Higher Education Power List - 2015

Compiled by an independent panel of HE experts, the 2015 HE Power List represents the top 50 movers and shakers in English higher education. Who has the most influence in the sector? Who will be instrumental in shaping its future? For the first time, the HE Power List brings you the top 50 names that set the agenda – often behind the scenes, sometimes in full view, inside and outside of universities and across the world of politics and policy making.

Editor: Mark Leach

#HEpowerlist

  • 1.

    George OsborneChancellor of the Exchequer

    As ‘chief executive’ to David Cameron’s ‘chairman’, George Osborne is an exceptionally powerful figure and has overseen almost every major government policy over the last five years – not least those relating to higher education. His Budgets and Autumn Statements have often signalled major HE policy shifts such as the removal of Student Number Controls or the introduction of postgraduate loans. His commitment to science appears sincere and has largely protected it, also showing ambitions for science and research to help drive his wider plan for growth. Osborne’s deficit reduction plan set the agenda for this entire parliament, and given a context for every single government policy – many he directed personally, and a big proportion of which will have affected higher education in some way.

  • 2.

    Theresa MayHome Secretary

    The panto villain of the higher education sector, Theresa May has loomed large over higher education and rarely for positive reasons. Feared and loathed in equal measure, her outright assault on the sector’s ability to recruit international students and her draconian counter-terrorism measures have left the sector reeling. The suspension of individual universities’ Tier 4 licence has torn chunks out of the sector’s previously gold-plated international reputation and caused tremendous strife for the institutions involved, not to mention the countless staff and students caught up in an ideological battle that has often dominated the agenda for the sector over the last five years. Her leadership ambitions are well known and as one of the big beasts of the political arena, the coming election is unlikely to be the end of the road for Theresa May and higher education.

  • 3.

    Ed MilibandLeader of The Opposition

    Although derided by much of the media, Ed Miliband has shown himself adept at setting the political agenda. His attempt to weaponise tuition fees in order to win back voters who deserted Labour in 2010 in favour of the Lib Dems, has for three and a half years caused a great deal of consternation in the sector. The threat of £6,000 tuition fees, first announced in 2011, has kept the sector guessing and has smashed the previously received wisdom that the only way for the fee cap was up, or off entirely. Not being able to settle in to a foregone future of higher fees and increased marketisation, universities have been forced to seriously address an alternative future under an Ed Miliband-led government. And they don’t like it one bit.

  • 4.

    Jeremy HeywoodCabinet Secretary

    Known as the ‘great survivor’ in Downing Street, Jeremy Heywood worked for Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and now David Cameron and has done tours of duty at both No10 and No11. He’s the most senior civil servant in the land and as the Permanent Secretary for No 10 (the first to hold this role) he’s in Cabinet and in any other meeting he wants to be. Cameron turns to him all the time not least because he had decided against having a major political operation at his disposal when he became PM in 2010. That’s now changed and there are more special advisers than ever before, but Jeremy Heywood is still more important than any of them. 

  • 5.

    John KingmanSecond Permanant Secretary, HM Treasury

    Probably the next Permanent Secretary at HM Treasury, but already George Osborne’s ‘go to’ man on science, HE funding and more recently on devolution. He was also central to Gordon Brown’s rediscovery of British science in the late 1990s before leaving to work in the City for Rothschild in 2009. He set up the deal that saved the UK banking system and then actually ran the banks for a while. With Osborne setting the tune for much of government higher education policy, John Kingman has been a key lieutenant throughout. Known for being fiercely bright, this son of a former University of Bristol vice chancellor is a man you need to know.

  • 6.

    Xi JinpingGeneral Secretary, Communist Party of China

    In December The Guardian criticised the Chinese premier for a ‘drift towards a new authoritarianism’ because of moves to curb personal freedoms and free speech; values that UK universities hold dear. Don’t expect any vice chancellors to raise objections though. In 2008-9 one in five new international students was from China, in 2012-13 it was one in three, and around a quarter of postgraduate taught students are Chinese. So the financial and intellectual futures of English universities are increasingly reliant on China and increasingly reliant on policy from Xi Jinping’s administration.

