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Executive Group

The Advance HE Executive Group leads on the work of five directorates – Membership and Accreditation, Programmes and Events, Business Development and Delivery, Knowledge Innovations and Delivery, all supported by Finance and Resources.

Alison Johns – Chief Executive

Alison Johns is Chief Executive of Advance HE, having led the merger of three national agencies to create Advance HE in 2018.  

Prior to Advance HE, she was the chief executive of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education. With three decades’ experience in higher education she has held a variety of senior posts, including head of policy for leadership, governance and management at HEFCE, the national funder and regulator for higher education in England, (now the Office for Students).

Alison has extensive board experience and currently sits as a lay member of the Court of the University of St Andrews. Her wide-ranging international experience in higher education sees her sitting on a variety of boards and advising governments and higher education institutions on higher education reform. She led the review of teaching and learning enhancement for the Australian government, which established the Office for Learning and Teaching.

Alison regularly takes part in conferences and events, both nationally and internationally, and has been invited to speak in over 30 countries on four continents, covering all aspects of university leadership, governance and management.

Alison Johns

David Bass - Director for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

David is responsible for providing organisational leadership in our work on EDI, both internally and externally.

He brings a wealth of experience working with universities and the tertiary sector, in equality and diversity, governance, access, as well as strategic planning and management. David has been central to ensuring EDI is strongly embedded in Advance HE’s new strategy and in the development of our CEO’s Race Action Group.

Prior to his current role, David was an Assistant Director in our Membership directorate, responsible for the strategic approach, engagement and development of our work in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and Ireland. In addition to developing and contextualising our approach to membership, he helped lead strategic, cross-sector race equality projects in Scotland and Wales, working with sector leaders such as Khadija Mohammed to support institutional commitment and action on anti-racism.

David joined the Equality Challenge Unit in 2013, initially as a Senior Policy Adviser before moving into the role of Scotland Programme Manager. He managed the ‘Diversity in Governance’ project in Scotland, supporting the sector to improve the gender diversity of governing bodies and enhance effective oversight of equality and diversity in colleges and HEIs, from 2015-2018.

David previously worked in adult education and for a charity supporting disabled people and carers in education. He holds an MA in Geography from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Public Policy and Management from Birkbeck, University of London.

David Bass

Greg Ferrari - Chief Operating and Transformation Officer

Greg is Chief Operating and Transformation Officer, responsible for accelerating the next phase of Advance HE’s development as a global, member-led organisation.

Greg’s leadership roles have included the delivery of high-stakes assessment and examinations at Edexcel/BTEC, and the design and implementation of global operations and customer experience strategies at Pearson. He is the Founder of CXQ Ltd, helping leaders solve some of today’s most common commercial, technological and organisational challenges. Before joining Advance HE, Greg was Executive Director of Operations and Deputy CEO at the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education. He is also a Trustee of CCA, Camden Town's charitable community enterprise, and an active local volunteer in secondary education. Greg holds a BA (Hons) in Philosophy & Economics from Middlesex University, and an MBA from the University of Westminster.

Greg Ferrari

Hannah Harris – Head of Corporate Support and Company Secretary

Hannah Harris is Head of Corporate Support and Company Secretary responsible for ensuring that Advance HE complies with its statutory and regulatory requirements and maintains high standard of corporate governance practice. She oversees all governance arrangements providing advice and guidance in relation to the conduct and running of Board and committee meetings and leads Advance HE’s approach to risk management. Hannah also leads and manages the Corporate Support Team which provides professional and administrative support to the organisation and more specifically the Chief Executive’s Group.

Hannah has a BSc in Psychology from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, a Diploma in Management and has recently completed all exams for the Governance Institute’s, Chartered Secretaries Qualifying Scheme.

Hannah Purkis

Kat Hunt – Associate Director of Marketing and Communications

Kat Hunt is Associate Director of Marketing and Communications at Advance HE. She leads the strategic development and management of Advance HE’s marketing and communications.

Prior to her appointment, she was Head of Marketing at the Higher Education Academy. Kat has a BA (Hons) in Public Relations from Leeds Beckett University. With 20 years’ experience in marketing and communications, she started her career working in specialist marketing agencies, where she gained experience working in a wide range of sectors, including higher education, FMCG, property and professional services. She then moved to in-house roles in financial services, working on marketing strategy and planning, with a strong focus on customer journeys, and customer and stakeholder engagement.

Kat Hunt

Kathryn Harrison-Graves – Executive Director, Membership, Innovation and Development

Kathryn Harrison-Graves is Director of Membership and Accreditation. In this role Kathryn leads Advance HE's core membership services such as Charters and Fellowships and is responsible for relationships with Member institutions and partner agencies both across the UK and internationally.

From 2001 to 2012 Kathryn held a number of teaching and learning focused roles within specialist land-based higher education. Prior to joining the Higher Education Academy in 2012 Kathryn was Director with responsibility for teaching, learning and quality enhancement at Askham Bryan College. 

Since 2012 Kathryn's work has focused on professional development and the professional recognition of teaching within the broadest of contexts. In her most recent role as Head of Global Partnerships she has worked with institutions across the UK and globally to establish HEA accredited programmes and international initiatives to support the development of teaching and learning within higher education.

Kathryn is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and remains actively involved with specialist land-based higher education through her work as an external examiner and college Governor.

Kathryn Harrison-Graves

Phil Johnson - Interim Director of Consultancy and Commercial Solutions.

In this role Phil Leads Advance HE’s approach to supporting individual institutions with their key performance issues, delivering bespoke services which support institutions deliver their strategic aims.

In his time at Advance HE (previously HEA) Phil has held various roles working as Assistant Director of Business Development and Associate Head of Global Partnerships. In these roles he was roles responsible for the strategic approach to product development and member engagement in the UK.

Phil is passionate about higher education and its power to change and improve lives, before working for Advance HE Phil worked in partnership institutions, working on OD projects and developing new impactful commercial services for a FTSE 100 company.

Outside of work Phil served as vice chair of a large housing association Audit and Risk committee for 6 years. He is a sports coach and loves coaching Kids Football and Cricket teams.

Phil holds a MBA from Sunderland University.

Phil Johnson

Sarah Threadgold – Director of Finance and Deputy Chief Operating Officer

Sarah Threadgold (FCCA) is Director of Finance and Resources. She joined Advance HE (previously at the HEA) in May 2017. 

In her role she oversees the directorate whose departments are Corporate Support, Culture, Finance, ICT, Legal, and People. 

She has spent the past 13 years in the not-for-profit sector (in the disadvantaged communities, environmental, and welfare to work arenas) after spending 14 years in the private sector (transport, engineering, chemicals, printing and manufacturing). She is also the Independent Examiner for a church.

Sarah Threadgold

Tracy Bell-Reeves – Executive Director, Delivery, Knowledge and Quality

Tracy started her career in the private sector working for Imperial Inns & Taverns setting up new brands such as Harvester and Little Chef before moving to the wholesale travel industry then to HCTC, a national training provider for the hospitality industry where she was regional manager overseeing both commercial and government contracts. Tracy then moved to higher education, where she worked for 17 years initially at University of Kent then to Canterbury Christ Church, where she was latterly deputy/interim director of HR & OD before joining LFHE in February 2016.

Tracy Bell-Reeves