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Council members

Anyone wishing to contact external members of the council should email the Working Secretary in the first instance (details below).

Malcolm Sweeting

Mr Malcolm Sweeting 
Pro-Chancellor and Chair of the Council

Malcolm Sweeting took up the role of Pro-Chancellor of the Open University from 1 January 2019.  He says, "The Open University is instantly recognised with great affection and great respect for its achievements. Almost everyone I speak to has a story to tell about the OU, and how it has inspired one of their family or friends to achieve their ambitions. As the OU celebrates its 50th Anniversary, it is with great pride that I take this wonderful opportunity to assist the OU to continue to change the lives of so many and to make such a profound and deep impact on society."

Malcolm is a partner of Clifford Chance LLP; and was, from 2010 – 2019, the Senior Partner of the firm. Clifford Chance is one of the world's largest elite global law firms.

Malcolm has spent his entire career at Clifford Chance; he worked for 3 ½ years in the Middle East; he was the youngest member of the firm's council in the early nineties; he led the Global Telecoms Practice in the mid to late nineties; was the head of the London Banking practice from 2002 – 2010. More recently, Malcolm has led or sponsored the firm's efforts around Brexit, Technology and the Emerging Markets (and specifically China).

Malcolm is a member of the Government's BRI Expert Panel; a member of the China-Britain Business Council (CBBC) Advisory Board; a member of the European Advisory Board of the Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business; a Fellow of the 48 group; a Trustee for Hope and Homes for Children; and a Speaker for Schools.

As a Pro-Chancellor, Malcolm is the Chair of the OU Council and Governance & Nominations and Investment Committees; Deputy Chair of Strategic Planning and Resources Committee; and a member of the University's Finance and Remuneration Committees.

Term of office: 01.01.2019 – 31.12.2022 (first term)

Professor John Brooks

Professor John Brooks
Vice-Chair of the Council

John has been an academic throughout his working life. His career has combined a deep interest in research, with a commitment to excellent teaching and learning.

His early career was at Sheffield Hallam University, where he became a Reader, Head of Department of Applied Physics and Director of Materials Research Institute, before becoming a PVC responsible for Academic Teaching and Research.

John then became Vice-Chancellor of Wolverhampton University, where the emphasis was on developing a modern and flexible curriculum that was accessible and served the needs of a diverse student body. At this time, the impact of new technology was considerable and an innovative Managed Learning Environment enabled the University to package programmes to suit different markets.

After seven years, John moved to become Vice-Chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University. Here the challenge was of scale, complexity and distributed campuses. Over ten years, MMU rationalized from seven campuses to two with a capital spend of £250m. The performance in both teaching and research improved significantly.

John has always admired the OU for the way it combines academic excellence with a real commitment to open access and flexible learning.  He believes that this model of a University is not well served by the current quality framework and student fee regime. However, it is vital that the OU maximizes its position within the present HE environment. The planned changes are vital and may not go far enough.  Several performance measures have been in decline and it is vital that this trend is reversed.

He says ‘I hope that my HE experience will help the Council to support the change agenda led by the Vice-Chancellor. I know how difficult it is for non-HE colleagues to understand the complexity of HE regulation and funding, and the political influences. I hope that my role can be to simplify, to challenge and to support. I am confident that the OU has a vital role to play in the future direction of UK HE, particularly post Brexit, and I am delighted to be given the opportunity to contribute.

Term of office: 01.08.2017 – 31.07.2021 (first term)

Sandy Begbie

Mr Sandy Begbie CBE

Sandy is Chairman of the Joint Venture Heng An Standard Life Audit & Risk Committee and a member of their Board.  He is also Chairman of the Standard Life Asia Board based in Hong Kong.  Sandy also Chairs the new Regional Developing Young Workforce (DYW) group to tackle Edinburgh and Lothians youth unemployment and is Chairman of the National and Scottish Boards of Career Ready.  Until recently he was a member of the HR50 network, a trusted intimate forum for the world’s leading Chief HR Officers with only 50 members globally.  On 4 December Sandy was appointed as a Director of CMI (the Centre for Moving Images) and took up the position of their Chairman on 1 January 2019.  He was awarded a CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List in August 2018 for services to business and social inclusion.

