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Board Members

The Board comprises a maximum of 25 individuals - 18 external members, the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive, 2 staff representatives, 2 academic board representatives and 2 student representatives (the Students' Union President and one other sabbatical officer).

Role Descriptions for members of the Board are as follows:


External Members

Alison Allden, OBE

  • Board of Governors – External Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Chair
  • Remuneration Committee - Member 
  • Nominations Committee - Member
  • Honorary Awards Committee - Member


Alison has been on the Board of Northumbria University since July 2011 and is now in her third term of office, and is Chair of its Strategic Performance Committee.

Alison is the former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

From 2003 - 2009 Alison was Deputy Registrar and Director of Information Services at Bristol University. Before that she was Director of IT at Warwick University from 1998 - 2003 and moved into the university sector in 1993 as Director of Computing for Goldsmiths College. Prior to that she ran computing for a Department of Health-associated body and worked in IT at two national museums, after gaining an MSc in Computing from LSE.

This followed a 10-year career in archaeology (including being the founding County Archaeologist for Gloucestershire) and a degree in Archaeology, Ancient History and Latin from Bristol University. She gained an MSc from the London School of Economics in Analysis, Design and Management of Information Systems.
She is a Fellow of the British Computer Society, Member of the Institute for Archaeologists, Member of the Chartered Institute for Library and Information Professionals and a Fellow of the RSA. She has sat on various national committees including the Jisc Board supporting IT across the HE sector and concerned with data and information management, and committees of ESRC and AHRC.


Alison is an Independent Governor at Regent’s University London, and is also a lay member of the Bar Standards Board.

In 2016 New Year’s Honours she was awarded an OBE for services to Higher Education.

Craig Apsey

  • Craig _apseyBoard of Governors - External Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member


Craig has been on the Board of Northumbria University since November 2012 and, following a period of leave of absence, is approaching the end of his second three-year term.


Until 2016, Craig was Managing Director at Mouchel Business Services (MBS), one of two divisions of Mouchel Group which provided a range of expert and consultancy services in workforce management, property design, back office and education services until the company floated for £500m.

Previously Craig was Chief Operating Officer for BT's Local, Regional & Devolved Government Business, having spent a number of years in various roles in BT and Syntegra (a wholly owned subsidiary of BT) with a wide range of complex delivery responsibilities to organisations such as Land Registry of Northern Ireland and City of Edinburgh Council, based around the restructuring of customer services using ICT as a key enabler.  During this period he held a number of Directorships of BT Joint Venture Organisations.

Craig has also held roles with the Civil Service where he worked in the IT department of the DSS for 10 years and prior to this as a marketing manager for a group of small companies.

Craig has a BSc (Hons) in Biochemistry from Newcastle University and an MSc in Management of Information Technology from Sunderland University.

Outside work, he enjoys running, horse riding, fishing and wandering about the countryside, in fact anything to do with being outside.

James Bromiley

  • Board of Governors - External Member
  • Audit Committee - Member


James Bromiley was appointed as an Independent Governor with effect from 19 December 2014 for an initial three-year term, which has since been renewed.

James is currently Strategic Director of Finance, Governance and Support at Middlesbrough Council, with a remit covering key corporate services. Previously, he was  a senior civil servant with in excess of ten years’ experience in the education field as Deputy Director for Academies and Deputy Director of Finance at the Department for Education. Before that James held a number of senior positions, including: Assistant Chief Executive/Director, North Yorkshire County Council; roles at HM Treasury and the Cabinet Office; and various audit posts in finance and value for money with the National Audit Office.

James gained an MA in Modern History from Oxford University in 1994 and an MBA from Imperial College Business School in 2002.

James is a qualified chartered accountant and from 1998 has been a full member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW).

Alasdair Corfield

  • Alasdair _corfieldBoard of Governors - External Member
  • Audit Committee - Chair
  • Nominations Committee - Member 


Alasdair Corfield has been a member of the Board of Northumbria since February 2012, and is in his third three-year term of office.  He is Chair of its Audit Committee.

