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The home of experts in higher education and beyond

Our consultants have senior-level expertise in sectors that operate for the public good.

We work with non-profits and for-profits including universities, further education institutes, schools, charities, the NHS and arts/cultural organisations.

These institutions are educating our future leaders, providing a platform for talented artists and transforming lives.

But transformation has its challenges.

And that's where Halpin comes in.

Let's get started.

Latest news

Upping the governance game in Wales

Aug 03, 2020

In 2019, Chairs and Vice-Chancellors in Wales commissioned Gillian Camm to do a review of HE governance in Wales. The report was published in December 2019 and set out a proposed way forward on governance that was clustered around a series of governance values.

I think it is relevant to all UK HE institutions and I would encourage you to review it if you haven't already.

The Camm report is a substantive piece of work and a good read. Its main objective was “to enable governors to operate at the leading edge of good corporate governance in terms of compliance and crucially boardroom culture”. It noted that “there is growing impatience with the sector at UK level and recent governance issues have fuelled the desire to see change”. Crucially, it recommended that the sector acknowledged past governance failings and developed a public document – a Charter for Change – which made commitments whose delivery would be audited and reported on.

The overall thrust of the report is on enabling governing bodies to fulfil their stewardship role but also offer effective leadership in partnership with the management team and develop a strong accountability to the University’s stakeholders. She notes that consideration of stakeholders and the institution’s contribution to society is becoming important in governance.

Stakeholders such as students, staff, communities and partners should be equipped to understand and challenge the governance of a University. In our reviews at Halpin we find that this is often a neglected area of governance which is ripe for development and innovation.

Camm uses the work of Bob Garratt “Stop the Rot: Reframing Governance for Directors and Politicians” and others to explore governance issues. Camm’s 21 recommendations are built around Garratt’s cornerstone values of accountability, probity and transparency to which she adds competence, challenge, trust and engagement. “Governing bodies need to be able to articulate for their institutions: its purpose (with precision), its vision and values that guide its actions, its culture and demonstrate how everything from its strategies to the senior staff remuneration policies align with these”.

The Camm report has led to the publication of a Governance Charter for Universities in Wales agreed by all the Chairs and Vice-Chancellors. This is not a Code of Governance, Universities in Wales will continue to adhere to the Committee of University Chairs (CUC) Code of Governance. “It is a series of commitments to take steps to improve governance and to adopt best practice both from within and outside the sector; it also commits the institutions to report on progress made”. There is also an accompanying document "Commitment to Action" which sets out the agreed actions and lead players following on from the Charter. Each University will report on progress on implementation in their annual reports and HEFCW will report on sector progress.

The Charter acknowledges past governance failings and has a number of key foci:

• Rebuilding trust with and accountability to stakeholders – Welsh Universities plan to develop good practice for stakeholder engagement and should report on their institution’s engagement in their annual reports. There should be clear mechanisms to ensure the voices of both students and staff are heard and ensure that stakeholders can engage with and contribute to the key strategies of the University.

• Probity – leaders must be seen to operate to the highest personal standards. Camm talks about conflicts of interest being not just reported but anticipated, tracked, managed and made transparent.

• Greater transparency – “Everyone in a modern University needs to have a clear understanding of the work of the governing body and in return that governing body must have a clear appreciation of the culture and climate within the rest of the organisation”. Each governing body should formally review quantitative and qualitative data relating to organisational culture. The Chair and VC in each institution will participate in a 360 feedback report designed around the institution’s values. Camm recommends that “governing bodies should consider how to establish a governance culture of openness, transparency and trust that is led by the Board”. She also commends annual reports such as Vodafone’s which give a comprehensive understanding of how governance actually works.

• Challenge – there must be robust and constructive challenge particularly from the independent members and the papers must be of a quality and style that enables this.

• Competence – Trustees and Senior staff must fully appreciate their responsibilities and be equipped to discharge them. Camm notes the onerous and complex nature of the trustee role and the substantial cost of governance failure for the individual and the institution and therefore the need to ensure governor competence is fit for purpose.

The Charter and Action Plan were developed prior to lockdown and it will be interesting to see what priority is now given to implementing them. There is a risk, given the demands that pandemic is making on the sector, that spending on governance improvements could be viewed as discretionary spending which can be cut as a luxury rather than being seen as essential for the future of the University.

Good governance must continue to be a priority for the sector and is even more important in a time of crisis. Given previous governance failures and the UK’s Government’s continuing negative views of HE Sector, an obvious question is whether a similar initiative to that in Wales would benefit other countries in the UK.

