HEIR Network

Higher Education Institutional Research Network

HEIR Planning Group

Rachel Bowden (Co-Chair) is Head of the Evaluation and Policy Department at the University of Brighton (2020 conference host). She joined the University a very long time ago as a Research Assistant in the University’s Education Research Centre, supporting the then Vice-Chancellor, the late Professor Sir David Watson with his research in higher education policy and practice.  She has worked in a number of roles in strategy and planning and was Deputy Director of the Strategic Planning Office for over 10 years.  She has also led the University’s engagement in a number of national institutional research projects, including What Works? Student Retention and Success Programme (with Advance HE) and the HEFCE-funded collaborative Postgraduate Support Scheme – Postgraduate Experience Project. She is a member of a number of sector groups, including the AGCAS Data Insights Group.

Matt Hiely-Rayner (Co-Chair) Director of Strategic Planning & Change, Buckinghamshire New University Matt is Director of Strategic Planning & Change at Buckinghamshire New University where he is developing a more data-driven approach to strategic change, including the introduction of predictive analytics to increase student prospects of success. With a particular interest in HE metrics that approximate the student experience, Matt previously worked on using value added scores to illustrate the unexplained gaps in degree classifications between student groups and was previously at Kingston University, overseeing the University’s institutional research function that evaluated the success of the University’s efforts to address its attainment gaps. The value added metrics derive from Matt’s other occupation, which is compiling the rankings for the Guardian’s University Guide.  Matt’s first attendance at the HEIR annual conference was the 2014 conference at Oxford Brookes and has enjoyed increasing involvement with the network ever since.

Steve Woodfield, International education policy and research specialist at the British Council
Steve is Associate Professor in Higher Education Policy and Management, and Head of Research, in the Learning and Teaching Enhancement Centre (LTEC) at Kingston University. Steve undertakes externally-funded research projects and consultancy, and institutional research projects, on a range of higher education topics, but particularly related to management and leadership and internationalisation. His work is focused on assisting policy makers, higher education practitioners, and university leaders to understand and assess the implications of strategic change in tertiary education and to design and implement strategies that can assist agencies and institutions to engage with changing political, economic, social and technological contexts. He is also the author the chapter on institutional research in in the UK and Ireland in the 2015 book ‘Institutional Research and Planning in Higher Education: Global Contexts and Themes’ 

Aisling McKenna, Director of Quality Promotion and Institutional Research, Dublin City University (2010 conference host)
Aisling is the DCU Director of Quality Promotion and Institutional Research at Dublin City University.  Her work is focused on promoting, supporting and facilitating continuous quality improvement activities across academic and administrative units throughout the University.  Her office also leads the university’s approach to applying an evidence informed approach to institutional planning, strategy development, and quality enhancement at Dublin City University.   She has worked within the higher education sector since 2007, and previous to her current role, was Institutional Research and Analysis Officer for Dublin City University.

Dr. Phil Gravestock, Dean, College of Learning & Teaching at University of Wolverhampton (2019 conference host)
Phil joined the University of Wolverhampton in 2015 as Dean of the College of Learning and Teaching.  Phil is a Professor of Inclusive Practice, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Fellow of the Leadership Foundation in Higher Education and a National Teaching Fellow. Phil’s current role includes responsibility for promoting and enhancing academic development, technology-enhanced learning and the development of inclusive curricula. Phil has been involved in several national institutional research projects relating to student inclusion, attainment and success

Gráinne McDonagh, Head of Insights & Planning, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences (2018 conference host)
Gráinne is the Head of Insights & Planning at RCSI. She has over 20 years experience working in the Irish higher education sector. The Insights and Planning Office (IPO) works collaboratively across RCSI to provide strategically relevant information and analysis to enable senior management decision-making that aligns institutional strategy with opportunities to further the academic and research reputation, performance and capability of the university. More recently the IPO team have developed a new stakeholder engagement system, taken responsibility for the management of university stakeholder data and plans for international engagement and global and societal impact. Gráinne joined RCSI in November 2000 and has held various management and project executive roles in professional (surgical) training, higher education (university) and transnational education related activities. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience managing projects relating to the strategic and operational development of the university.

Dr. Gerald Prescott, University of St. Andrews (2021 conference host)
Gerald has a 12-year track record as an educator and strategic leader in teaching and learning change and enhancement at the University of St Andrews.  He has served as Director of Teaching and Deputy Head of School within the School of Biology and as the Enhancement Theme Institutional Lead.  He is currently Associate Dean for Education (Faculty of Science) serving as a member of a wide range of senior university committees, including Learning and Teaching Committee, the Strategic Curriculum Approval Group and Academic Monitoring Group and leads institutional-wide workstreams, including those on ‘Assessment’ and ‘Upskilling’.  He is the founder of the university’s Community for Evidence-Led Practice in Education (CELPiE).  Externally, Gerald leads a European University Association Thematic Group on ‘Wellbeing in Staff and Students’, acts as an academic reviewer for QAA Scotland’s institutional Quality Enhancement and Standards Review (QESR) process and is a member of the Scottish Funding Councils ‘Upskilling Strategic Reference Group’.  Gerald led the 2021 HEIR online conference on ‘Inclusive Institutional Research.’

Nigel Page, Director of Learning and Teaching, Kingston University London
Nigel joined Kingston University in January 2006, where he currently oversees the strategic direction, planning and oversight of learning and teaching within the School of Life Sciences, Pharmacy and Chemistry. Nigel undertakes a broad range of higher education institutional research projects including those related to diversity and inclusivity, commuting students, attainment, and enterprise and employability. Nigel has been an active contributor to the HEIR annual conferences since 2015.

Paula Keys is Director of Planning and Performance at the University of South Wales  She joined the University in 1993 following her graduation from the same institution and has worked within central roles in student administration and quality, as a Faculty Chief Operating Officer before moving to the Vice Chancellor’s Office in 2012.  Initial roles included integration of the new University of South Wales and leading on key strategic projects.  Her current role includes planning and performance, strategy implementation, transformation, line management of the university’s Corporate Communications team and Vice Chancellor’s Support Team as well as being the institutional line manager for the lead institution in the all Wales Reaching Wider programme.  She holds institutional responsibility for the annual planning and performance cycle, the Fee and Access Plan, the NSS and League Table oversight.  Data and intelligence to inform decision making and change is a major passion. Paula is one of three co-chairs for the Welsh Planners Group and also sits on the HESPA Executive and HEDIG.

Obinna Okereke, Project Manager – Student Experience, Coventry University
Obi supports the Education Executive to develop student improvement projects and advises on ways to improve the student journey.  He previously worked in Marketing & Admissions at Brookstone School, Nigeria, a secondary & foundation school which is an NCUK (Northern Consortium of UK Universities) study centre. He has worked as Vice-President Education at Coventry University Students’ Union, during which he served as a University Governor and NED for two years. He was a member of the International Working Group of the UPP Foundation Student Futures Commission. He is also a member of a number of sector groups including the UCAS Media Advisory Group and UCAS Student Advisory Group.

Past/founding members:
Aoife Flanagan
Helena Lim

Maura McGinn
Steve May
Clare Milsom
Ian Scott
Marthie Cronje

Lee O’Farrell