  • 7.

    Jean Claude JunckerPresident, European Commission

    Around 10% of the UK’s research budget comes from the EU so the Commission has huge power over our universities. Juncker is an EU establishment figure who believes in further integration. He has recently called for the creation of an EU army and wants to cut the research budget. Last year he sacked the EU’s Chief Scientific Adviser Anne Glover because her scientific advice supporting GM crops conflicted with powerful vested interests. Expect him to prominently feature in a future EU referendum and for better or for worse, mustn’t be ignored. 

  • 8.

    David WillettsMember of Parliament for Havant

    The brains (plural) of the Coalition’s higher education reforms, which is why, even out of office, he makes the top 10. The next election will determine whether he leaves a lasting legacy, or becomes a footnote in history should his reforms be swept away by a new government. Yet, there’s no doubting his current impact, with his personality and his policies imprinted firmly on the psyche of the sector. An intellectual giant in the Conservative Party, his parliamentary colleagues will miss his experience and expertise when he leaves the House of Commons next week to take up various roles in higher education.

  • 9.

    David CameronPrime Minister

    Described as a ‘chairman’ Prime Minister to George Osborne’s ‘chief executive’, he lets the Chancellor get on with the heavy policy work, swooping in at the final moment to sign-off the big decisions. His most visible impact on the sector was his “no ifs no buts” promise to cut net migration to the tens of thousands during the TV debates in 2010, causing universities no end of pain. But to give him some credit, he has negotiated between the warring factions in BIS and the Home Office, and put a brake on some of the Home Secretary’s most dogmatic ideas, helping George Osborne beat Theresa May to the top spot in this year’s Power List.

  • 10.

    Vince CableSecretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills

    As Secretary of State at the department responsible for higher education, every issue affecting HE that should cross his desk does, and it is for this reason that he just squeaks in to the top ten. But Vince Cable has shown a concerning lack of interest in higher education over the past few years, despite as a former academic having spent more time in universities than most in government. It was his duty to pilot the undergraduate tuition fee increase through Parliament in 2010, despite having promised in opposition not to raise fees. A bitter public debate ensued and the experience left him visibly weary and apathetic about HE. Although lucky to be flanked by a competent Minister in David Willetts for much of the parliament, a stronger champion of universities holding his office might have proved a more effective opposition to Theresa May and so secured a higher ranking on the Power List. 

  • 11.

    Madeleine AtkinsChief Executive, HEFCE

    Madeleine Atkins took the reigns of HEFCE just over a year ago and her tenure has seen a whirlwind of activity inside the funding council and amongst those that depend on it. In a few short months, she has reshaped her role and the role of HEFCE under difficult external circumstances. Impatient for the politicians to agree on legislation, Atkins is shaking up the sector, cutting programmes and kicking the organisation in to shape to lead the sector’s new world order as the indisputable ‘lead regulator’. With a diminished funding role, her tenure represents a critical moment for the Council and her approach demonstrates impressive leadership and tenacity – even as the bodies mount up. With billions yet to come out of BIS in the next parliament and with everything the sector holds dear still at risk, Madeleine Atkins will play a critical role in the spending negotiations to come. If she follows through in the months ahead, then her ‘go hard or go home’ approach might be proved to be just what the sector needed.

  • 12.

    Danny AlexanderChief Secretary, HM Treasury

    Being the fourth pillar in ‘The Quad’ – the senior leadership team of the UK Government made up of David Cameron, Nick Clegg, George Osborne and Danny Alexander – the Chief Secretary has been unusually powerful in this parliament and as such he was always likely to feature high on this list. All spending and policy decisions are brought before – and argued amongst The Quad, and Alexander has exerted his influence wherever he could for himself and the Liberal Democrats in the most powerful part of government – George Osborne’s Treasury.  His quick rise from Head of Communications at Cairngorms National Park to Chief Secretary to the Treasury shows he clearly has some solid political ability, which we’d expect to see more of in the years to come, if he is able to defend his Highlands seat against the SNP in the coming General Election.