Term of office: 01.01.2019 – 31.07.2020 (first term)

Mary Curnock Cook

Ms Mary Curnock Cook OBE

Mary Curnock Cook joined the OU Council in August 2017.  From 2010 to 2017, she was Chief Executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), overseeing a transformation of the organisation’s operations, communications and data services.  Prior to 2010, she was Director of Qualifications and Skills at the QCDA.  Earlier in her career she held a number of senior executive and non-executive posts in private, public and not-for-profit organisations in the biotechnology, food, hospitality and education sectors.   

Ms Curnock Cook has an MSc from London Business School.  Having herself only obtained her degree in her 40s, she is interested in students who follow non-traditional pathways.  She continues to be active across the education sector, with a special emphasis on people who are under-represented or disadvantaged in education.  She is Chair of Trustees of the Access Project, a non-executive Director at the Student Loans Company and a Trustee at multi-academy trust, United Learning, Founders4Schools and the Education and Youth Think Tank, LKMco.  She Chairs an advisory Board for EdTech in HE and FE and is also an investor and Advisor to a number of EdTech start-ups.  She is on the Advisory Board for the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Ms Curnock Cook was awarded an OBE in 2000 for services to training in the hospitality industry. She is a Fellow of Birkbeck College and Goldsmiths, and has an honorary Doctorate from the University of Gloucestershire.

 Term of office: 01.08.2017 – 31.07.2021 (first term)

Maggie Galliers

Ms Maggie Galliers CBE

Maggie Galliers is Chair of the Learning and Work Institute Company Board.

Maggie was Principal of Leicester College from 2002 to 2012. Before that, she was Principal of Henley College Coventry for five years, having previously held a wide variety of management positions in further education.

She served as the elected President of the Association of Colleges in 2012/13.

Maggie has extensive experience at Board level nationally and locally. This includes having been a member of Ofqual Board, the Further Education Funding Council (FEFC) Quality Assessment Committee, the Quality Improvement Agency (QIA) Board, the National Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the LSC’s Young People’s Learning Committee and the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Teaching Quality and Student Experience Committee.

She has also carried out varied assignments in colleges as a National Leader in Governance for the FE Sector and was Chair of City College Coventry leading up to a merger in 2017.

Maggie was appointed CBE for services to local and national further education in the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List 2009. In 2013 she was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Education by the University of Bedfordshire for “her outstanding contribution to further education and support for access and progression to higher education.”

Term of office:  01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022 (first term)

Ruth Girardet

Mrs Ruth Girardet

Ruth has been on the Council of the Open University since 2014. She has over 20 years of professional experience in the field of corporate responsibility and corporate ethics. She has worked at senior management levels in the corporate and charity sectors and advises Boards on social justice issues. Ruth recently stepped down as Chief Executive of 'Just for Kids Law', a London-based human rights charity that provides legal support and advocacy for young people, including strategic litigation to uphold children's rights in the UK.

Ruth is also a moderator for the Aspen Institute, running regular seminars on values-based leadership. Before this, Ruth was the Group Corporate Responsibility Director at Tesco Plc (2007-2013). Her brief included delivering the company's Climate Change commitments globally, running the Charitable Trust, and formulating company strategy across a wide range of governance and ethical issues.

Ruth brings to the OU Council a wide knowledge of the charity and corporate sectors, and how they can work together to address issues of social justice.

Ruth is a member of the Governance and Nominations Committee.

Term of office: 01.08.2018 - 31.07.2022 (second term)


Paul Greenwood

Mr Paul Greenwood

Paul is the Chief Information Officer for Clifford Chance LLP, where he is responsible for the firm's technology, knowledge management and information management systems. Clifford Chance is the world's largest law firm with 3,350 legal advisors working from 33 offices in 23 countries.

