Our Council, of up to 12 members, focuses on strategic policy issues, major matters of substance and significance and maintaining oversight of our activities.

We hold around eight Council meetings per calendar year. We also follow a cycle of visits to institutions and host a number of committee meetings and events.

All our Council business is conducted in accordance with its Standing Orders.

Governance documents

Council members

Council members are appointed by the Welsh Government through an initial open recruitment exercise, and may be re-appointed by the Welsh Government to serve additional terms on the Council.

On appointment, Council members sign the HEFCW Council Members Code of Conduct, which includes an agreement to adhere to the Seven Principles of Public Life.

Council and Committee members are required to complete a declaration of interests form for the public register. A biography of each Council member is available by clicking on the member’s name.


Rob HumphreysRob Humphreys joined the HEFCW Council in 2018 and has been Interim Chair of Council since January 2021. He has been a leader and practitioner in adult education for many years and held the role of Director of The Open University in Wales from 2007 to 2017. Before joining the OU Rob was Director of the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education in Wales, and prior to that taught adult education at Swansea University for 12 years. During his time at Swansea he worked on the award-winning Community University of the Valleys project for which he was awarded a Distinguished Teaching Award, and was a founder member and first chair of the Swansea Festival of Learning.

He was twice elected by University leaders in Wales to the post of Vice Chair of the sector-wide body, Universities Wales.

Rob has been appointed by the Welsh and UK Governments to serve on a number of major reviews and Commissions, each leading to major constitutional or sectoral change. These include the Independent Review of Higher Education (2009), the All-Wales Convention (2009-2010), the Commission on Devolution (the ‘Silk Commission’, 2010-2014), and most recently the Diamond Review of higher education funding in Wales (2015-16). He was appointed by the Welsh Government as Chair of the independent review of governance in further education (the Humphreys Review) and as the independent chair of the merger of the two Workers Educational Association organisations in Wales to become WEA Cymru (now Adult Learning Wales) of which he was the first chair of the governing body. On two occasions was appointed as specialist adviser to the Welsh Affairs Committee of the United Kingdom Parliament.

He is a member of the Independent Commission on the College of the Future, a Trustee of the National Museum of Wales, and a Trustee of the British Council (for which he also chairs its Wales Advisory Committee).

Originally from Montgomeryshire where he was brought up on a tenanted family farm, Rob was a labourer on leaving school and was later awarded a trade union scholarship to attend Ruskin College Oxford as a mature student. He is a graduate of Cardiff University. Rob is an elected Fellow of the Learned Society of Wales and in 2015 was awarded a CBE for his contribution to adult education and voluntary movements in Wales.

David BlaneyDavid was born and raised in Essex, took a first degree in Business Studies, an MBA and a doctorate from Cardiff focusing on the management of higher education.

After completing his first degree, David lectured for two years in Business Information Systems at Humberside, following which he moved to Wolverhampton for three years to lecture in Information Systems Management. Having been promoted to Principal Lecturer at Wolverhampton, David moved in 1993 to a corporate academic development role at Gwent College of HE (which became University of Wales, Newport). Over a 12 year period at University of Wales, Newport, David held a number of roles including Head of Academic Development, Director of Quality and Assistant Principal (Academic), in addition to playing a substantial role in the federal University of Wales as a member of Court, Council, the Academic Board and a range of other committees.

David moved to the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales in 2005 as Head of Funding and Reconfiguration, was promoted in 2007 to the role of Director of Strategic Development and became Chief Executive in 2012.

Aaqil AhmedAaqil Ahmed is the former Head of Religion and Ethics at both the BBC and Channel 4. At the BBC his role included commissioning religion TV, running in house TV and radio production in Salford and Belfast as well as being the Head of Religion internally and externally.

At Channel 4, he was also the Head of Multicultural Programming, winning numerous awards from BAFTA, Emmy to Royal Television Society, as well as receiving nominations including Grierson and Oscar.

As an experienced programme maker and executive Aaqil has worked on many award winning documentaries and programmes over the past twenty five years, delivering many ground breaking projects such as The Life of Muhammad, The Qur’an, The Hajj, Kumb Mela, Installation of Pope Francis and the first Ashura to be held in post Saddam Iraq in Karbala.

Aaqil is Professor of Media at the University of Bolton and a published writer, speaker and leader in media, diversity, religion, demographics and culture.

As well as being a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, he is a co-founder and Board member of Princes Trust youth mentoring organisation Mosaic, a council member of the Advertising Standards Authority and advises a number of foundations and businesses on religious literacy and diversity.