  • 13.

    Ed BallsShadow Chancellor of the Exchequer

    The Shadow Chancellor is an experienced politician having worked as a special adviser and minister through various governments. Like Gordon Brown before him, he seeks an active role in social policy to tie to his economic brief, but doesn’t always get his way. His stock amongst vice chancellors rose in recent months as he attempted to block Ed Miliband’s £6,000 fee policy, and he clearly played a big part in ultimately ensuring that the policy was fully costed. Balls has also made encouraging signs that he shares his former boss Gordon Brown’s passion for science which is something they both worked on together in the Treasury. Expect him to be a powerful and proactive Chancellor of the Exchequer should Labour win the coming General Election.

  • 14.

    Mark WalportGovernment Chief Scientific Adviser

    Mark Walport is perhaps the most powerful chief scientist we’ve seen in the UK. He has the ear of David Cameron and nothing in science policy or funding happens without him a) seeing it and b) agreeing it. He used to run the Wellcome Trust and was a Professor at Imperial College. At the Wellcome Trust and as a medical scientist, he was a big player in setting up the Crick Institute.

  • 15.

    Leszek BorysiewiczVice Chancellor, University of Cambridge

    Vice Chancellor of the University of Cambridge and former head of the Medical Research Council and the highest-ranking VC on this list. Known as ‘Borys’, he is widely popular in both government and the sector. Born in Wales, his parents were Polish refugees from World War Two. He’s fiercely proud of his working class roots and committed to excellence and access in higher education. As Cambridge VC, Borys has privileged access to senior politicians and policy makers – a power he wields with great subtlety to further the interests of his university. 

  • 16.

    David EastwoodVice Chancellor, University of Birmingham

    Currently Vice Chancellor of the University of Birmingham, David Eastwood is an old school HE sector heavyweight, having previously held a number of very significant roles: Chief Executive of HEFCE, Vice Chancellor of the University of East Anglia and Chief Executive of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. He was also one of two vice chancellors on the Browne Review into higher education funding. In addition to his role at Birmingham he is currently chair of Universitas 21 and the Russell Group. A regular on the policy and political scene, not much happens in the sector without crossing his desk first, in some form. His experience, knowledge and connections give him serious clout and many other vice chancellors look to follow his lead.   

  • 17.

    Paul NursePresident, Royal Society

    Paul Nurse is President of the Royal Society, Chief Executive of the Francis Crick Institute and an eminent geneticist having been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2001. He is also a foreign associate of the United States National Academy of Sciences. You don’t get a much better pedigree in science leadership and his subsequent influence is undeniable as he is frequently called on by government to help them make science policy.

  • 18.

    Greg ClarkMinister for Universities, Science & Cities

    Clark came into office after all the major reforms from the Coalition had been implemented, and according to rumour is only in BIS one day a week – spending the rest of his time in the Cabinet Office working on his cities portfolio. Appointed as a ‘holding’ Minister, which is why he ends up eleven places below his predecessor. Clark shouldn’t be underestimated though, a policy wonk through and through, he has signalled to the sector plans to stimulate non-traditional routes into higher education if the Tories are in power after May. Expect him to rise up this list next year if he remains in post.

  • 19.

    Chris LockwoodDeputy Head, Prime Minister's Policy Unit

    Chris Lockwood is Deputy Head of No 10 Policy Unit and the only special adviser on the list. A friend of David Cameron, he was only appointed to No 10 in May 2013, after Cameron realised he badly needed more specialist advice. Lockwood works on competitiveness, technology, universities, skills, business and innovation and will advise the Prime Minister directly on any issue he needs to know about that affects the sector. Lockwood was formerly US and Asia Editor of The Economist and Diplomatic Editor at The Daily Telegraph

  • 20.