Paul began his career as an analyst and was Research Director at Research Associates before joining McKinsey & Company, the strategy consultancy. At McKinsey, he was responsible for research, information and knowledge management in the United Kingdom and had a team of 100 analysts, researchers and developers. He was part of McKinsey's Knowledge Management Council and also consulted to clients on Knowledge Management issues, specialising in post-merger situations.

Paul joined Clifford Chance in April 2000 as International Director of Knowledge and Information, responsible for knowledge and client-facing technology, and in April 2002 also took on responsibility for all the firm's internal technology.  Over the last 13 years he has centralised all IT spend into a single global budget, consolidated infrastructure into four global data centres, standardised the firm's server and desktop technologies, and built a captive offshore IT centre in India that now handles most of the routine operational, support and development activities. Over the coming years his particular areas of interest include cloud computing, matter-centric working, and the use of artificial intelligence to improve the efficiency of the legal process.

Paul is a member of the Governance and Nominations Committee.

Term of office: 01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022 (second term)

Rachel Lock

Mrs Rachel Lock

Rachel has been the HR Director for TSB since November 2012, during which time she has led the creation of the HR function and the TUPE of partners to TSB ahead of the IPO sale by Lloyds Banking Group. Following the acquisition of TSB by Banco Sabadell, she has held responsibility for HR for Sabadell UK.

Prior to this role, Rachel gained extensive Director-level Human Resources experience across a number of roles in Lloyds Banking Group. She held the position of HR Director for Group Corporate Functions and Corporate Affairs in LBG, providing strategic HR expertise to GEC members and their teams and leading associated people practices.

Rachel’s other previous roles include Executive Assistant to the LBG Group HR Director, HR Director for Lloyds TSB Mortgages and HR Director for LBG Group Operations.

Rachel has worked her way up having joined as a school leaver to her local branch. She has Retail, Telephony, Operations, Training and HR experience, stretching 28 years.

Rachel brings a commercial and people-related focus to the debates and decisions that the OU Council makes. Her passion for talent and succession and employee development means that she has the interests of the OU employees in mind, as well as the students.

Outside of work Rachel enjoys going to the gym, gardening, watching sport and spending time with her niece and nephews.

Rachel is Chair of the Remuneration Committee.

Term of office: 02.10.2015 – 31.07.2023 (second term)

Robert McCracken

Mr Robert McCracken

Robert graduated in law from Edinburgh University in 1979, joined Ernst & Young (EY) in 1980 and was a partner in the firm from 1992 until 2018. He became a member of the OU Finance Committee in August 2015.

Throughout his career at EY, Robert has specialised in auditing and advising banks and other financial services institutions.  After 2007, Robert combined a leadership role in the UK firm’s accounting technical department, a global role as co-chairman of the firm’s IFRS Financial Instruments Working Group, and a continuing role as audit partner or independent review partner for various audit clients.

Since retiring from the partnership in June 2018, Robert has been performing consulting roles at EY (advising on audit quality) and an AIM listed group (investigating financial discrepancies and advising on the remediation of governance and financial controls). He has also been an active member of the Steering Committee for a significant internal project at the OU during this period, representing Finance Committee.

Robert was the Treasurer and Audit Committee Chair of the Tate Members Council from 2004 to 2014, and has been a member of the Corporate and Financial Reporting Committee of ICAS from 2015 to date. He brings to the OU significant experience of operating at board level either as an auditor or non-executive director/trustee, combined with a strong interest in education and equality of opportunity.

As Treasurer, Robert is Chair of Finance Committee and a member of the Investment, Remuneration and Strategic Planning and Resources Committees.

Term of Office:  01-08-2019 – 31-07-2023


Bob Spedding

Mr Bob Spedding

Bob was a non-executive director, the Chair of the Audit Committee, and a member of the Remuneration Committee for the Coal Authority until April 2019.

He was a Panel Member for the Competition and Markets Authority, and the member with financial experience on their Audit Risk and Assurance Committee until June 2019.

Bob holds a Law degree (LLB) from the University of Warwick and is qualified as a Chartered Accountant (FCA). He was a Partner in KPMG Northern Region and then in London from 1987 until he retired in 2011. He worked initially in Audit and Transaction Services, through a number of roles, to Head of Risk Management for Advisory Business in Europe.