Alasdair is a Chartered Accountant with over twenty years’ experience within the commercial sector, non-departmental government bodies and major central government departments. In 2018 Alasdair was appointed the Finance Director for Police Scotland. Prior to this Alasdair has held a range of senior roles including with the Competition and Marketing Authority (CMA), the Nuclear Regulation Authority and as Senior Finance Business Partner in the Department for Work and Pensions, and the NEST Corporation, a financial services start-up on the fringe of government,

Alasdair graduated from Newcastle University in 1989 with a degree in Accountancy and Financial Analysis.

Dr Graham Hillier

  • Graham _hillierBoard of Governors – External Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Chair 
  • Nominations Committee - Member 

Graham is Director of Strategy and Futures at the Centre for Process Innovation. He has a Degree in Metallurgy, PhD from the University of Cambridge and an MBA. He is a Chartered Engineer, a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. He was Chair of the Board of Redcar and Cleveland College, a further education college, for five years and has held senior roles at ICI, Corus and the CPI.

At CPI Graham develops the strategy for the organisation focusing on technologies that support the efficient use and reuse of increasingly scarce natural resources. CPI has two main technology teams: one working on Sustainable Processes and the other on Printable Electronics.

Graham is a Visiting Professor in the Department of the Built Environment at Salford University, delivers annual lectures at Newcastle, Durham and Salford universities and is currently supervising a PhD student at Newcastle University. Graham is also a Visiting Professor at Teesside University.

Sally Pelham

Sally Pelham

  • Board of Governors - External Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Member
  • Audit Committee - Observer
  • Northumbria University Services Limited – Director

  • Honorary Awards Committee - Member


Sally has been on the Board of Northumbria University since December 2014, and is now in her second three-year term of office, and is Deputy Chair. Sally is also a founding Director of Northumbria University Services Limited, which is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the University.

Sally is Chair of the Seven Stories National Centre for Children’s Books, Newcastle, Chair of Governors at Polam Hall School, Darlington and a Trustee of Kipling Hall, North Yorkshire.

As a qualified solicitor with sixteen years’ experience in the profession, Sally has held senior positions with Eversheds LLP (Leeds), Christie’s International Plc (London), Stephens Innocent (London) and Travers Smith Braithwaite (London).

Sally graduated with 1st Class Honours in Jurisprudence (Law) from Worcester College, Oxford University in 1988 and holds an MA in History of Art from the University of York in 2009.

In 1991, Sally was admitted as a Qualified Solicitor to the Law Society.

Nick Pope

  • Board of Governors - External Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Member


Nick has been on the Board of Northumbria University since January 2016.

Nick is Financial Director and Company Secretary at Godfrey Syrett, a  leading North-East Furniture Manufacturer. Nick’s background is a commercial and strategic CFO, with a proven track record of integrating businesses and delivering growth in a number of senior roles in the UK, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

He has experience of matrix working in a Group structure, as well as founding his own B2B, B2C, SME property business, He has proven success in building and inspiring cross functional teams and commercial success in a number of different countries and cultures.

Nick has an eMBA from IMD in Switzerland and is ACMA qualified, and has expertise in strategic planning, commercial financial leadership, constructing and delivering forecasts and budgets, securing business growth through continuous improvement and ensuring first class risk management and corporate governance.

Amy Rice-Thomson

  • Board of Governors - External Member
  • Audit Committee - Member


Amy Rice-Thomson has been on the Board of Northumbria University since June 2014, and is now in her second three-year term. Amy’s career to date has centred on executive leadership of custodial services (prisons) in the North East of England, including as Deputy Director (Custody) of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) and as Deputy Director of Rehabilitation Services with a portfolio of responsibility across the entire North of England.

Combined with this, Amy has experience of corporate governance, including serving as an Independent Director on the Board of the Special Purpose Company established to oversee the Grand Départ stages of the Tour de France which took place in Yorkshire and the South East of England in July 2014. Amy hails from Newcastle, and holds a degree in Law with French from the University of Leicester.

Chris Sayers - Chair

  • Chris _sayersBoard of Governors – Chair
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Member
  • Nominations Committee - Chair
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member
  • Remunerations Committee – Member 
  • Senior Posts Appointment Committee
  • Honorary Awards Committee


Chris Sayers joined the University’s Board of Governors as an external member in November 2010, became Chair of the Board in July 2012 and was re-appointed for a second three-year term as Chair from November 2013, and third three-year term in 2016.