    Nicola DandridgeChief Executive, Universities UK

    Nicola Dandridge is the longstanding CEO of Universities UK having been in post for over six years. She forms a key link between policy makers and university leaders and is frequently called to represent the sector to senior civil servants, politicians, think tanks, business groups and more. Vice chancellors frequently depend on her advice and support, which she gives in abundance and her extremely high-standing in the sector is testament to her skill, as she has shepherded UUK through a turbulent external landscape and come away from the experience – almost – unscathed.

  • 21.

    Chuka UmunnaShadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills

    As Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills, Chuka Umunna has had the Opposition’s higher education portfolio on his desk for much of this parliament. Although he hasn’t engaged with higher education or science all that comprehensively, his national profile is gaining momentum and he is positioning himself as a future Labour leader – an heir to Tony Blair but with a slightly modulated posture to make his politics more acceptable to the wider party-faithful. Higher education has been a headache for him, having inherited the tricky £6,000 fee proposal yet given a main mandate to restore the Labour Party’s standing in business, as a priority over all other BIS-related policy – including HE fees. Umunna is a media favourite and his links and experience with the higher education sector today matter if is to go on to the big things he clearly has planned.

  • 22.

    Steve SmithVice Chancellor, University of Exeter

    A regular on the political scene, this former politics academic has cemented his heavyweight status over a successful tenure as Vice Chancellor at the University of Exeter. The current Chair of UCAS, there are few other national sector jobs that he hasn’t held. His interest in politics is not just academic; he cultivates many connections across Whitehall and Westminster, a network he has often called on during some of the highest-stakes negotiations with government that the sector has faced over the past few years. Close to David Eastwood, he is another ‘senior’ vice chancellor whose clout ensures that others look to him for guidance and leadership in the sector, whilst keeping one foot very firmly in the world of policy and politics.

  • 23.

    Liam ByrneShadow Minister for Universities & Science

    Coming late to the universities & science brief for the Opposition, Liam Byrne brings valuable experience of government and the private sector. A consummate politician, he slipped in to his new brief quickly and won plaudits in the sector for his engagement in the issues – demonstrated by his thoughtful publications and high amount of face time given to sector leaders (although there was a minor falling-out over the Universities UK letter to The Times, aimed at disrupting the £6,000 fees policy). One of the original ‘Blairites’, Byrne’s politics are unfashionable in Labour at the moment and so is kept out of Ed Miliband’s inner-circle. His appointment to the universities & science brief in late 2013 was widely reported to be a demotion from his previous role as Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. But his experience gives him credibility and his star could well rise again under new leadership of the Labour Party.

  • 24.

    Martin DonnellyPermanent Secretary, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

    As Permanent Secretary, Donnelly been the senior civil servant charged with the reforms of HE during this parliament. He may also be the senior civil servant in charge of legislation in the next. He’s taken plenty of bullets for his political masters over the past four years – especially at Select Committees like PAC. Like pretty much every other civil servant on this list, he spent his formative years at the Treasury.

  • 25.

    Polly Payne & Ruth HannantDirector of HE, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

    Director of higher education at BIS, in an unusual arrangement, Polly Payne and Ruth Hannant job share the role down the middle. They are both formerly of HM Treasury where they had policy responsibility for science, innovation, higher education and skills. They will be briefing new ministers as they arrive after the election, as well drafting any legislation and negotiating the forthcoming spending review; both things they’ve seen from the other side at the Treasury.

  • 26.

    Gareth DaviesDirector General, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills

    Recently taking up post at BIS, Davies is formerly of Number 10 and the the Cabinet Office under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown when he worked on welfare as well as business, skills and science policy. He will lead the upcoming spending review on science and research having been through spending reviews and changes of government before. A careful operator, he knows his way around Whitehall and has an extremely difficult job on his hands in steering BIS through the next round of cuts.

  • 27.

    Mary Curnock CookChief Executive, UCAS

    Mary Curnock Cook has been Chief Executive of UCAS since January 2010, leading the organisation through a period of change in a complex external environment. Her stewardship has enabled UCAS to lead the debate on issues like the growing stature of Clearing as a post-qualification application route, a new tariff system and the rise of BTECs in university admissions. At the same time, UCAS has cemented its reputation as a source of some of the best data and analysis on UK higher education.