From 2010 to 2015 he was Chair of the Audit Committee for The Law Society.

Bob is Chair of the Audit Committee.

Term of office: 01.08.2013 – 31.07.2021 (second term) 

Greg Walker

Dr Greg Walker

Greg Walker is Chief Executive of MillionPlus, the Association for Modern Universities. He lives in Cardiff and London.

Greg has been an external member of Council since January 2013 and has been a member of the Audit Committee since 2013/14.  He was appointed to the Governance and Nominations Committee in 2018.

Dr Walker was Head of Sector Agency Implementation at Universities UK, and is a former Chief Executive of Colleges Wales. Prior to that Greg was the Acting Director and Deputy Director of Universities UK’s Wales office. He has served on a number of high-level Higher Education Funding Council for Wales and Welsh Government Boards and Committees and edited the acclaimed report of the Diamond Review on Higher Education Student Finance in Wales, published in September 2016.

Greg is a passionate advocate for open education in a nation - Wales - that has been a pioneer in promoting adult learning for over a century. He is himself a longstanding lifelong learner; having studied in a continuing education centre in his twenties he decided to embark successfully on a part-time PhD and subsequently an MBA programme - both while working full-time. Greg has presented and published on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) issues and, as a gay man, is committed to working for equality in these areas.

Greg, speaking of time on the OU Council so far: “I’m proud that the Open University has been at vanguard of developing Open Education Resources and Massive Open Online Courses offered through the OpenLearn and FutureLearn platforms. These are groundbreaking developments that help spread knowledge and skills to the widest of audiences in the UK and abroad. The university’s mission to open up learning to all in this digital age is assisted hugely by these important initiatives.”

Term of office: 31.01.2013 – 31.07.2020 (second term)

Student members

Cath Brown

Miss Cath Brown
President Open University Students Association

Cath obtained her original degree in mathematics from the University of Cambridge, and has worked for 25 years as a secondary school teacher, including 10 years with responsibility for HE advice. She also co-ran an educational publishing business for four years. 

She joined the Open University as a "leisure learner" in 2008 and obtained BSc Molecular Science and BSc Open in 2013.  She is presently studying on a modular basis only, and will be taking Classical Greek from this autumn. Future plans include English Language, Creative Writing and the degrees in Data Science and Combined STEM. 

Cath is committed to the principles of lifelong learning and of education as a good in itself, rather than as simply a means to an end.    She was elected as President of the OU Students Association in 2018. Previously, Cath has represented her peers as the STEM Faculty Representative, founded one of the OU's student societies, served on the Central Consultative Committee and had a range of volunteer roles within the Students Association.   

Term of office: until 31.07.2020 (first term)

Barbara Tarling

Dr Barbara Tarling

After graduating from the University of Oxford with a BA in English Language and Literature Barbara spent many years working as an administrator in the public and private sectors before returning to academic study. She enrolled as a part-time distance learner with The Open University in 1997 and was awarded an MA in Literature in 2000 and a PhD in 2010. She is committed to the principles and practice of lifelong learning and is presently studying towards a BA Open Degree.

Barbara has always been an engaged and proactive student and has extensive experience of representing the interests of students at every level of The Open University's governance system.  Her work as a QAA Student Reviewer brings her into contact with the wider Higher Education sector and the issues that currently affect it and she is also a member of the Teaching Excellence Framework panel.

Barbara was elected as the student member of the Open University Council in 2016 and re-elected in 2018. She has always been a passionate supporter of the Open University's mission to offer students from all backgrounds the opportunity to study for a degree and is proud to belong to 'a great independent university which does not insult any man or woman by offering them second best; only the best is good enough'.

Term of office: 01.08.2018 – 31.07.2020 (second term)

Staff members

Mary Kellett

Professor Mary Kellett, Vice-Chancellor

Mary Kellett took over as Acting Vice-Chancellor of The Open University in April 2018.  Prior to this, she was Executive Dean of the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS).  She joined the OU in 2001 and was awarded a personal chair in Childhood and Youth in 2008. 

