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Personal profile

Contact Details

Email: helen.higson@aston.ac.uk

Telephone: +44 (0) 7785768510


Until 1st March 2021 Helen was Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Aston University.  She is now Professor of Higher Education Learning and Management in Aston Business School, and Associate Dean Accreditations.  

Helen graduated from Newnham College Cambridge, and subsequently gained an MA from the Open University and a PhD from Birkbeck College, London University.  She has worked in the university sector since 1983 and a major part of that was spent in Aston Business School where she has held senior management positions including Director of Quality, Associate Dean Undergraduate Programmes and Head of Learning and Teaching.  She is a trained executive coach.

Helen is Professor of Higher Education Learning and Management and a member of Aston Business School’s Operations and Information Management Group.  In 2003 she founded the Centre for Higher Education Learning and Management (HELM) and has undertaken extensive research in the areas of employability and work-based learning, intercultural competences and strategic issues in HE management.  Helen wrote a chapter on skills for the Wilson Review of Business-University collaboration on behalf of the Department of Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) in 2012.

Helen was Deputy Chair of the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) Subject Level Main Panel and was a member of the Universities UK Outward Mobility Strategy Board.  She has also been a Subject Reviewer for Quality Assurance Agency (QAA); a member of the HEFCE Quality Assurance Learning and Teaching Strategic Committee; and a member of the Quality Assurance Framework Review Group.  Helen is a Governor of Ravensbourne University, London (currently Vice-Chair),  and is on the Board of the IKON Gallery, Birmingham (currently Chair).  She is also Chair of Navitas UK Ltd and in is on the Governing Body and Estates Committee of Winchester College.

Helen was until recently a Trustee of Society for Research into Higher Education (SRHE), and was a Director AdvanceHE Board, and was on the Board of University Vocational Awards Council (UVAC) and Chair of the GBSLEP Employment and Skills Board.

Helen is a National Teaching Fellow (NTF) and Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA) and a Fellow of the Association of University Administrators (FAUA).  Helen was awarded the OBE in the 2011 New Year Honours for services to Higher Education and in 2017 was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands (and Vice Lord-Lieutenant from 2020).

Research Interests

Research work in: intercultural learning, management of higher education, academic load models, quality procedures, reflective learning, links between theory and practice, pedagogy and research

Currently working on research projects on widening participation, BAME attainment gap, learning analytics, and interculture learning and employability, as well as the effect of coaching in HE.

Teaching Activity

Has recently taught a Masters module on Advances in Crisis Management and an undergraduate module on Effective Management Consultancy.  Designed and taught on the following modules: Business Game, Foundations of Management and International Foundations of Management, Policy and Strategy in Higher Education

Supervision of MSc and MBA dissertations, 

Successful supervisor of DBA and PhD students

Student mentor and placement tutor

Contributor to Aston University Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching in Higher Education

Have been involved in a range of professional development training for university administrators at Aston and other midland universities


2021                   CIM Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring qualification

1996                   PhD, Birkbeck College, London

1989                   MA in Literature and Criticism, Open University

1982                   MA in English Literature, Newnham College, Cambridge

1978                   3 A-levels at grade A, Peter Symonds College, Winchester

1975-6               10 O-levels, Winchester County High School for Girls

Membership of Professional Bodies

National Teaching Fellow (NTF)

Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PHEA)

Fellow of Association of University Administrators (FAUA)

Administrative Roles

Currently Associate Dean Accreditations in Aston Business School.  In this role lead the School's work on Athena SWAN gender equality Charter and Race Equality Charter accreditations.  Also leads regular accredation work with AACSB, EQUIS, AMBA and the Small Business Charter.  

From September 2021 has also been interim Head of Mathematics.  Until recently, Chair of University Collborative Provision Strategy Group (CPSG) and Advance HE accredited Fellowship (RITE) scheme at Aston University.  

PhD Supervision

David Dinwoodie: Diversity, Culture, Leadership, Performance: A performance-oriented moel to leading across differences and managing internalisation process (DBA completed in 2011)

Kamla Mungal: How do Public Private Partnerships influence Business School Performance in the English Speaking Caribbean (DBA completed in 2012)

Enric Bernal: Evaluating Euthentic Behaviour change in Leadership development programmes (DBA completed in 2013

Luke Onuoha: Systematic Financial Resources Allocation Processes: A Model for Critical Resources Mobilisation and Deployment in Nigerian Universities (PhD completed in 2015)

Clare Jones: Does Postgraduate Management Education create employable graduates? (PhD completed in 2016)

Gabrielle Daniels-Gombert: Examinating the Group-Level Effects of Corporate Identity Cues on Organisational Identification and Role Behaviours (DBA completed in 2017)

Bernadette Frech: Does Satisfaction Pay Off?  A Conceptual Model of Customer Satisfaction in an HE Context (PhD completed in 2018)

Catherine Foster: Influence of Parents on First Year Undergraduate Student Adjustment and Academic Achievement at University

Phung Phoung Nam: Factors Affecting the Effectiveness of Transnational Education Programmes (TNE) - The Development of TNE in Vietnam within a Transnational UK Education Context (PhD completed in 2021)

Wendy Tabrizi: Students' effective transition to Postgraduate Study (PhD completed in 2022)


Education/Academic qualification

Level 7 Coaching and Mentoring, Chartered Management Institute

Award Date: 1 Mar 2021

Non-Executive Director Certificate, Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales (ICAEW)

Award Date: 1 Jan 2021

PhD, Birkbeck, University of London

Award Date: 1 May 1996

MA, Open University

Award Date: 1 Jan 1989

MA, English LIterature, University of Cambridge

Award Date: 1 Oct 1982


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