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University of Sussex Governance Review Info

by David Allen OBE, Susie Hills, Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott OBE, Osaro Otobo, Frank Toop MBE | Mar 5, 2021 | News, Strategy & Transformation

Governance at the University of Sussex

As part of our commitment to good practice, the University of Sussex has commissioned an external consultancy to undertake an independent review of its governance arrangements. See more info here.

The review consultation period will be open from March until the end of May, and we strongly encourage you to have your say by completing the online survey when it opens, and/or attending an online discussion group.

This page will be kept up to date with all the latest information on the review.


The governance arrangements at universities identify responsibilities and accountabilities. The governance framework at the University of Sussex is set by the University’s Charter, Statutes and Regulations.

Council is the governing body of the University. Its role is:

  • To determine the strategic objectives for the University and to monitor performance against these objectives and against appropriate external benchmarks;
  • To discharge its responsibilities in relation to general legal and other external requirements;
  • To meet general requirements deriving from the Charter and Statutes, other than those matters delegated to committees or to individuals;
  • To monitor institutional effectiveness;
  • To monitor its own effectiveness.

Senate reports to Council and is the body responsible for academic standards and the direction and regulation of academic matters of the University. Its role is:

  • To direct and regulate teaching and examination;
  • To promote research;
  • To authorise the award or annulment of degrees;
  • To regulate admissions and the discipline of students;
  • To discuss and declare an opinion on any matter whatsoever relating to the University and ‘do such other acts as the Council may authorise’.

More information on the governance framework at the University of Sussex is available here and here.

Why is a governance review taking place?

Good governance is crucial to institutional success.

The Committee of University Chairs (CUC) published a Higher Education Code of Governance (last updated September 2020) – which states “Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) must conduct a regular, full and robust review of governance effectiveness with some degree of independent input. This will provide assurance to internal and external stakeholders and allow a mechanism to focus on improvement and chart progress towards achieving any outstanding actions arising from the last effectiveness review. It is recommended this review takes place every three years.”

The University last conducted an external effectiveness review in 2017, with a light-touch Council effectiveness review undertaken in 2019 and a Senate Effectiveness Review undertaken in 2017/18.

2021 is therefore the right time for an external governance review.

This review will be considering three key elements:

  • The effectiveness of Council
  • The effectiveness of Senate
  • The relationship between the two

Who will be undertaking the review?

Following an open and competitive tender process, Halpin was appointed by the University of Sussex in January 2021 to conduct an independent review of the effectiveness of the University’s governance arrangements.

Halpin Partnership (Halpin) is a specialist higher education consultancy. Their assigned consulting team for University of Sussex has extensive governance expertise across the education, public and corporate sectors. Biographies of the Halpin review team are provided below.

Following a period of open consultation, Halpin’s team will present the review findings and recommendations to a specially convened Review Steering Group in July 2021. The Steering Group has been established to oversee the review, chaired by the Vice-Chair of Council. Council, Senate and the USSU are represented within this group.

All comments and feedback should be directed through the email address – sussexreview@halpinpartnership.com. Please do not contact the Steering Group directly regarding the review.


  • 3 independent members of Council
  • 2 elected Senators on Council
  • USSU Representative on Council and Senate member
  • Policy Pro-Vice-Chancellor and Senate member
  • An elected Senate representative

Review Steering Group (see biographies here):

  • Adrienne Fresko CBE
  • David Benson
  • Aleema Shivji
  • Professor Stephen Caddick
  • Connor Moylett
  • Professor Keith Jones
  • Professor Sara Crangle
  • Professor Steve McGuire
  • Paul Gilbert

Also in attendance at meetings:

  • Dr Tim Westlake – Chief Operating Officer and University Secretary
  • Emma Potts – Interim Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Deputy University Secretary
  • Georgina Seligmann – Deputy Head of Governance Services

Halpin’s responses to frequently asked questions about the review can also be found below.

Review Timeline

February 2021

  • Introductory Meeting with Steering Group
  • Information Request

March – May 2021

  • Surveys sent to Council, Senate and University Leadership Team
  • Desk review
  • Interviews
  • Observations of Council, Senate and committee meetings
  • Discussion groups with Senate, staff and students

June – July 2021

  • Analysis of findings and development of recommendations
  • Presentation to the Steering Group

September 2021 onwards

  • Findings and recommendations to be presented to Council and Senate by Steering Group, and shared with the University community in the normal way.
  • Implementation of recommendations

Review Consultation

The review consultation period will be open from 8th March until 28th May.

Online discussion group sessions for members of Senate, staff and students will be held in March and April via Microsoft Teams. Once confimed, dates will be added to this page, with details of how to sign up.

Share your comments

Halpin invites comments on governance matters from all corners of the University. If you are unable to attend an online discussion group or you would prefer to send comments regarding the governance arrangements at Sussex to the Halpin Review team via email, please do so via sussexreview@halpinpartnership.com.