Mary’s experience extensively spans curriculum development and quality assurance at institutional, national and international levels. Perhaps best known for her pioneering work to empower children as researchers, she founded the Children’s Research Centre to train and support children and young people to undertake their own research.  Mary has over 35 years’ experience of working with children and young people as a social worker, primary teacher and academic.  She holds a number of Adjunct Professorships, sits on several international advisory panels and has authored on a wide range of childhood and education issues.

Jovan Byford

Dr Jovan Byford
Senate Member of the Council

Jovan is Senior Lecturer in Psychology and one of three Heads of Discipline in the School of Psychology, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. He joined the Open University in 2006.

During his time at the OU, Jovan gained considerable experience in curriculum design and development, and module production and presentation. Of note is his key role in the creation of OU’s Level 1 psychology provision, as production co-chair of DE100 Exploring Psychology 1, currently the University’s highest recruiting module. He has been a member of Senate since 2015.

Jovan’s research interests include the relationship between psychology and history, conspiracy theories, Holocaust memory and antisemitism. He is currently working on a book which examines the controversial role that atrocity photographs played, and continue to play, in forging the public memory of the Second World War in the countries of the former Yugoslavia.

In his spare time Jovan likes to read crime novels, listen to podcasts, and do whatever his daughters tell him.

Term of office:  01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022 (first term)

Frances Chetwynd

Ms Frances Chetwynd 
Associate Lecturer Member of the Council

Frances has been working for the Open University as an Associate Lecturer since 1992. She has tutored on many modules covering all undergraduate levels in Computing, Technology and Engineering. In addition, she has carried out research into the use of educational technologies, assessment and feedback, and currently retention and progression.
Formerly, Frances was an Aerosystems Engineering Officer in the RAF, serving in locations across the world from Arctic Norway to the Falkland Islands. Now, as well as working as an AL, Frances also works three days a week as a Staff Tutor in the STEM Faculty.  She is also a JP on the Cornwall Bench.

Term of office: 01.08.2016 – 31.07.2020 (first term)

John D'Arcy

Mr John D'Arcy 
Senate Member of the Council

John has been Director of The Open University in Ireland since October 2010, and has responsibility for the University in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. He has also been acting Director in Scotland during 2015 and was Interim Director in Wales during 2018/19.

Prior to joining the OU, John was Chief Executive of Colleges Northern Ireland, the membership organisation for Northern Ireland's further education colleges (January 2003 to September 2010). John was a Director of BDO Stoy Hayward Management Consultants from September 1997 to December 2002, leading its organisational development and human resource consulting division.  Prior to that, he was Principal Officer for Research and Statistics at the Northern Ireland Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (September 1990 to August 1997). He was Research Fellow with The Northern Ireland Council for Educational Research between September 1984 and August 1990).

John was appointed independent non-executive Chairman of Enterprise Northern Ireland in September 2013 for a three year period; was founding Chairman of Oh Yeah Music Centre from May 2007 to December 2013 and is a former Chairman of Audiences Northern Ireland as well as a former Board member of the BBC’s Broadcasting Council for Northern Ireland. He was a Board member of Sport NI from 2008 until 2015. John was a member of the Education Panel of the UK’s Research Assessment Exercise in 2001 and was made an Honorary Research Fellow at the School of Education at Queen’s University Belfast in 2000.

Term of office: 01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022 (second term)

Richard Heffernan

Dr Richard Heffernan
Senate Member of the Council

Richard joined The Open University in 1999 and has held visiting appointments at the Center for European Studies, Harvard University, the University of California, Los Angeles and the London School of Economics. He is presently a Visiting Professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Richard has worked on many OU modules including Governing Europe, Power Dissent Equality: Understanding Contemporary Politics, Living Political Ideas, Politics, Media and War: 9 11 and its Impacts, The Uses of Social Science, and was recently the production chair of Understanding Politics: Ideas and Institutions in the Modern World.