Frank Toop is a Consulting Fellow for Halpin, the home of experts in governance.

3 reasons to make your next governance effectiveness review an external one

Jul 28, 2020

When budgets are tight and resources are limited, it can be tempting to carry out your governance effectiveness review without any external input. This can be done by using the internal auditors, setting up a working group of governors to do the assessment or asking the Clerk or Secretary to lead on the review.

However, there are times when this approach doesn’t bring sufficient independence or fresh thinking. So here are our top three reasons to work with an external supplier on reviewing your governance arrangements:

1. Regulator and Code Guidance

The CUC Code of Governance suggests every university (excluding Scotland) should carry out a review of its effectiveness every four years. Whilst they don’t mandate an external review, they do say, “many governing bodies find an external perspective in this process useful”. This point is repeated in the draft CUC Code of Governance, which proposes that a review “with some degree of independent input” gives greater assurance to stakeholders.

The OfS takes a stronger view, welcoming external evidence of the effectiveness of management and governance arrangements. Reflecting on the previous year of registrations in their 2019/20 review , they say, “A large number of providers were unable to evidence regular external input into reviews of their arrangements. There was also a reliance on what appeared to be paper-based compliance exercises against a chosen Code. This did not allow the OfS to make judgements about the effectiveness of arrangements”. In some cases where they have concerns over financial strategy or risk management, the OfS will even ask for an external review to be done as a condition of registration.

2. Objectivity & Independence

If the review is led by one of the existing governance roles – the Clerk, Secretary, Chair or even the Senior Independent Governor – it is very difficult to put aside the inevitable conflict of interest that exist. No matter how impartial they strive to be, it is impossible to be entirely neutral, especially when assessing the behaviours and dynamics of the Board. An external assessor has no preconceptions - and ideally no prior relationship with any of the people involved – and so the review conclusions can be based only on evidence gathered during the project.

The second advantage of an external review is that the stakeholders being interviewed, whether they are an independent governor or a member of the Executive team, are likely to feel more able to be candid in their reflections. They should be able to speak freely about any concerns without fear of reprisal.

3. Learning from Best Practice

The final key benefit of an external review is the insight that your consultant can share with you from their work with other clients. The codes of governance can give guidance on best practice, but it is often real-world examples on how this has been implemented at other institutions which really add value. The most useful effectiveness review reports will include an element of sector benchmarking - perhaps around the size of boards, committee structures or student representation - which is tailored to your institution and particular needs. There is also value in choosing an external reviewer who has experience of other sectors beyond higher education as there are often useful lessons to be learnt from other areas including the public sector, further education, charity and even commercial organisations.

Are you confident that your internal review can stand up to scrutiny? If you’d like to discuss how we can help bring independence and objectivity to your next governance review, please contact us here.

Client Case Study: UCL Governance Review

Jul 28, 2020

UCL is one of the UK’s truly global institutions in research, education and enterprise. It has demonstrated in the last 10 years a resilience and agility in a fluid and uncertain environment, and it is currently demonstrating that leadership in its research-led contribution to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Halpin was commissioned to undertake an independent review of UCL's Council Effectiveness and were encouraged to adopt an open and inclusive approach. Due to a combination of circumstances - the challenge of emerging from the Covid-19 crisis, the likely consequential strategic reassessment, and a change of UCL leadership - this was a critical moment of transition in which to unleash the energy for change. Our Review team heard the views of over 60 stakeholders, through one-to-one discussions and focus groups. We also undertook benchmarking research to compare UCL’s governance structure against global comparators.

Review Outcomes:

A series of 19 recommendations and 10 further suggestions were presented in our final report. The report was then published and can be read in full here.

We concluded that addressing the culture in key areas and relationships is the absolute priority to create the best chance of implementing the reform.

Fundraising for Research: the joy of the job

Jul 22, 2020

As a fundraiser in a university or research laboratory, you have one of the best jobs there is.

You get to spend time speaking to amazing researchers who are genuinely trying to change the world with their work, and then you get to go and speak to donors who can make that change happen.

But do donors give to this area, and if so, how can you help to make that happen?

Well, all the evidence from the Coutts philanthropic reports showed that the biggest gifts from £million donors went to Education and Research. So yes, donors will give significantly to this area. But how do you alert them to your cause, and catch their interest? You need three things: a great Project, wealthy and interested Prospects, and enthusiastic and hardworking Askers.