His company, Aaqil Ahmed Media Consultancy specialises in Television and digital media production, religion and diversity strategy and training as well as international development training in media and religious literacy.

Tracy Bhamra

Tracy Bhamra was appointed as the Senior Vice-Principal Student and Staff Experience at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2021. She has strategic responsibility for the enhancement of the student experience and the further development of the staff experience, and also provides leadership for the taught postgraduate activities and the broader civic engagement agenda at the institution.

Previously, Tracy was Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise) at Loughborough University where she was responsible for the strategic direction of the University in relation to all enterprise activity and engagement with external organisations along with strategic leadership on matters relating to student and graduate enterprise, knowledge exchange and impact, and the University’s Science and Enterprise Park.

Tracy is a Chartered Engineer (CEng), and a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering & Technology (FIET), the Design Research Society (FDRS) and the Royal Society of the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures & Commerce (FRSA).

James DaviesBorn on the Gower and graduating from Swansea University (Mech Eng), James worked for 32 years at CalsonicKansei (a Tier 1 Automotive supplier) in UK, Europe and Japan, leading their Thermal Management Division ($2.5bn).

In April 2017, he became CEO of Industry Wales, to bring voice of Technology, Engineering and Manufacturing industry to Welsh Government including responsibility for three Industry sector forums – Electronics/Software (Technology Connected), Automotive (WAF) and Aerospace (AWF).

He sits on Regional based strategy Groups such as the Swansea Bay City Deal and CCR Skills Partnership. He has recently completed terms on the Ministerial Advisory Board (MAB) for Economy & Transport in Wales, Valleys Taskforce and the Burns Commission to progress the South East Wales Traffic concern.

Recently joined as Board Member of Respiratory Innovation Wales to support business and industry engagement in Health Innovation.

Christine EnnewChristine Ennew is Provost at the University of Warwick where she supports the Vice Chancellor in the academic leadership of the University. A key aspect of her role is leading the development and delivery of the University’s academic strategy, ensuring that Warwick remains competitive and relevant within HE and beyond. She is responsible for the efficient and effective use of academic resources (including departmental resources, capital planning and space management, and information resources). In addition, she is Chair of the University’s Social Inclusion Committee and is the Executive Board lead for the University environmental sustainability strategy and its implementation.

Christine graduated from Cambridge University and completed her PhD at Nottingham. She was previously one of Nottingham’s Pro Vice Chancellors and served as Provost and CEO of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus. She joined the University of Warwick in August 2016.

In 2016, Chris was awarded an OBE as part of the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to Higher Education and British-Malaysian Relations.

She is currently a member of the Board of Directors for Common Purpose Student Experiences.  She is also a Board Member for the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and Chair of its Regulation Committee.

John GraystoneJohn has a wide background in education, having taught in schools and in post-16 education; been a lecturer two higher education institutions and served as an educational researcher for the Health Education Council and at the University of Bristol; and developed policy for the Trades Union Congress and later the Association of Metropolitan Authorities in post-16 education.

He joined The Staff College, then the management development centre for the post-16 sector, in 1986 and became a senior manager with responsibility for external training and international work.

From 1995, he was Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges in the Eastern Region, representing 40 further education (FE) and sixth form colleges in the East of England, and later became the first Regional Director for the Association of Colleges in South West England representing a similar number of colleges.

John served as Chief Executive of Colegau Cymru/Colleges Wales for thirteen years from 2001, representing all FE colleges and FE institutions in Wales. In that capacity, he was a member of a number of key Welsh Government committees and working groups, responded to key Welsh Government policies and gave evidence to Welsh Assembly enquiries. He then took over as acting Director of NIACE Cymru, covering maternity leave.

John has carried out numerous consultancies in Wales, the UK and overseas, most recently in governance and related matters. He has published widely on education policy matters.

A psychology graduate from Nottingham University, Hhe received a Masters in Education for research into the role of the teacher in resource based learning from Bristol University and a PhD for research into the governance of FE colleges in the UK from the University of Bath.

John is an Honorary Fellow of Coleg Sir Gâr and of Bridgend College. He received a UK award from the Association of College Management for his contribution to education, a Times Educational Supplement Lifetime Achievement Award recognising his services to post-16 education and the Chancellor’s medal by the University of Glamorgan.

John has served on the Boards of the Bristol Old Vic Theatre, the National Extension College and the Tourism Training Forum for Wales. Until recently, he served on the audit committee of the University of South Wales and was deputy chair of the Board of The College Merthyr Tydfil. He currently chairs Addysg Oedolion Cymru/Adult Learning Wales, having overseen the merger of WEA Cymru and the YMCA Community College. He also chairs the Board of Agored Cymru, the Welsh awarding body. He is a governor of Bridgend College and serves on a number of its key committees.