He works in the field of comparative politics, specialises in British politics, and is presently researching the British prime minister. Richard is also an editor of and contributor to the well-established undergraduate British politics textbook, Developments in British Politics (Palgrave Macmillan 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 and 2016)

Term of office:  01.08.2018 – 31.07.2020 (first term)

Anna Henderson

Ms Anna Henderson
Non-academic Staff Member of the Council

Anna joined the OU in September 2016 with 20 years’ experience in the education sector. After graduating from Loughborough University Anna worked in the private sector before moving into education. Anna has held a range of senior management posts in Further Education, including 8 years as Executive Director with a broad portfolio including leadership responsibility for faculty and professional services. During her time in education Anna also returned to studying to complete her Master Degree. 

Anna has broad experience of governance as a Trustee, Governor (including staff governor) and Executive Director in a range of educational and voluntary sector organisations. 

Anna is currently Director of Assessment, Credit and Qualifications. With a strong values base Anna has an absolute commitment to the University’s mission and to our students. Anna’s commitment to the OU’s mission also stems from close family ties to the OU with Anna’s mother an OU graduate and her father spending a significant proportion of his career at the OU, latterly as Professor of Educational Technology.

Term of office: 22.03.2018 - 31.07.2021

Tim Parry

Mr Tim Parry
Senate Member of the Council (Associate Lecturer)

Tim has worked for the OU as Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Business and Law since 1993. He tutors on a wide range of modules at all levels of the undergraduate degree programme. He has been an AL representative on Senate and Associate Lecturers Executive since 2015 and was elected inaugural Chair of the Associate Lecturers Assembly in 2010.

Formerly, Tim worked in Human Resources and was a HR Director the NHS for 16 years. Although his primary source of employment is the OU he continues to undertake small scale HR consultancy projects and teaching on CIPD programmes.

Tim has a broad range of interests including the theatre, sport and music. He is an FA referee and continues to referee youth football games in Hampshire.

Term of office: 01.08.2018 – 31.07.2022 (first term)

John Wolffe

Professor John Wolffe 
Senate Member of the Council

Professor John Wolffe Senate Member of the Council John has been Professor of Religious History at the Open University since 2004. He joined the OU’s full-time staff in 1990 as a Lecturer in Religious Studies, having been an Associate Lecturer in Yorkshire since 1988. John was a member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Research Excellence Framework (REF) subpanel for Theology and Religious Studies during 2011-14 and has been reappointed to the role for REF2021. He is currently Associate Dean (Research Enterprise and Scholarship) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

John’s research relates to the long-term history of religious conflict, and its avoidance and resolution, especially anti-Catholicism since the Reformation and its comparison with contemporary Islamophobia. He recently held a Research Councils UK (RCUK) Global Uncertainties Leadership Fellowship and has a particular commitment to public engagement activities. His latest book Sacred and Secular Martyrdom in Britain and Ireland since 1914 is due to be published by Bloomsbury in November 2019. He has contributed material to numerous Religious Studies and interdisciplinary Arts courses.

In his leisure time, John enjoys travel, good food and wine, swimming and walking, and is an active member of St Gabriel’s, Cricklewood.

 Term of office: 01.08.2014 – 31.07.2020 (second term)

Council contacts

Jonathan Nicholls

Dr Jonathan Nicholls
University Secretary

Jonathan is the University Secretary and therefore Secretary to the Council. Jonathan's role is to ensure that the main decision making bodies of the University receive appropriate advice and information on which to base their decisions, that they operate within clear terms of reference and that the processes used for decision making are clear and open.

Laura Lauer

Laura Lauer
Head of Governance

The Council is supported by a team led by Laura. She has overall responsibility for the operation of the Council including membership and reviews of its effectiveness. She is supported by Julie Tayler and other staff in the Governance Team.

Tel: (01908) 652416

Ms Sue Thomas 
Working Secretary to the Council

Sue is the Working Secretary for the Council, and is responsible for the management of its meetings and the support of its members.

Tel: (01908) 655083

Mrs Suzanne Butler 
Governance Assistant

Suzanne supports the Working Secretary for the Council, providing assistance with the preparation of papers and the logistical arrangements for meetings of Council, Governance and Nominations Committee and Audit Committee.

Tel: (01908) 652023