As a university fundraiser for over a decade, I found that the easiest projects to “sell” were those really ambitious research projects that reached for the stars. The old saying, “you don’t get millions for $5 ideas” is certainly true; you have to have real ambition and shape what you are discussing with donors, particularly where it is their real area of passion. They need to know that you know your stuff, and they will want to speak to the research leader involved.

Sometimes this will come out of a conversation with a donor. They will tell you about a key interest of theirs, and you will then have the task of seeing if that fits with the priorities of your institution. If it does, then you have a lot of exciting work to do to bring the project to fruition. At other times the project will be of key interest to your institution, and you will start out with that project in speaking to the prospective donor.

Either way, you will need the following: absolute clarity in the vision for the project; what need it is going to fulfil or solve; what the outcome is going to be; what the cost is.


Very clearly, you could have the most wonderful project worked out with precise detail, but if you don’t know anyone who is going to give to it then you’re going to struggle. We work with a number of institutes and universities to help them put together prospect lists for specific projects. You need to align the contacts the institution already has with those who have a real interest in the area you are looking at, aligned with an ability to give a transformative gift. Alumni could help you here, but usually they are only a start – the biggest gifts are not all alumni-driven, and there is no reason why an institute or research charity cannot engage the interest of a potential donor, build a great and lasting relationship with them, and develop a really transformative gift.


I said above that you need great prospective donors to be able to give to great projects. That is absolutely true. However, the vital ingredient that brings all of these together is the right team of “askers”.

Not everyone wants to ask for big gifts. It’s been far less a part of British culture than it has in the USA, but it has hugely developed here in the last 20 years. Put very simply, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. That’s true of almost everything in life, and it’s definitely true of philanthropy. You have to let people know what you need (very precisely), why you need it, and when.

That’s where professional fundraising comes in. Most researchers never intended to be fundraisers – why should they? Their job is to have the £million ideas that change the world. You need to work with a fundraising team that knows what it is doing, that will help you develop a case, identify the right donors, put together the right team of askers, and help you get the gift over the line.

I use the phrase “team of askers” because the fundraisers can’t do this alone. It will take involved leadership from the institution, inspiring researchers, brilliant fundraisers, and a lot of hard work in building long-lasting relationships.

We help universities and research institutes in doing the above every day. It’s what we do, and we love it. We particularly love helping you to get the gift that could just change the world. Given the times we are living in, that has never felt more important.

Shaun Horan is Joint CEO of Halpin, the home of experts in fundraising.

Higher Education fundraising in a time of crisis

Jul 02, 2020

As a consequence of the Covid-19 crisis, UK universities are managing many challenges as they prepare for a new academic year. These include risks to their financial sustainability and the quality of teaching and research, alongside the human impact of the crisis on students, staff and alumni.

Against this context, fundraising and alumni relations can seem a little insignificant. Yet the critical role that donors and alumni play in ordinary times is amplified in times like these. One thing that the crisis has taught us is that the uniting of communities has the power to transform lives.

The Covid-19 crisis is unique because the need for funds towards student hardship, research and other university priorities has never been greater. Yet many of the usual working practices that we rely on to fundraise well - telephone campaigns, face-to-face meetings, events - have been made impossible. In other words, at the very moment when philanthropy is needed most, the normal ways of engaging our supporters have been taken away.

So, to better understand the impact of Covid-19 on fundraising and the ways in which institutions have responded, we reached out to five fundraising leaders to discuss their challenges and obtained insights from 20 universities via a short online survey.

You can download the report in full here.

Whilst the findings contain few surprises, it has affirmed to us that each institution’s response to the crisis has been as unique as the communities they serve. As we all now prepare to return to life post-lockdown, and enact fundraising strategies and plans accordingly, we hope that the following insights prove useful.

If you’d like to discuss any of our findings in greater depth, get in touch.

Halpin announces FE Consulting Team

Jun 15, 2020

Halpin, a management consultancy for the nonprofit sector, has today launched a suite of services tailored to the further education sector, and has assembled a team of highly regarded FE experts to deliver them.

Halpin's team of FE Consulting Fellows (David Allen OBE, Andrew Baird, Selena Bolingbroke, Stefan Drew, Shakira Martin and Frank Toop) have a wealth of combined senior-level experience across HE and FE.

Expert advice and support is on offer across all aspects of FE strategy, governance and operational delivery. Halpin is best known for its reviews - swift, smart assessments as to how you can improve an area of your operations.