As Chair, Chris is also a Pro-Chancellor of Northumbria.

In April 2017 Chris was elected for a three-year term as Chair of the Committee of University Chars, the membership body for university governing body heads in the UK. Chris has led flagship consultations in this role, including the CUC Code of Remuneration for Senior Staff in HE (June 2018).

Until 2012, Chris was the BT Group Regional Director for the North East, building on a successful leadership career with BT for twenty-six years, including managing the Local Government sector across the UK for BT Global Services.

He has served as a Non-Executive Director of the Government Office for the North East, and is currently a Non-Executive Director of ARCH,  which is the Northumberland Development Company which has a county-wide remit to attract investment and deliver development and regeneration.

Helen Thorne, MBE

  • Board of Governors - External Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member

Helen has been on the Board of Northumbria University since June 2016

Helen is the Director of External Relations at UCAS, which provides information, advice and admissions services to people looking to enter higher education or purse other educational opportunities. 

In 2010 she worked at the Russell Group of Universities as Head of Policy, and prior to this Helen worked for the UK’s Research Councils for 17 years in a variety of management roles.  She led the Research Councils UK team for 5 years from its inception, promoting partnerships and joint working between the Councils and established and led the Research Councils UK office in the United States, strengthening collaboration between UK and US universities. 

With a degree in biology from the University of York, Helen began her career in pesticides regulation and managing food safety research for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

She was awarded an MBE in 2007 for services to the administration of science.

Dr Jeya Wilson

  • Jeya WilsonBoard of Governors - External Member


Dr Jeya Wilson has been on the Board of Northumbria University since June 2014, and is now in her second three-year term.

Jeya has an international background and has worked in several countries and sectors, and is currently Vice-Chair of the Board of Directors for Fairtrade International, and on the Board of Directors of the Africa Initiative for Governance.  Jeya has also sat on the International Labour Organisation’s Independent Oversight Advisory Board, and the Audit and Ethics Committee of the Global Fund to Fight Aids, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

Jeya has been Chief Executive of Africa’s largest Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Director of Business Partnerships at UNDP, New York, Chief Executive of the World Heart Federation, and New Zealand Honorary Consul. She was also Adjunct Professor and Executive Director of the MBA (International Organisations) at the University of Geneva, and a consultant at the World Health Organisation.

After completing her first degrees in New Zealand she obtained her doctorate in international relations at Oxford as a Commonwealth Scholar, and was a President of the Oxford Union. She also holds the Financial Times Non-Executive Director Diploma.

Jeya has lived in Samoa, Sri Lanka, South Africa, UK, US, New Zealand, Germany and now in Switzerland. In her youth, she was a dedicated motorcyclist, who loved riding her 750cc Dunstall Honda, dubbed the “Yellow Peril” by the traffic police. She was also a member of Actors’ Equity with bit parts in New Zealand soap operas. These days she enjoys hiking in the Alps.

Dr Roberta Blackman-Woods - Chair Elect (will join 01.08.20)

Roberta Woods has recently stepped down as a Member of Parliament, having been the MP for the City of Durham since 2005.  During her time in parliament Roberta served as a Deputy Minister  in the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills, and the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, where she was involved in shaping higher education policy.  Since 2010 she has been the Shadow Minster for Housing, Planning and Local Government.

Roberta helped establish the Westminster Higher Education Form and the Higher Education Commission and has chaired the Parliamentary University Group for several years, a forum where Vice-Chancellors and other senior university officers discuss policy and strategic issues with parliamentarians and ministers.

At an international level Roberta has been an active member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and has made extensive use of these networks to support global education initiatives and foster better parliamentary governance. She has also been the Vice-Chair of the United Nations APPG for a number of years.

Her career before entering parliament included working in social services at Newcastle City Council and as a social policy academic at the University of Ulster and the University of Newcastle. She was Dean of Social and Labour Studies at Ruskin College, Oxford and a Head of School and Associate Dean at Northumbria University.

Having worked in the North East for many years as well as being a local councillor and MP, Roberta has excellent relationships with leaders in the North East region in business, industry, education, culture and politics. She is committed to the development of the region and what the talent and skills of the people offer for the future prosperity of the country.