  • 28.

    Toni PearceNational President, NUS

    The President of the National Union of Students is always likely to feature on an HE Power List. But Toni Pearce has not engaged with HE in a way that some of her higher-profile predecessors did, and so has consequently landed on the bottom half of this list. However during her tenure, NUS’ standing in the sector has grown and she has helped cement the union’s emerging role as a semi-‘owner’ of the sector – always consulted on policy, and aided by a powerhouse of policy wonks that have helped propel student issues to the core of the sector’s thinking and the top of its agenda. Her media profile has suffered because broadcast journalists haven’t been able to make serious hay out of their favourite HE issue (fees) during Pearce’s time in office. But as her predecessors will attest, that is something for which she should be extremely thankful.

  • 29.

    Chris SnowdenVice Chancellor, University of Surrey and President, UUK

    Chris Snowden is the respected and mild-mannered leader of the University of Surrey. But it is by virtue of his presidency of Universities UK that he has landed on this list. Often called to meetings at the heart of government as UUK President, Snowden plays a critical role in representing the sector’s interests often through complicated and high-stakes negotiations. His business background and academic credentials in engineering give him credibility with policymakers, particularly in the Treasury. He has recently been appointed Vice Chancellor of the University of Southampton, a post he will take up later this year. But he will need to work hard to stay on the Power List next year without the UUK presidency behind him.

  • 30.

    Nancy RothwellVice Chancellor, University of Manchester

    Nancy Rothwell is the first woman Vice Chancellor of the University of Manchester and is co-chair of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science & Technology. During her leadership at Manchester, the university’s reputation has been strongly enhanced and is now in the world’s top 50 universities, seventh in Europe and fifth in the UK. She takes a strong and active interest in the public communication of science and in addition to her academic career she has been involved in running and advising various research and funding bodies including the Medical Research Council, Cancer Research UK and the Biotechnology, Biological Sciences Research Council. Staying largely out of the sector politics fray, a recent turn on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs demonstrated her unusual standing and public reach for a university vice chancellor.

  • 31.

    Julia GoodfellowVice Chancellor, University of Kent

    Julia Goodfellow is the Vice Chancellor of the University of Kent and Universities UK President-elect and will take on that office later this year. Popular amongst other vice chancellors, Goodfellow has worked on spending reviews as former research council CEO and is an outspoken Europhile, leading the ‘UK’s European University’. Also a member of the Prime Minister’s Council for Science and Technology, she’s no stranger to the corridors of power. With a spending review looming, along with a possible referendum on EU membership, she was an obvious choice to lead UUK through the next two years.

  • 32.

    Phil BatyEditor, THE World Universty Rankings

    Once described as the “franker ranker”, Phil Baty is editor at large of Times Higher Education magazine and editor of the Times Higher Education World University Rankings. He was named among the top 15 “most influential in education” by The Australian newspaper in 2012. The World University Rankings, along with other global rankings, now substantially influence strategy at many institutions as well as, increasingly, national and international HE policy.

  • 33.

    David SweeneyDirector (Research, Education and Knowledge Exchange), HEFCE

    As the pioneer of the impact agenda and mastermind of the Research Excellence Framework, Sweeney’s policies have influenced every academic in the country. An arch pragmatist, these policies are driven not only by his core beliefs in HE, but also an innate understanding about the ammunition needed during Spending Reviews. When serving up tough news to vice chancellors, he was described by one as “having black eyes like Thomas Cromwell”. He is the classic poacher turned gamekeeper, with a career history spanning researcher, statistician, IT Director, PVC and now senior civil servant. His CV also boasts a brief spell as tannoy announcer at Maidenhead FC.

  • 34.