Support is available for every aspect of FE - from finance and fundraising to marketing and communications, from infrastructure and estates to student services and equality, diversity and inclusion. The team also has expertise in partnerships and mergers and can support you during significant institutional change.

Susie Hills, (Joint CEO) says, ‘FE providers are facing huge challenges - from financial uncertainty through to the shift to remote teaching/governance, and everything in between. Institutional leaders and their senior teams are working harder than ever, and we are committed to helping them and their institutions to regroup, recover and respond.”

Download more info and read more about Halpin's FE Team here.

For more information please contact [email protected]

Sam Gyimah joins Halpin as Senior Advisor

Jun 01, 2020

Halpin is pleased to announce Sam Gyimah has joined the team as a Senior Advisor.

Previously Parliamentary Private Secretary to Prime Minister David Cameron, Sam was the Minister for Higher Education, Research, Technology and Innovation before resigning in November 2018. He represented his East Surrey constituency from 2010-2019, during which time his experience spanned four separate government departments, including Education.

Prior to his parliamentary career, Sam had worked as an entrepreneur and for Goldman Sachs as an investment banker. After a state-school education, he read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford, where he was elected to be President of the Oxford Union Society, one of the world’s foremost debating societies.

Sam is an experienced leader with a rare combination of skills and insights. To his work with Halpin clients, he brings expert communication skills and an ability to cut through the noise, honed over many years interfacing with the national and international press. This expertise, alongside his insight into the workings and policy of both government and the higher education sector, means he will be a valuable asset to university clients currently managing multiple financial, regulatory and reputational risks.

Sam Gyimah

Sam says, “I am delighted to be joining the highly experienced team at Halpin. From my time as Universities Minister, I am well aware of the strong headwinds the sector was facing even before the COVID-19 pandemic. With my experience at the highest levels of government, finance and innovation, I look forward to working with senior leadership teams in higher education institutions to chart a way forward at this uncertain time”.

Joint CEO Susie Hills comments, “Halpin is committed to offering high quality insight and expertise to higher education. The sector is currently facing both significant challenges and opportunities, and so we are delighted to have Sam join the Halpin team and offer his experience and expertise to our clients”.

For more details, contact Susie Hills at [email protected] or call 0203 930 8303.

Higher Education governance in a time of crisis

May 29, 2020

Our universities are making critical decisions within an uncertain and changing environment. And just at the very moment when things got tough, the normal ways of working were taken away.

Like all of us, governing bodies had to adapt to remote working at short notice. Yet their role to hold the University’s senior leadership team to account is not diminished; if anything, it is just the opposite. So how are they coping? What have they had to change?

To help the sector understand the impact of Covid-19 on governance practice and to give reassurance to universities that they were not alone in overcoming these new challenges, we captured feedback from 39 institutions via a short online survey.

Download the full report here.

Our findings are summarised as follows:

• Almost one-third of the universities that responded did not have contingency plans in place to manage governance in a crisis. In contrast, just over 50% had some back-up plans prepared and 15% had everything in place.

• There are three key activities that governing bodies have used to manage the crisis. These include an increase in the time working together in meetings (either additional committee or Board meetings), pausing some activities to focus on essential business, and the delegation of work elsewhere, such as through Task and Finish groups.

• The crisis has highlighted areas for improvement in governance practice. After all, when responsiveness and focus is needed, it can quickly become apparent if the fundamentals of good practice are not already in place. Over 80% of universities that responded believed that shorter agendas would help them to be more effective, and 42% said they would welcome shorter meeting papers. Furthermore, effectiveness is impacted by culture and behaviours too; 26% admitted that having stronger existing relationships between the governing body and senior leadership team would bring improved outcomes.

• The crisis has also forced changes to governance instruments. In some cases, this includes changing the Standing Orders to allow for virtual meetings and remote voting. For 25% of responding universities, it included changes to the delegation schedule, which can help to increase scrutiny and agility in decision-making.

• Overall, we found the sector is being highly resilient in managing its governance work, with most core activities such as board recruitment, training, effectiveness reviews and strategy development going ahead as usual. Most likely to be delayed for the longest period is board training. Strategy development is the second most likely to be paused, but not for long; the majority who have delayed on this are planning to start again within 3 months. Managing this balance of short-term focus and the longer-term governance needs is not easy, but most recognised that delaying this type of activity for significant periods is likely to cause additional challenges in the future.