John has been appointed to the Board of the National Academy for Educational Leadership and chairs its Finance and HR committee. He is also a member of the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body advising the Minister for Education on the pay of schoolteachers, and is a member of the Dŵr Cymru/Welsh Water membership body. He also sits on the editorial board of the Welsh Journal of Education.

Peter HigsonPeter grew up in the Conwy Valley in North Wales. After completing a first degree and PhD in Psychology at Bangor University, Peter did three years post-doctoral research in the NHS. Peter then trained and practiced as a Clinical Psychologist and was also involved in establishing and then becoming Director of a post graduate training course for Clinical Psychologists.

In the late 1980s Peter changed career direction into health service management and in 1993 became a Director of an NHS Community and Mental Health Trust in North East Wales, leaving in 1998 to become a Director at the North Wales Health Authority. Peter joined ELWa in 2002 as a director and was its interim Chief Executive from 2003-04. Peter was then appointed as the first Chief Executive of Healthcare Inspectorate Wales and retired for this post in 2012.

Peter has since been the Chair of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (2013-2018) and member of Bangor University Council (2014-2020). He is presently Chair of Cartrefi Cymru and a lay member of the board of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Charlotte HitchingsCharlotte Hitchings was appointed as Chair of Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership Trust (AWP) in November 2017 and is currently serving her second term. AWP provides community and inpatient mental health services for the people of Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire.

In her capacity as Chair of AWP Charlotte is also a member of two Partnership Boards for the Integrated Care System areas where AWP delivers services. She is also Vice Chair of the Bristol Race Equality Strategic Leaders’ Group.

Charlotte was previously a Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair at 2gether NHS Foundation Trust, where she was also Senior Independent Director, and Independent Chair of Health Education England’s West Midlands Local Education and Training Board. She was previously Vice Chair on the Board of Governors of King Edward VI Handsworth School for Girls.

She has a background of leadership and management within large, complex private sector organisations. Her most recent executive roles were Vice President of International Services and Group Community Investment Manager with BT Cellnet and O2 Plc. At O2 she was responsible for one of the first trials of a telemedicine application, designed for remote monitoring of asthma.

Charlotte now has her own executive coaching consultancy, with a particular focus on leadership, strategy and resilience. She has worked with several higher education institutions as well as many other public and private sector organisations.

Charlotte is a graduate of the University of Oxford (Corpus Christi College) and holds certified diplomas in Marketing (CIM) and Accounting and Finance (ACCA). She also holds several coaching related qualifications.

Born in London, Charlotte moved to Cardiff aged 16 where she completed her secondary education. She now lives in Chepstow.

Helen Marshall

Professor Helen Marshall was appointed Vice-Chancellor from acting Vice-Chancellor in April 2015, having joined the University of Salford in November 2013 as Deputy Vice-Chancellor.

Prior to joining the University Helen was Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic and Business Development) at the University of South Wales from 2010, and in her time there, she led on academic and business development initiatives. She was responsible for the development of a new curriculum in creative industries, the establishment of a Centre for Financial and Professional Services and the review and renewal of the law curriculum. She also led on widening participation and was Director for the University of South Wales’ Universities Heads of the Valleys Institute (UHOVI) – a ground breaking initiative backed by the Welsh Government to provide opportunities for local people and businesses to improve skills and qualifications by making learning accessible across the Valleys region. The UHOVI was recognised with a national Guardian Higher Education Award in 2013.

Helen studied Law before continuing to postgraduate research in Corporate Merger Law at the University of Birmingham. Born in Cardiff, Helen has lived in the North West for a significant period of her career. Before moving to South Wales, Helen held senior positions at the University of Central Lancashire and at the University of Cumbria, as well as gaining extensive experience in quality assurance through a secondment to the QAA.

Mark Smith

Professor Mark E. Smith is the President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Southampton, having joined on 1 October 2019 from Lancaster University where he was Vice-Chancellor for eight years. He plays a role in various sector bodies including the current Chair of UCEAthe employers’ association for universities. Mark is also a member of the HESA and HEFCW Boards, chairing the latter’s Research Wales Committee. He is the Senior Independent Member of the Council of the EPSRC, a Council member of the All-Party Parliamentary University Group and a Trustee and Board Member of Jisc. Mark chaired the national review of A-level content 2013-14. He is also a Professor of Magnetic Resonance, a Member of the Ampère Society’s Prize Committee and a Fellow of the Institute of Physics. Mark was awarded a CBE in 2019 for his services to Research and Higher Education.

Council meetings 2020