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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)

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 performed a consulting role at EY (advising on audit quality) and has taken on the role of Audit Committee Chair of a number of portfolio companies owned by a leading Private Equity group. . Robert was the Treasurer and Audit Committee Chair of the Tate Members Council from 2004 to 2014, and was a member of the Corporate and Financial Reporting Committee of The Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland from 2015 to 2019. 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 Investment Committees and a member of the Remuneration Committees.

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

Mary Curnock-Cook

Ms Mary Curnock Cook CBE OBE

Ms Mary Curnock Cook OBE 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 interest in people who are under-represented or disadvantaged in education.

She holds a number of non-executive board roles including as Chair of the Access Project and the Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, and as a director of the London Interdisciplinary School, the Student Loans Company, the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), and multi-academy trust, United Learning. She is Network Chair for Edtech investor, Emerge Education and is also an investor and advisor to a number of EdTech start-ups.

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)

Ceri Doyle

Ms Ceri Doyle

Ceri Doyle has been the Chief Executive of Newport City Homes (NCH) since September 2014 and has utilised her extraordinary breadth of experience ranging from health, education, finance and community development to drive service improvements, increased financial stability and a focus on residents within NCH.  Since the tragic events at Grenfell in June 2017, she has personally led NCH’s response to engaging with residents, ensuring the safety of the tower blocks in Newport, and lobbying and working with national and regional agencies to promote the safety of residents and clarity in regulations.

Prior to NCH, Ceri held a number of executive roles at the Big Lottery Fund – the UK’s largest lottery distributor – including Interim Chief Executive, Director of Strategy, Performance and Learning and Director Wales. Ceri also held a number of senior management positions in local government in Scotland, where she delivered a number of pioneering partnerships utilising European, Lottery and PFI funding. Alongside this, Ceri established a number of not-for-profit organisations working to tackle unemployment and community regeneration.

Ceri has held numerous non-executive positions, she is currently a Commissioner with the National Infrastructure Commission for Wales, a former Ministerial Advisor and has previously served on the board of a number of health, education, arts and third sector organisations.

Term of office: 28.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

Maggie Galliers

Ms Maggie Galliers CBE

Maggie Galliers is Chair of the Learning and Work Institute Company Board and a member of the Further Education Advisory Panel for the Queen’s Anniversary Prizes for Higher and Further Education.

She served for sixteen years as Principal of two Further Education Colleges, Henley College Coventry and then Leicester College, and was 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, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) Teaching Quality and Student Experience Committee and the Teaching Excellence Framework Review Advisory Group.

She has also carried out varied assignments in colleges as a National Leader in Governance for the FE Sector, was Chair of City College Coventry leading up to a merger in 2017 and Vice Chair of the Learning Without Limits Academy Trust.

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.

Maggie is a member of the Strategic Planning and Resources Committee as well as the Audit Committee.”

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 Gray

Professor Paul Gray

Professor Paul Gray is an experienced public sector leader at CEO level. Paul was Chief Executive of NHS Scotland and Director General for Health and Social Care in the Scottish Government from 2013 to 2019.

During this time he was responsible for the delivery of health and care services through 22 Health Boards, and partner organisations, with accountability for an annual budget of £13bn and a staffing complement of around 160,000. Paul joined the Civil Service in 1979 and held a number of Director General roles from 2009 until 2019.

Paul is currently an Honorary Professor at the University of Glasgow, and holds a number of other positions in the public and private sectors, including a Senior Faculty Member at the Royal College of Physicians (Edinburgh), a Non-Executive Director with the Care Inspectorate and a lay assistant with the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland. Paul is also a coach and mentor to a number of senior executives.

Paul places a strong emphasis on ethical and compassionate leadership, transparency and collaborative working. Committed to public accountability, he is experienced in leading delivery and change and specialises in public service, ethical leadership and governance.

Term of office: 28.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

Paul Greenwood

Mr Paul Greenwood

Paul is the Chief Information Officer for Clifford Chance LLP, where he is responsible for the global law firm's technology and digital strategy.

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 was part of McKinsey's Knowledge Management Council and also consulted to clients on Knowledge Management issues, specialising in post-merger situations.

Paul is a strong believer in open and flexible education having seen first hand in his own family the limitations of a monolithic approach for those with particular needs, and more broadly is an advocate for a step change in society's approach to lifelong learning. He sees the Open University as a powerful force for good in both of these areas and is very proud to serve on its Council.

Paul also serves as a board member for a technology start-up and an Indian-based business process provider.

Paul is a member of the Audit Committee and the Governance & 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 33 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)

Lopa Patel

Mrs Lopa Patel MBE DUniv

Lopa Patel MBE DUniv is a digital entrepreneur with experience of creating start-ups and transforming businesses through technology. The founder of two ventures in online media and a data-driven marketing consultancy, she is also the Chair of Diversity UK, an equality and inclusion charity; a Trustee of The Science Museum Group and a Non-Executive Director of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

Lopa has previously been a Trustee of education charity Raha International, a member of the DCMS BBC Charter Review Advisory Board, Deputy Chair of volunteering initiative Sewa Day, a Board Member of social enterprise venture TSBC (The Small Business Consultancy), a Board Member of Tamasha Theatre Company and a Non-Executive Director of Becta (British Education Communications and Technology Agency) – a Non-Departmental Public Body in the UK.

With a lifelong love of science and technology, Lopa is an evangelist for STEM, innovation and bridging the skills gap in business. Lopa has been recognised with accolades including an MBE for services to the creative industries; the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion and an Honorary Doctorate by The Open University, in recognition of her efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in science and technology.