Please note, all comments are confidential to the Halpin Review team. We will record the names of interviewees and focus group attendees for the purposes of scheduling, but any comments included in our final report will be anonymised.

Review Team

There are six members of the Halpin team working on this governance effectiveness review. Each team member has a specific focus or area that they will be covering in this review. More details on their remit and biographies are below.

David Allen OBE, Consulting Fellow – Governance Effectiveness (Board and Senate)

David is the former Registrar and Deputy Chief Executive of the University of Exeter.

Having worked in the higher education sector for 37 years, David has also held senior leadership roles at the Universities of Birmingham, Nottingham, Southampton and Wales. David is the former Chair of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales (HEFCW) and and is the only person to have chaired both the Association of University Administrators (AUA) and the Association of Heads of University Administration (AHUA). He is a former Board Member of the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education and also chaired its Audit Committee. He continues to chair Exeter College and Torbay Pharmaceutical Boards and he is also Vice-Chair of Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust. He was awarded an OBE in the 2012 New Year’s Honours list for services to higher education.

At Halpin, David has worked on governance reviews at the University of Bath, UCL, the Royal College of Art and UUK.

Susie Hills, Joint CEO and Co-founder – Project Director

With an unrivalled depth of knowledge in higher education fundraising, leadership and governance, Susie has advised and supported leaders and teams at universities across the UK, often during times of significant change. Susie is highly skilled at undertaking reviews of strategy, performance and structures and is in demand as coach and mentor. Susie is responsible for developing Halpin’s cross-sector governance expertise, having worked in the charity, corporate and HE sectors, and is a champion of best practice in governance. She is currently a Trustee of the Halpin Trust and, until recently, has been a member of the Board of Governors at Plymouth College of Art. In 2019, Susie was named as one of Unilever’s ’50 Leading Lights in Kindness’ by the FT in recognition of her work on kindness in leadership.

As practice lead for governance at Halpin, Susie has overseen highly customised reviews of governance reviews including at UCL, the Universities of Bath, Kent and Westminster, UUK, QAA, and the Royal College of Art.

Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Consulting Fellow – Senate Effectiveness and Assurance

Hilary is a Professor of Microbiology with a personal Chair awarded over 20 years ago and she is currently Honorary Distinguished Professor at Cardiff University. Hilary was a research scientist at the University of Exeter for 20 years, before moving into senior University leadership roles.

At Exeter, Hilary was Dean of the Postgraduate Faculty, responsible for quality assurance, curricula development and student experience. Hilary then moved to Bangor University where she was appointed Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, and later moved to the University of Swansea as Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor. There she lead strategic development, research and innovation, performance management, student recruitment and equality, diversity and inclusion agendas until 2019.

Hilary has a total of 20 years’ experience on three different Senates and 15 years’ experience sitting on University Councils. She was also a member of Finance and Remuneration Committees at all three institutions. Hilary has chaired university Research Committees, prepared three RAE/REF university submissions, and was also involved in establishing two Medical Schools, line managing the Medical School and Health Sciences at the University of Swansea.

Hilary is the elected President of the Federation of European Microbiologicial Societies (FEMS) having previously been the President of both the Microbiological Society and the International Society for Microbial Ecology. She was part of Research England’s Interdisciplinary Advisory Panel to advise UKRI and REF, led the Universities Wales Research and Engagement group and was a member of HEFCW’s Research Wales Committee.

She was also a panel member for REF2014, a member of the working group for the Stern Review and she is currently a panel Chair for REF2021.

Osaro Otobo, Consulting Fellow – Student Experience and Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI)

Osaro is currently Deputy Chair of the British Youth Council and is a member of multiple education and non-profit Boards. Her areas of expertise include the student voice and student democracy in governance and EDI.

A former student at the University of Hull, Osaro was elected for three successive years to work in the best interest of students at Hull, was a postgraduate student trustee and two-term President at Hull’s Students’ Union.

From lived experiences, Osaro created the Make Diversity Count campaign, calling for all UK organisations to have a robust discrimination policy, setting out how they deal with complaints of discrimination in a more effective and transparent way.
She believes in ensuring all students, especially those from liberation and widening participation groups, are supported effectively throughout their education journey. She also believes that student voices should be at the heart of an evidence-based approach to implementing change and getting meaningful, long-lasting results in the higher education sector.
Osaro recently completed her first Halpin governance review at the University of Sunderland has also authored Halpin’s recent report ‘UK Universities’ Response to Black Lives Matter’, co-chairing the subsequent discussion webinar in late 2020.

Frank Toop MBE, Consulting Fellow – Governance Effectiveness (Board and Senate)

Frank is the former University Secretary of City, University of London where he was also previously Director of Finance and Chief Operating Officer.