    Lionel Robbins, Ron Dearing, Richard HaldaneLegendary thinkers

    All long since gone, sadly. But they cast their shadows and influence over higher education policy to this day. Marking 50 years of Robbins, David Willetts’ campaign to abolish Student Number Controls was launched. Both he and Liam Byrne have written important pamphlets setting out their parties’ thinking in Robbins’s name. Haldane may have set out his famous principles in 1918 but they still get trundled out by every minister, vice chancellor and research council CEO. They took up several pages in last year’s Science and Innovation Strategy. Dearing has more recently left us, but his influence hasn’t with his legacy on student funding very much still alive. Find further analysis about why they made the list here.

  • 35.

    Janet BeerVice Chancellor, University of Liverpool

    As Vice President of Universities UK, chair of the group overseeing the National Student Survey and a Board member of British Council and UCAS, Janet Beer has influenced students and academics across the UK. Her political influence began in 2000, when appointed as Specialist Adviser to the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee. Known for a challenging style, she is one of only three female Russell Group vice chancellors. Currently chair of the Equality Challenge Unit, her recent move from Oxford Brookes to the University of Liverpool is likely to only enhance her reach as the highly effective operator joins battle with her new peers in the Russell Group.

  • 36.

    Carl LygoVice Chancellor, BPP University

    Carl Lygo has led BPP in its various guises for a number of years overseeing a period of dramatic change for the organisation as it has changed ownership, and continually moulded itself to fit a shifting regulatory and financial environment. In this time, Lygo has cemented his and BPP’s role as the private provider of choice for policy makers and was a very early beneficiary of David Willetts’ innovations by gaining a university college status for BPP through a previously untested route, later upgraded by the same Minister to university title. A frequent commentator in the media and prolific tweeter, he also has a growing profile abroad.

  • 37.

    David BellVice Chancellor, University of Reading

    David Bell is the leader of the University of Reading taking the unusual route from being a senior civil servant straight to the top of an institution. He was Permanent Secretary at the Department of Education and also a former Chief Inspector of Schools. He didn’t last long under Michael Gove’s leadership of DoE and made a swift exit to take the reigns of Reading. But government’s loss was the sector’s gain as his insider knowledge of Whitehall and his great network makes him a critical part of the Universities UK leadership team. Also well-liked by fellow vice chancellors, as his feet get ever firmer under the table in the sector, expect to see more of him on the scene.

  • 38.

    Margaret HodgeChair, Public Accounts Committee

    As Chair of the Public Accounts Committee, Margaret Hodge has put Coalition policies on HE funding, alternative providers and regulation both under a microscope and onto the front pages, mercilessly highlighting the deficiencies and the gaps. Her robust and combative style is not without its critics, but it has had the effect of prompting action, certainly as far as alternative providers are concerned, where BIS are now consulting on tighter regulation, and imprinting some of the issues into the wider public consciousness.

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  • 39.

    Sally HuntGeneral Secretary, University and College Union

    As General Secretary of highest profile trade union in higher education, Sally Hunt wields a not inconsiderable amount of power. Battle-scared from years of fighting internally with her more hard-line colleagues and with the higher education sector, Hunt may not be all that influential in policy. But her extensive following and ability to disrupt university life ensures that she carries significant bargaining chips which forces everyone to do business with the long-standing union leader.

  • 40.

    Paul JohnsonDirector, Institute for Fiscal Studies

    Paul Johnson is probably one of the highest-profile policy wonks in the country. Running the deeply respected Institute for Fiscal Studies ensures that he features across all forms of media, all of the time. And his pronouncements about government policy – particularly on economic matters – are taken very seriously by everyone that matters. Also a visiting professor at UCL, Johnson is a heavyweight in economics and public policy and has previously worked in the Treasury, like many on the Power List.

  • 41.

    John CridlandDirector General, CBI

    As Director General of the most influential business body, John Cridland has a tremendous platform, which he uses to great effect in media and policy making. He has a particular interest in university issues, especially around innovation, and has been a key ally to the sector in the recent battles over immigration. Respected in the Treasury and in BIS, he’s someone universities need to keep on side.

  • 42.