Term of office: 28.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

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) 

Tevin Tobun

Mr Tevin Tobun

Tevin Tobun is the CEO of Gate Ventures Group (GV), a company he founded in 2001 that focuses on food transportation within the education, social, healthcare, retail and business and industry sectors. GV Group is one of the UK’s leading independently owned food logistics specialists with a global footprint spanning the UK, South America and Africa, and employing over 500 people. 
Tevin is a Patron for the charity Springboard – the biggest independent charity in the hospitality sector that supports people from disadvantaged backgrounds into jobs in the hospitality industry. Tevin also runs The Tobun Foundation. Launched in 2015, the foundation offers four young people from disadvantaged backgrounds yearly funding to support their University studies. The Tobun Foundation also provides bursary support to students on specialist programmes including the United Nations Summer Programme in Geneva.  
Additional to this, Tevin frequently speaks at industry events and sits on a number of Boards for a range of organisations.  
Tevin and GV Group have been recognised amongst the business community through a significant number of nominations and accolades. In 2019 and 2020, Tevin was listed as one of the top 100 most influential BAME Executives in the UK, and is also listed by JP Morgan as one of the top 100 most influential black people in the UK in 2020. 

Term of office: 28.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

Student members

Sarah Jones

Ms Sarah Jones
OU Students Association President

Sarah Jones has been a student with The Open University since October 2017. Sarah started a Masters in Education in September 2020, having completed a Primary Education degree, gaining a First Class honours in the summer of 2020. Sarah is interested in Lego Therapy and the benefits it has for children with English as another language, as well as the benefits of using Lego in research with adults using Lego Serious Play. 

Sarah was elected the OU Students Association President in the summer of 2020 and is looking forward to helping represent the student voice not only on Council but in all levels of the University.

Sarah lives in Bristol with her husband and two sons.

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2022 (first term)


Student Member on the Council

Further details coming soon.

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2022 (first term)

Staff members

Tim Blackman

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice-Chancellor

Professor Tim Blackman has a long and proud association with The Open University and took on the role of Vice-Chancellor in October 2019. Tim served as Acting Vice-Chancellor in 2015 and as Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Scholarship and Quality between 2011 and 2015, when he took up his previous appointment as Vice-Chancellor of Middlesex University.

Tim has extensive and varied leadership experience in higher education.  A graduate of Durham University, he returned to Durham many years later as Professor of Sociology and Social Policy, holding positions as Head of the School of Applied Social Sciences, Director of the Wolfson Research Institute and Dean of the University’s Queen’s Campus in Stockton-on-Tees. He has also served as Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at Teesside University and Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences and Law at Oxford Brookes University.

A Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences and Royal Society of Arts, and a Trustee of the Legal Education Foundation, Tim has held various appointments as a government advisor and as an assessor for Social Policy & Social Work in the 2014 UK Research Excellence Framework exercise.

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)

John D'Arcy

Mr John D'Arcy OBE
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 from 2003 to 2010. John was a Director of BDO Stoy Hayward Management Consultants from1997 to 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 (1990 to 1997). He was Research Fellow with The Northern Ireland Council for Educational Research from 1984 to 1990.

John is a Trustee of The Lightbody Foundation; a Board member of The Open College Network in Northern Ireland; and a Board member of AONTAS, The Republic of Ireland’s National Adult Learning Organisation. He was non-executive Chairman of Enterprise Northern Ireland from 2013 to 2106; was founding Chairman of Oh Yeah Music Centre from 2007 to 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 Northern Ireland from 2008 to 2015, including a period as interim Vice Chair. 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)


Catherine Halliwell

Dr Catherine Halliwell 
AL Elected Member of the Council

Catherine has worked as an Associate Lecturer in the Faculty of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics since 2008. Catherine tutors on science modules at all undergraduate levels and also actively pursues her own scholarship work in improving the online learning experience of students. Catherine has been an AL representative since 2014 and was elected Chair of the Associate Lecturers Executive in 2019.

Prior to joining the OU, Catherine worked with the Department of Trade and Industry and the European Commission to promote British industry and academia involvement in international research collaborations. Before that, Catherine was a Strategic Research Fellow at the National Physical Laboratory, specialising in nanobiotechnology.

In her spare time Catherine enjoys swimming, hiking, ornithology, and Scandinavian culture and cooking.

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (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

Carol Howells

Ms Carol Howells
Senate Member of the Council

Further details coming soon

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

Senate Member of the Council (Associate Lecturer)

Further details coming soon

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2022 (first term)

Eileen Scanlon

Professor Eileen Scanlon OBE FAcSS
Senate Member of the Council

Professor Eileen Scanlon is Regius Professor of Open Education and Associate Director of Research and Innovation in the Institute of Educational Technology at The Open University, as well as an Honorary Professor in Moray  House School of Education for the University of Edinburgh.

Eileen has extensive research experience on educational technology projects. Eileen is involved in research projects that explore aspects of digital scholarship to develop open educational resources; investigate science learning in formal and informal settings concentrating on the development of an inquiry learning pedagogy and citizen inquiry; and develop innovative approaches to evaluation of learning (e.g. games based learning and citizen science). Furthermore, Professor Scanlon has published extensively in the field of Technology Enhanced Learning.

Term of office: 01.08.2020 – 31.07.2024 (first term)

Council contacts

Dave Hall

Mr Dave Hall
University Secretary

Dave is the University Secretary and therefore Secretary to the Council. Dave'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

Sue Thomas

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

Suzanne Butler

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 the Council, Governance and Nominations Committee, Audit Committee and the Strategic Planning and Resources Committee.

Tel: (01908) 652023