Frank is an experienced Governor himself, having been a member of HEFCE’s Audit Committee and Goldsmiths, University of London’s Audit Committee. He was also Vice-Chair of Orpington College and London South East Colleges, where he recently chaired the Audit & Risk and Finance Committees. He is currently a Board member and Chair of the Audit & Risk Committee at Greater Brighton Metropolitan College.

Frank has undertaken governance effectiveness reviews at the Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff Metropolitan University and the London School of Hygeine and Tropical Medicine. He has recently worked with the University of Sussex reviewing the Audit & Risk Committee in 2020. As well as governance effectiveness reviews, he has also advised on academic governance structures, university constititonal matters and delegation frameworks.

Frank was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2014.

Katie Welsh, Project Manager

Katie has extensive HE sector knowledge and project management experience. Her recent governance review projects include the Universities of Westminster and Kent, Cardiff Metropolitan and Leeds Trinity. She has managed a variety of complex and high-profile projects at Halpin, including professional services reviews at Sussex and Cardiff Metropolitan University and feasibility studies with the Sainsbury Laboratory, the University of Sheffield and the Royal College of Music.

She previously spent six years in the project management team at the executive search firm, Perrett Laver, responsible for the administration of senior-level recruitment processes within the higher education practice on an international scale. She worked on over 100 senior level appointments, including Chairs of Boards, Vice-Chancellor and other senior academic, professional and professorial appointments.

Katie will be responsible for providing administrative support for the Halpin team and the University of Sussex, and will be the point of contact and coordinator of meetings and group discussions.

Useful Information

As part of the review, Halpin will be ensuring the University of Sussex is compliant with the CUC Code of Governance. They will also be drawing on good governance practice outside of the sector. Here are some useful links to the various codes of governance, as well as higher education sector-specific resources relating to governance:

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How was Halpin Partnership selected?

A public tender process was undertaken.

2. What experience does Halpin have of governance reviews?

Information on the review team and their experience can be found above.

3. What should I do if I have questions about the review and/or would like to share my views?

The review consultation period will be open from March to the end of May 2021. Consultation will include interviews and discussion groups. To ensure confidentiality throughout the process, a dedicated email address has been set up where you can send your comments and questions directly to Halpin:


Virtual discussion groups will be held via Microsoft Teams. We will update the times and dates in due course.

To attend a session please send your name and your preferred session time and date to sussexreview@halpinpartnership.com

4. Is the review independent?

The Halpin review team is entirely independent of the University of Sussex. The review team have no conflicts of interest in undertaking this work and the senior management team at Sussex is not involved in the review in any capacity, other than as interviewees.

The review team’s points of contact at Sussex are the Steering Group Chair, Adrienne Fresko and the members of the Governance team – Georgina Seligmann (Deputy Head of Governance Services) and Emma Potts (Interim Deputy Chief Operating Officer and Deputy University Secretary). The review team has complete access to relevant documentation and information will be provided as requested.

The Halpin review team will provide our findings to the Steering Group in June 2021 and will undertake a process of fact-checking. This will be to ensure that we have not included factually incorrect information or missed any key points of information or evidence. Any changes that are made after that point will be made at the discretion of the Halpin review team, based on the information and evidence provided and after full and careful consideration.

5. Will the findings be published, and if so when?

Halpin’s findings and recommendations will be presented by the Steering Group to Council and Senate in September 2021 and will then be shared with the wider University community in the normal way.

6. Will the review consider governance practice from outside the sector?

The review team includes experts in governance with experience both in and outside of the higher education sector. This wider experience and knowledge will help to inform the recommendations.

7. What is the process for the review?

The review process includes a wide variety of activity to ensure engagement with the University community. The review activity is expected to take place from February with the consultation phase ending at the end of May.

Council and Senate will be kept updated regularly on review progress.

8. Will you share data and consultation findings with Sussex during the review process?

Sharing consultation findings is not part of the review methodology. Halpin will provide analysis of findings and recommendations, but our notes will not be provided to the University.

All data will be destroyed at the end of the contract between Halpin and Sussex, in line with our Data Protection policy as detailed here

9. How will you ensure anonymity and confidentiality?

We will record the names of interviewees and discussion group attendees for scheduling. All comments made are strictly in confidence and our reports will not attribute any comments to any names.

10. Why will staff and students be included in the process?

A typical governance review would not include discussion groups open to all staff and students. However, given the size and level of interest in governance across the University, it is entirely appropriate that as wide a consultation takes place as possible.

11. How can the Halpin review team be contacted?

The Halpin team can be contacted via sussexreview@halpinpartnership.com

Halpin has a trusted relationship with its clients and operates with sensitivity, discretion and confidentiality. We do not comment on client projects to third parties and will not be making any comments on the review undertaken for Sussex.

For any media enquiries, please contact Sussex’s Media Relations team

If you have questions regarding Halpin and the services we offer please visit our main website or contact info@halpinpartnership.com