Executive Recruitment

Our Board

Professor Simon Gaskell

Professor Simon Gaskell is Chair of the QAA Board. He holds degrees from the University of Bristol and has had an academic career (with multiple industrial connections), both in the UK and US. After spending several years at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, he returned to the UK to take up a chair in mass spectrometry at what was then the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology. His research career has been devoted to the application of physical chemical techniques to the solution of problems in the biomedical sciences. He was closely involved with the merger of UMIST and the Victoria University of Manchester (2002-04), and subsequently became Vice President for Research.

Matthew Adie, Corporate Analyst at JP Morgan Chase & Co

Matt is a former student of the University of Stirling and now works within the Financial Services sector. Matt is passionate about the role students can play in assuring and enhancing the quality of their learning experience and is a strong advocate of the Scottish sector’s enhancement-led approach to quality.

Dr Vanessa Davies, Director of the Bar Standards Board

Dr Vanessa Davies is the Director General of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales. 

She started her professional life as a linguist at King’s College London, where she was a British Academy Post-Doctoral Fellow in French and then a senior lecturer, leading the College’s language centre for seven years. She then moved to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and spent nearly a decade as a senior civil servant, initially as the Director of the Diplomatic Service Language Centre and subsequently leading a Group delivering a range of professional services in support of UK foreign policy. 


Sara Drake, CEO designate at ICSA

Sara studied law at the University of Cambridge and has spent much of her career working in the media sector for both publishing and television companies and as a writers’ agent.  In recent years she has worked with professional bodies in the built environment and construction sectors and has been managing director of the Homebuilders Federation and the Royal Town Planning Institute.  She was appointed Chief Executive of the Association for Project Management in 2015 which was awarded a royal charter in 2016 and has recently been appointed Chief Executive of ICSA – the Governance Institute.  Sara has served as a governor of Kingston University and of local schools.  She currently holds non-executive directorships in the business and construction sectors and is a Trustee of Welcare. 


Linda Duncan, Vice-Chair to the QAA Board

Linda Duncan is Vice-Chair to the QAA Board. She is an established Board Member and Advisor and an accomplished Finance and Audit professional and consultant to REDCap Cloud. Throughout her successful career at PwC, KPMG and more recently as an international entrepreneur, she is a recognised expert in Corporate Governance and Risk Management working with large complex organisations across public and private sectors.

Linda went to school in the north of Scotland and graduated in Accountancy from Napier University, Edinburgh. She went on to qualify with the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy, and led audit and value for money exercises in central and local government for over 25 years.

She is recent past Chair of the Joint Audit Panel for the Metropolitan Police Service and the Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime in London and previously served as a co-opted Member on the Corporate Governance Committee of the Metropolitan Police Authority.

Professor Maria Hinfelaar, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Wrexham Glyndŵr University

Professor Maria Hinfelaar is Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Wrexham Glyndŵr University, a role she has held since 1 April 2016. Prior to this position, Maria served as President and Chief Accounting Officer of the Limerick Institute of Technology, where she oversaw significant development of the Institute, increasing enrolments to nearly 7,000 students and adding campus locations in Limerick and Tipperary.

During her career she has published various articles in journals on the subject of international retailing, in addition to a book entitled Key Success Factors in International Retailing, compiling the findings of her PhD at Maastricht University, the Netherlands. 

Oliver Johnson, Mentor at UEA Business School

Oliver Johnson has wide experience in different sectors and types of organisation, including more than ten years as a CEO and as a Non-Executive Director. He is on the board of Reliance Insurance, a school governor and until recently was CEO of Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust. He mentors and occasionally lectures at the UEA’s business school, and elsewhere.


Professor Craig Mahoney Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of the West of Scotland

Professor Craig Mahoney is Principal and Vice-Chancellor at the University of the West of Scotland. His previous roles have included CEO at the Higher Education Academy and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Northumbria University. A dynamic public advocate of higher education, Craig has a keen interest in differentiated student-centred learning, teaching excellence, internationalisation and research informed teaching. He is an ardent supporter of the use of e-learning; technology to support teaching and open educational resources.