• Finally, it looks like online governance meetings are here to stay. Not surprisingly, almost all the universities that responded are using video-conferencing for committee meetings and 87% are using it for Board meetings. More interesting is that 42% of them now plan to build in virtual meetings into their governance calendar, of which 16% will have full governing body meetings held online. Whilst 55% expect to still run most meetings in person, they will now be more open to members joining remotely.

Rachel Killian is a Senior Consultant for Halpin, the home of experts

Where we find kind - kindness resources

May 21, 2020

During the course of Susie Hills' research into kindness, particularly in a leadership context, she has found these resources a particular source of inspiration. Here we list the books, articles, websites and TED Talks that have infomred Susie's thinking along the way.


Matt Dean, “The Soft Stuff: Reclaiming kindness for the world of work

Thupen Jinpa, “A Fearless Heart: Why Compassion is the Key to Greater Wellbeing

Amy Edmondson, “The Fearless Organisation: Creating Psychological Safety in the workplace

Stefan Klein, “The Survival of the nicest: How altruism made us human and why it pays to get along"

David R Hamilton, “The Five Side Effects of Kindness

Kim Scott, “Radical Candor

Gill Hasson: “Kindness: Change your life and make the world a kinder place

Jamil Zaki: “The War for Kindness, Building empathy in a fractured world

Haskins, Thomas and Johri: “Kindness in Leadership

Rhonda Sciortino, “The Kindness Quotient

Lizzie Velasquez, “Dare to be kind














TED Talks


Philanthropy and a Covid-19 Rich List

May 18, 2020

As someone who has spent a working lifetime involved in philanthropy, opening the Sunday Times Rich List magazine has always been both fascinating and frustrating. Fascinating to learn about potential donors, frustrating to read how few were giving big gifts. So much wealth and yet relatively little philanthropy. A show of great philanthropy by people giving significant %s of their wealth, and some simply avoiding paying their taxes.

I have read so many Rich Lists over the years and they are all pretty much the same... a few interesting new entrants, a few new business successes, some interesting 'rags to riches' stories, a few family dynasties and a small number of philanthropists leading the way.

Today it has all changed. Reading the recently published Sunday Times Rich List 2020 feels extraordinary. So many fortunes changing so quickly and so much reputational damage for the super-rich. And a very different editorial tone from the Sunday Times. Some choice quotes:

“Why were so many British businesses brought to the brink of collapse after only a few weeks of lockdown? Why were some of these proudly “self-made” tycoons so quick to beg for a bailout from the tax payer?”

“The coronavirus pandemic has starkly exposed who among the super-rich are sitting on rock solid wealth and whose fortunes are more ephemeral.”

“Demanding a bailout from the taxpayer suggests that multimillionaires see their wealth as impregnable; they may not recognise their responsibility to shore up their defences to cope with the storms that will inevitably come, and hope to carry on buying super yachts, mansions and Maseratis.”

"While it is hard to deny that some of the 0.01% have exposed themselves as self important and out of touch during this pandemic, other Rich Listers have behaved very differently."

So what should those working in philanthropy take from this year's Rich List?

Here are my four thoughts...

  1. The pandemic effect on the super rich is variable - it depends what form their wealth takes. Those whose wealth is exposed to the stock markets are going to be feeling the most pain and may reduce their philanthropy. Note Caudwell's comment on page 6, "We expected Caudwell Children, which offers support to children with conditions that NHS often struggles to treat, to raise £7-8m this year. Now it will get almost nothing."

  2. The attitude of the public to the wealthy is changing and reputational risk for the wealthy is higher. Being seen to seek government bailouts when you are super wealthy (Victoria Beckham) or not paying your share of tax (Richard Branson) will earn you swift condemnation. The wealthy are going to be feeling under more scrutiny for their business transactions and tax affairs than ever before. Does this mean they will turn to philanthropy to enhance their reputations?

  3. Whilst philanthropy is a good way for the rich to enhance their reputations, there is increasing reputational risks for institutions taking gifts. Is it ok to take a gift from a wealthy individual who has been criticised for not paying their taxes? It's time to dust off your gift acceptance and ethics policies and increase your due diligence activity.

  4. Some rich listers have stepped into the philanthropic limelight with extraordinary gifts - Steve Morgan of Redrow, David and Heather Stevens (Admiral) are highlighted, but the giving list (tucked at the back of the magazine) is mostly the usual suspects. Will those giving now in response to Covid19 become long term philanthropists and will we start to see their names on the giving list regularly giving a significant % of their wealth away?

Fundraisers.... this is your challenge.