Roberta has a strong belief in the power of universities not only to transform individual lives but transform communities and societies too. She believes the research, innovation and knowledge exchange they undertake are essential for the creation of new jobs and whole new sectors of the economy. She also greatly values the role universities play in educating  and growing leaders of the future.

Her goal as Chair of the Board at Northumbria University is to support and challenge the senior team  to take the University forward as a major player in the sector and globally, realising this potential with its excellent and distinctive mission, its highly engaged colleagues and successful students.

Roberta has maintained close links with Northumbria over many years including as a Visiting Professor and she is genuinely excited by the opportunity to contribute to its future success as Chair of the Board.

Dr Stuart Fancey

Stuart is Director of Research and Innovation at the Scottish Funding Council where he has responsibility for research policy and funding for Scotland’s universities, including support for the exploitation of research for the benefit of business, society and places.  Stuart and his team work across a broad range of government portfolios and particularly closely with UKRI.

Before he joined the Scottish Funding Council, Stuart had a research career in Scotland and (through a Marie-Curie Fellowship) in Germany.  He then joined the founding management team of a Heriot-Watt University spin-out company, Helia Photonics.

A graduate of the University of St Andrews (BSc) and Heriot-Watt University (MSc and PhD), Stuart is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics.

Outside work, Stuart climbs the hills of the Highlands and the Lake District.

Helen Fairfoul

Helen joined the Board of Northumbria University in March 2020, which she combines with other non-executive and consultancy roles.

Helen is the former Chief Executive of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association (UCEA), having been in that role from 2012 until February 2020. She was also Deputy CEO at UCEA from 2007. In this role Helen has contributed at a sector-level on employment and employee relations, nationally and internationally, including working extensively with trade union representatives.

Prior to working at UCEA Helen has held various lead roles as a Human Resources specialist. She was HR Director at the University of Roehampton, where she also spent three years as Clerk to the University Council, and Director of Personnel at the London Borough of Greenwich. Helen began her career in local government, joining the Inner London Education Authority and undertaking roles there ranging from teacher recruitment to school governance.

Helen has a degree in History and an MBA. She is also a Chartered Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development and an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Employment Studies

Sophie Haagensen

Sophie is currently Head of Strategy and Planning at Atom Bank, one of the UK’s leading challenger banks and a globally recognised FinTech. Sophie joined Atom at its inception in 2014 and has covered a number of disciplines to support the start-up’s rapid growth from a team of just six to c.400 today. She played a significant role in securing Atom’s banking license, was Programme Director for the launch of the bank and has acted as Chief of Staff to the CIO.

Sophie joined Atom Bank from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership where, as Deputy Director, she played a central role in driving the development of the Strategic Economic Plan for the North East. The plan secured £290m in a competitive national bidding process - the third highest award in the country.

Previously, Sophie led a strategy team at the Department for Work and Pensions responsible for advising ministers on the viability of new policy proposals. She also advised on the digitalisation of services and a major organisational restructure to deliver digital transformation.

Sophie joined the Civil Service Fast Stream in 2010 before joining the Cabinet Office, where she project managed the launch of Big Society Capital – the world’s first social investment bank, and oversaw the £150m loan book of the Futurebuilders fund.

Sophie gained a BSc in Biology from the University of Nottingham (2004) and graduated with distinction from Northumbria University in both her MSc in Business and Management (2009) and her MBA (2014).

Peter Judge, MBE

Peter re-joined the Board in January 2020 having previously served on the Board from 2010-2012, and is also the University’s Senior Independent Governor.  Peter also holds a master’s degree in International and European law from Durham University and has served as Durham’s University Secretary.

Peter currently chairs the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), and the Development Trust of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM).  He is also a Board member of the Marine Management Organisation.

A solicitor with a wealth of leadership experience gained in complex organisations, Peter’s early career was as a corporate lawyer in private practice before serving as Legal and Procurement Director and Group Company Secretary of the Regional Development Agency, One North East and other in-house roles. Continuing his work in the North East’s economic development, Peter is currently Chief Legal Officer of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

As Attorney General of the British Overseas Territories of the Falkland Islands and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (2014-2017), Peter was responsible for all the Governments’ legal and regulatory functions including directing public prosecutions and new legislation.