Professor Denise McAlister, Formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning, Teaching and Student Experience) at the Ulster University 

Emerita Professor Denise McAlister was formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Learning,Teaching, and Student Experience) at Ulster University from 2011-2017.

Previous to this she held positions as Head of School, School of Public Policy, Economics and Law, and Dean of the Faculties of Business and Management and Social Sciences and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Quality Assurance and Enhancement).

Previously educated at the Queen’s University of Belfast, the University of Salford and the University of Tromso, Norway, Professor McAlister was appointed to a personal Chair in Health Policy in 1998. Her research interests and expertise include economic appraisal and evaluation, the economics of contracting and the role of the user in health policy evaluation and she is currently on the editorial board of the Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.

Claire Sosienski Smith, Vice President for the Higher Education for the National Union of Students

Claire Sosienski Smith is the current Vice President of Higher Education for the National Union of Students. She believes in an education sector where all students are able to participate fully without financial or social barriers. Prior to her role with the NUS, she was the Women’s Officer at Cambridge University’s Students’ Union, where she reformed the student disciplinary procedure and campaigned for more adequate support for survivors of sexual violence.

Professor Oliver Turnbull, Pro Vice Chancellor (Teaching & Learning) at Bangor University

Professor Oliver Turnbull is Pro Vice Chancellor (Teaching & Learning) at Bangor University, where he has held the post since 2012. He is especially interested in improving the quality of teaching. He led the University’s 2017 TEF application, the University’s 2018 QAA Quality Enhancement Review, and on measures of student satisfaction has overseen the University’s National Student Survey.

Professor Andrew Wathey, Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University

Professor Andrew Wathey has been Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive of Northumbria University since September 2008. He is the University's fourth Vice-Chancellor.

Born in Plymouth, he graduated in Music from the University of Oxford in 1979, where he took his doctorate in Music in 1987.

Professor Wathey's published research has focused on the social and cultural history of music in late-medieval England and France, in particular court patronage, music in medieval towns, and the 14th-century motet. He has also been heavily involved in the digital study of medieval music manuscripts, and was a co-founder of the Digital Image Archive of Medieval Music (DIAMM). He is a member of the British Academy's Early English Church Music Committee, which he chaired 2002-2007, and of the RISM (UK) Trust. He was also Chair of the Music subject panel in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise. 

Craig Watkins, CEO and Managing Director to Kantar Public UK

Craig has been CEO and Managing Director of Kantar Public UK since February 2019. Prior to Kantar Craig was the Business Development Leader for Ernst & Young’s (EY) UK Government & Public Sector practice for over three years.

Craig grew up in Newport, South Wales before graduating from University College Cardiff in Zoology.

Prior to joining EY Craig spent nearly 25 years in the public sector, entering the Civil Service graduate scheme in 1991 and joining the Metropolitan Police Service. During his time with the Metropolitan Police he moved into Finance as a profession and gained an MBA. Craig moved into Whitehall in 2006 as the Head of Strategy at the Office for Criminal Justice Reform for in the Home Office, leading the development of the criminal justice system’s cross agency strategy. In 2008 he became the Director of Corporate Services and CFO for the Youth Justice Board.

Professor Philip Wilson,  Immediate past Chairman of Independent HE

Professor Philip Wilson is immediate past Chairman of Independent HE and working for Conde Nast College.

He is also Chair of the Olympic governing body, British Wheelchair Basketball to lead through and past the Tokyo Olympics and is a co-founder, Director and Trustee of Burnley Football Club in the Community.

A degree in Geography and MBA from the University of Liverpool, upon which received the Paul Roy Award for “Outstanding academic contribution and achievement”.

Professor Philip Winn, Research Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Strathclyde

Professor Philip Winn (BA, PhD - Hull) is Research Professor of Neuroscience at the University of Strathclyde. He has been Head of the Strathclyde Institute of Pharmacy and Biomedical Sciences and a Deputy Principal at Strathclyde, and was previously Dean of Science then Vice Principal (Learning and Teaching) at St Andrews. He has worked with QAA Scotland for several years, chairing Enhancement Theme committees. In parallel with his work in learning and teaching, he and his research team explore brain–behaviour relationships with particular interest in deep brain structures. He is an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology and of the Association for Psychological Science (USA).

You can find out more information on our Board Members here.