    Andrew McGettiganAuthor, commentator and journalist

    In The Great University Gamble: Money, Markets and the future of higher education, McGettigan produced the most important critique of Coalition higher education policy to date. Alongside the book, his writing in national newspapers, online and in the trade press has cemented his place as one of the most thoughtful and detail-orientated commentators on UK HE. And he’s not just tilting at windmills; civil servants, politicians and the sector have taken notice – evident by his public and private engagements often at very high levels with powerful people that want to understand just what on earth is going on.

  • 43.

    Greg HurstEducation Editor, The Times

    As Education Editor of The Times, the paper said to have most sway with key influences and in public opinion, Greg Hurst has unique role. He regularly writes about higher education issues and his work is seen to be moderate and well-researched, giving him respect and credibility in both higher education and with policy makers. With strong links in HE, he’s often the sector’s journalist of choice when they feel like they’ve got something interesting enough to be printed in the paper of record. 

  • 44.

    Chris CookPolicy Editor, Newsnight

    Policy Editor of Newsnight and formerly of the Financial Times, Chris Cook is a policy wonk’s journalist. He understands policy detail – particularly on education issues and is good at explaining it. Newsnight gives him a very wide and influential audience and so his pieces on government higher education policy have the ability to make real waves. A former adviser to David Willetts, Cook’s longstanding battles with Michael Gove whilst Gove was Education Secretary and Cook education editor at the FT, won him plaudits and respect in the sector, and not an inconsiderable amount of enemies amongst his former Conservative colleagues.

  • 45.

    Steve WestVice Chancellor, University of the West of England

    The only vice chancellor on the list from a post-1992 university, Steve West is the popular and amiable leader of the University of the West of England. His tenure as Chair of University Alliance has given him access that he might not otherwise have had, although he’s seen as the sector’s ‘go to’ policy leader on health education issues and so carries significant clout in our nation’s not inconsiderable health-related political economy which has a major stake in higher education.

  • 46.

    Andrew HamiltonVice Chancellor, Oxford University

    As vice chancellor at Oxford, Andrew Hamilton is afforded privileged access to policy and politics at home and abroad, although rarely seen engaging with the internal politics of the higher education sector. Perhaps running one the best universities in the world lets him sit apart from all that unpleasantness. But he can pick up the phone and speak to the Prime Minister if he needed to – a claim few could make. Hamilton is off next year to run New York University so this might be his first and last inclusion on the Power List.

  • 47.

    Alan LanglandsVice Chancellor, University of Leeds

    As a former chief executive of HEFCE and before that the chief executive of the NHS, Langlands is one of the country’s most respected and well-liked vice chancellors. He ends up relatively low down this list because of his reticence to enter the debate on higher education since taking up the reigns at the University of Leeds. If he ever decides to get back into the game, expect him to rise sharply.

  • 48.

    Matthew RobbPartner, The Parthenon Group

    Although a regular on the conference speaking circuit for which he is well known, Robb’s key influence is as a broker of some of the biggest financial deals in higher education. From mergers, to bond issues, the diversifying HE landscape has led to significant deals over the last few years that affect the very shape of the higher education sector. A former civil servant with a McKinsey pedigree, Robb is also respected in Whitehall on education and finance issues. His practice at Parthenon has recently been bought by EY, giving ever-greater firepower to his work behind the scenes.

  • 49.

    Emran MianDirector, Social Market Foundation

    Director of the Social Market Foundation and former civil servant at BIS, Mian was a key author of the 2010 Browne Review. Although he works across the gamut of public policy issues that the SMF are concerned with, he is still respected as an authority on universities by senior politicians and policymakers and is a member of UUK’s on-going HE funding review.

  • 50.

    Wendy PiattDirector General, Russell Group

    Not as influential as some are led to believe, Ministers, SpADs and civil servants often prefer to speak to the Russell Group’s leading vice chancellors (who often disagree with her) for policy advice. Nevertheless, as Director General of the most powerful mission group, she still makes a regular splash in the media and has some power to influence the debate, so just makes it into our top 50.