Peter was appointed as an MBE for services to Economic Development and the North East region in 2012 and named UK In-House Lawyer of the Year by The Lawyer Magazine in 2010.

Simon Yellowley

Simon is the North of England Regional Chair for British Telecoms (BT), and he also runs BT’s Public Sector business across the North of England with customers including Local Authorities, Health (National and Regional), Ambulance, Fire and Rescue, Universities and the largest Housing Associations. Simon is also a CBI Regional Councillor.

Previously Simon was the North East Regional Chair for BT and has run BT’s Public Sector business across various geographies in the UK.

Simon has held a number of different roles within his 22 year BT career, including Industry Executive, Business Development Director, Principle Consultant and Business Analyst. Simon has worked in the ICT industry for 30 years and one of his personal highlights was to Partner with South Tyneside Council to create BT South Tyneside, a successful 10 year strategic partnership to create local jobs, operate efficient Council services and build a new BT building on the riverside in South Tyneside.

Outside work, he enjoys running, art, dog walking and the historic Northumberland coast and countryside.

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Wathey, CBE

  • Vice ChancellorVice-Chancellor
  • Chief Executive
  • Board of Governors – Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Member
  • Nominations Committee – Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member 
  • Remuneration Committee – Attendee
  • Senior Posts Appointments Committee – Member

Professor Andrew Wathey became Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University in September 2008. He is the University's fourth Vice-Chancellor. Previously, he was Senior Vice-Principal at Royal Holloway, University of London, from 2006, and Vice-Principal from 2003.

He was appointed Professor of Music History at Royal Holloway, University of London in 1999, where he was also Head of Department and Dean of the Faculty of Arts. He was a Junior Research Fellow at Merton College Oxford, and then a Research Fellow at Downing College, Cambridge, moving to Royal Holloway in 1989. He was a Visiting Fellow at All Souls College, Oxford in 1998. Since 1989 he has been a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society; he is also a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, and of the Royal Society of the Arts, and was a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association from 2001 to 2009.

Professor Wathey’s published research focuses on the social and cultural history of music in late-medieval England and France. He is a co-founder of the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM), and a member of the British Academy's Early English Church Music Committee, which he chaired 2002-2007. He also chaired the Music subject panel in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise.

Professor Wathey has served on a number of national bodies and committees. He chairs the Student Loans Company Stakeholder Forum, and is a Board member of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, and of the Quality Assurance Agency, and is a member of the Council of the All Party Parliamentary Universities Group. He has chaired the North East regional higher education association Universities for the North East, and was Deputy Chair of the University Alliance 2009-12.

Regionally, he is an elected Member of the CBI Regional Council, and a Governor of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. He also serves on the Boards of the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Arts and the NewcastleGateshead Initiative.

Professor Wathey was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the New Year 2016 Honours List, for services to Higher Education.

Staff Representatives

Lorraine Brown

  • Board of Governors – Support Staff Representative Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Observer

Lorraine Brown was appointed as the support staff representative on the Board of Governors with effect from December 2017 for a three-year term.

 John Taylor

  • Board of Governors – Academic Staff Representative Member

Academic Board Representatives

Jean Brown

  • Board of Governors – Academic Staff Representative Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member


Lucy Hatt

  • Board of Governors – Academic Staff Representative Member

Student Representatives

Emmanuel Kabengele

  • Board of Governors – Student Representative Member
  • Employment and Finance Committee - Observer

Emmanuel Kabengele is the current Students' Union President for 2019/20.  Emmanuel sits on the Board of Governors in his capacity as a student representative.

Emmanuel leads a team of five sabbatical officers in the Students’ Union and also chairs the Union's Board of Trustees. The sabbatical officers have been elected by students, for students whilst they are also responsible for the strategic management of the students’ union.

Emmanuel is accountable to the Student Council (a democratic, representative body within the Students’ Union) for his actions and conduct as President of the Students’ Union.  

Claudia Shaw

  • Board of Governors – Student Representative Member
  • Strategic Performance Committee - Member 

Claudia is the current Vice President Education of the Student's Union.

(Content to follow) 


Secretary to Board of Governors

Susan O'Donnell is Secretary to the Board of Governors

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