengths to create a compelling vision and business model for the future."

"I'm passionate about all aspects of the three agencies' current work. I have had longstanding engagement with and commitment to equality and diversity, learning and teaching and leadership and governance during my career in higher education. I look forward to building on the successful programmes and services each agency offers, and helping the sector rise to the challenges ahead and maintain their world-class reputation for higher education."


  1. An update from Nigel Carrington on progress towards creating a new sector agency was published on 24 July 2017 and can be accessed here. The final report (January 2017) of the sector agencies review group – chaired by Sir David Bell, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Reading – is available to download.

  1. The Chief Executive-designate appointment was made by a panel of two independent members from Universities UK and GuildHE and board members from the ECU, LFHE and HEA. The Chief Executive-designate role starts immediately.

  1. Alison Johns is currently Chief Executive of the LFHE, a sector agency providing support and advice on leadership, governance and management for higher education providers in the UK and internationally. Alison has been with the LFHE since 2014. Prior to that she was Head of Leadership, Governance and Management Policy at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). She has worked for over 25 years in the HE sector. A past President and Chair of the Association of University Administrators (AUA), she has worked extensively internationally and conducted a review of higher education teaching and learning enhancement for the Australian Government. Alison has a track record in equalities work - she is currently advising the Arab Universities Association on advancing women's careers and progression.

Key Contacts

Jo Hindle

Jo Hindle

Head of Media
Universities UK

Luke Lambert

Luke Lambert

Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK

Clara Plackett

Clara Plackett

Senior Press and Social Media Officer
Universities UK


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