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Martin Paul Eve

Professor of Literature, Technology and Publishing at Birkbeck, University of London

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On Friday, HEFCE announced its new board members. Here's the rundown:

Professor Anne Greenough

Professor Anne Greenough is a paediatrician and Professor of Neonatology and Clinical Respiratory Physiology and Head of King’s College London School of Medicine at Guy’s, King’s College and St Thomas’ Hospitals, London, UK. She is also Director of Education and Training at King’s Health Partners Academic Health Science Centre and Director of the level three Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at King’s College Hospital. Professor Greenough is a member of the Division of Asthma, Allergy and Lung Biology and the Medical Research Council-Asthma UK Centre in Allergic Mechanisms of Asthma. She is the Chair of the NIHR Paediatrics (non medicines) Specialty Group. Professor Greenough’s research interests include antenatal lung growth, optimisation of respiratory support, sudden infant death syndrome and prevention and treatment of chronic lung disease.

Hugh Ross

Hugh Ross is one of the most experienced and well regarded NHS managers in the UK. His 34-year career has included three Trust chief executive roles and two major Strategic Planning roles. His experience includes seven years as Chief Executive of the United Bristol Healthcare Trust, where he steered the Trust through two major inquiries following the revelations of serious failings in children’s heart surgery in the 1980s and early 1990s.

In addition to these senior roles, Hugh has contributed to healthcare on a national basis over many years. His membership of the Clinical Outcomes Group, the NHS Modernisation Board and the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence all reflect a career-long interest in clinical quality and outcomes, improved service design and the appropriate regulation of healthcare professionals. Hugh’s achievements in difficult circumstances have been widely recognized, and his advice has been sought nationally and internationally on a wide range of inquiries and leadership development initiatives.

Sara Weller

Sara Weller brings a wealth of experience from the business sector, having been Managing Director of Argos from July 2004 to June 2011 and a FTSE 100 board director at J. Sainsbury plc, where she worked from 2000-2004. Prior to that, Sara spent her early career at Mars Confectionery and Abbey National, in senior marketing and consumer focused roles. Sara is currently Lead Non-Executive Director at the Department of Communities and Local Government and has been a member of HEFCE’s Strategic Advisory Committee for Enterprise and Skills since 2009. She is a Visiting Fellow at the Said Business School of Oxford University, having graduated with an MA Chemistry from Oxford in 1983.

So, what should be taken from this? Professor Greenough is an eminent clinician and researcher and I have no objections to her appointment. Hugh Ross and Sara Weller, though, are both business managers. These appointments put a serious skew in the already business-centric board of HEFCE. It is also notable that the only member of the HEFCE board with a humanities background (although Law is usually defined as a humanities subject, it is at the extreme utilitarian end of the spectrum) is Professor Madeleine Atkins.

At a time of increasing commodification of education, these appointments should be of worry to those in the humanities and sciences alike; research and HE are being ever-more conscripted into the service of profit-motive and short-term economic gain with disregard for the longer-term good and it seems unlikely to me that the appointment of top level business managers to HE funding bodies will do much to alter that.