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Keynote speakers

Keynote speakers

Professor John Storan

Director of Continuum, the Centre for Widening Participation Policy Studies, University of East London


John is also the Visiting Professor at Malmo University in Sweden. He is also Director of Action on Access which is the national co-ordination team for widening participation originally funded by HEFCE. As founding and current Chair of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE) he represents communities of practitioners involved in HE Access and Lifelong Learning from across the UK and beyond. John has been a highly influential regional, national and international figure on Lifelong Learning and Widening Participation in HE. Over recent years he has been advising and supporting funding agencies, government bodies and also stakeholder groups concerned with access and participation in HE both in the UK and internationally. In addition to his extensive UK experience he also has enormous international experience as result of his keynotes and conference inputs and involvement in a large number of research and development projects. In 2014, John was appointed the UK representative on the Bologna working group for the Social Dimension and Lifelong Learning and in 2016 he was invited to become a member of the Social Mobility Advisory Group (SMAG) which reports directly to the Minister for Universities and Science.



Professor David Green

Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive, University of Worcester

Professor David Green is an economist who taught and researched for many years in University Business Schools in London and Leeds. He has published on international financial markets, the world debt crisis, European banking and other topics in financial economics as well as in regional economics and political economy.

Appointed Principal and Chief Executive of University College Worcester from January 2002, David led the then University College to secure full University title in 2005 and became its first Vice Chancellor.

David serves as a member of Universities UK and Guild HE and the Strategic Board of the West Midlands Higher Education Association. He is a frequent commentator on higher educational matters in the press and broadcast media.


Nicola Dandridge

Chief Executive of the Office for Students

Nicola Dandridge took up her role as the first chief executive of the Office for Students in September 2017. The Office for Students was fully established in April, 2018 and is the new public body which will regulate the higher education sector on behalf of students. The Office for Students aims to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.

Prior to joining the Office for Students, Nicola was chief executive of Universities UK, the representative organisation for the UK’s universities. Before that she was chief executive of the Equality Challenge Unit, the higher education agency which promotes equality and diversity for staff and students. Nicola started her career as a qualified lawyer working in private practice.




Dr Kate Carruthers Thomas

Senior Research Fellow, Birmingham City University

Kate specialises in interdisciplinary enquiry into higher education, inequalities and gender and is currently developing her skills in graphic social science.  Building on a decade of widening participation programme design and management, her doctoral research into dimensions of belonging for part-time, mature undergraduates in English higher education will be published in Routledge’s Focus series later this year.  Kate is currently a co-convenor of the SRHE Access and Widening Participation Network and between 2007-2014, was the national convenor of the UALL (Universities Association for Lifelong Learning) Women in Lifelong Learning network. 



Smita Jamdar

Partner, Head of Education

Smita Jamdar is Relationship Partner for the Shakespeare Martineau’s education clients and advises on strategic, regulatory, constitutional, governance and student matters. Identified as a leader in her field in both Legal 500 and Chambers & Partners, clients describe her as “a calm and reassuring presence...going above and beyond simply providing a service: she is genuinely interested in and cares about the organisation”.   Her approach is best summed up by Chambers & Partners: "She is very knowledgeable about the sector, very well informed about the challenges the sector faces, and insightful about how we could change and adapt."

Smita is a member of the Higher Education Commission, a regular speaker at sector conferences and an enthusiastic contributor to sector debate through the firm’s education blog, Going Further & Higher ( and her twitter feed, @smitajamdar



Ross Renton

Pro Vice Chancellor Students, University of Worcester

Ross Renton is the Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester. Ross has a wide range of responsibilities, including leading the strategy for delivering an outstanding student experience, widening participation and student success, academic and community partnerships, employability and the oversight of the University’s professional services. He represents the University at a national level on these issues and has been an advisor to several public and private organisations.

A keen supporter of inclusion and widening to access higher education (HE), Ross currently holds a variety of positions with external organisations, including Vice Chair of the Forum for Access and Widening Participation (FACE) and Non-Executive Director of Graduate Prospects and HECSU (independent research charity). Most recently, Ross joined the national Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Subject Panel as a Widening Participation expert.

Ross’s research interests are in education policy and he has delivered papers on this work nationally and internationally. Ross is regularly invited to speak at conferences and write articles to share his knowledge on widening participation to HE, student retention, student engagement, HE policy and the University of Worcester’s ‘Suicide Safer Project’.

He can be followed on Twitter: @ross_renton



Prof Jacqueline Stevenson

Head of Research, Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University 

Professor Jacqueline Stevenson is Head of Research in the Sheffield Institute of Education, Sheffield Hallam University. She is a sociologist of education with interests in equity and diversity, widening participation, and student success. Her research focusses in particular on the differential higher education experiences of students from black and minority ethnic backgrounds, religious students, international students, and refugees and other forced migrants. She draws on the theoretical lenses of resilience, belonging, mattering, time, temporality and future selves. Her research is primarily qualitative, using biography, narrative inquiry and life history. She was previously Professor of Higher Education at Leeds Beckett University.


Dr Diana Beech

Director of Policy and Advocacy, Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI)

Diana is the Director of Policy and Advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute – the UK’s only independent think tank exclusively devoted to higher education. Diana holds a PhD in German from the University of Cambridge and has held academic positions at the University of British Columbia and the Technical University of Berlin, before returning to Cambridge to manage a project exploring the values behind European science and innovation policy. Before joining HEPI, Diana worked at the Department for Education as the Programme Manager for the team establishing the Office for Students (OfS). She was also a founding member of the European Commission’s ‘Voice of the Researchers’ network helping to shape EU research policy. Diana has most recently co-edited a collection of ideas for HEPI intended to make higher education accessible for all (published 10 May 2018).