The Graduate Programme for University Leadership
  • Being a part of the scheme allowed me to learn from the experience of the other trainees and discuss these in depth during the learning sets. This gave me the confidence to map out my own personal development and reflect on any issues or challenges I encountered along the way.

    Jonathan Marshall, Lancaster University Graduate Trainee
  • My career has been hugely varied, happy and interesting. I started as a Project/Training Officer on an IT system at Royal Holloway, before becoming School Administrator within the School of Management. I then became Executive Officer to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Roehampton University, followed by a Programme Manager role and then Head of Systems. In my current role as Director or Student Experience, I'm tasked with ensuring our students get a great deal more out of their time than simply an excellent degree.

    Mike Johnson, Director of Student Experience, Royal Holloway University
  • The thing I have enjoyed most about being a Graduate Trainee on the Ambitious Futures programme is the responsibility I have had over my projects. My first placement was in School of Physics & Astronomy and provided me with the opportunity to make key decisions and to take projects in the direction that I thought best. This has all happened in a 'safe' environment as I have a lot of support from my managers to try out new ideas and try to come up with creative solutions. I feel like my opinions have weight and I have been encouraged to take ownership of projects.

    Nduka Amadi, Nottingham Graduate Trainee

Having successfully completed the programme, the invaluable skills and experience you've gained will set you on your path to a bright future in university management.

However, your learning won't come to an end when the graduate programme does. Surrounded by high calibre colleagues, every day will be an opportunity to hone your skills, strengthen your knowledge and build new relationships.

The profiles below show the roles some of the Ambitious Futures alumni have progressed into and the positive experiences they have taken from the graduate programme.


Name: Ellen Logan
Partner Institution: University of Manchester
Degree: BSc Politics and Philosophy
Year of Graduation: 2014

Current role: Graduate Trainee, Lancaster University and University of Manchester

Description: My first placement with Ambitious Futures was in the School of Environment, Education and Development at the University of Manchester. At the beginning of the placement my manager said that I might get to go on postgraduate fieldwork, if any coincided with my placement.

Fortunately (for me) the Global Development Institute (GDI) had their Cape Town fieldwork trip in January, and so after a few email exchanges and the holding of breath it was confirmed that I was going to Cape Town! Fieldwork is crucial in offering students the opportunity to see their subject in practice, discover new areas of interest and get to know their peers on a deeper level. The students saw first-hand how ICT, data management and strong leadership can work across a number of organisations, including Cape Town City Council, RLabs not-for-profit organisation and Dimension Data.

Taking part in fieldwork exposed me to an area of higher education I knew little of, as well as giving me the chance to learn more about a historically, politically and socially fascinating part of the world. I am now able to put into practice these skills on placement at Lancaster University.


Kim Smith

Name: Kim Bailey
Partner Institution: University of Nottingham
Degree: BA English Studies
Year of Graduation: 2012

Current role: Careers Consultant, University of Manchester

Description: In my role as Careers Consultant in the Faculty of Humanities I work with academic colleagues, in language and business disciplines, to agree career provision for their students each year. Consequently I design and deliver a bespoke range of interventions and events to support the development of student employability. My favourite part of the role (and the most challenging!) is conducting one-to-one guidance appointments with students, as every query is different and I’m learning something new every day.

How did your involvement on the programme help you progress your career?

Having experience within two different institutions and across a variety of departments was invaluable, as I developed a holistic understanding of the context in which professional services operate. My involvement in the programme fostered a huge growth in confidence and developed my ability to think strategically, question the way we do things, and foster improvement.

The idea of movement in the early stages of my career seemed quite natural to me after being on the scheme, in order to really understand what I wanted to do in the long term. I started my first permanent role at the University of Leicester’s Career Development Service, where I had previously become a part of the team during one of my Ambitious Futures placements.

After 18 months I chose to move back to my home town and began working in Quality Enhancement at Manchester Metropolitan University, where I helped coordinate activities such as the National Student Survey. Whilst I gained valuable knowledge about the quality processes which are integral to university management, I missed working directly with students. When the opportunity came up to advance my career further at the University of Manchester I jumped at the chance! I’m now in a role I find really rewarding, as I’m meeting and helping students every day.

Jess Clark

Name: Jess Clark
Partner Institution: University of Salford
Degree: BA English Language and Linguistics
Year of Graduation: 2012

Current role: Residential Life Coordinator, Manchester Metropolitan University

Description: I manage a team of Residential Advisors (RAs) who are student staff providing a peer-to-peer pastoral care service to residents in university accommodation.

A large part of my role involves designing and delivering a training schedule that ensures that RAs are able to undertake their role confidently and successfully. I also support them with cases that are more complex; RAs escalate serious welfare concerns or inter-tenant issues to me and I provide support and guidance to residents on a one to one basis.

What I love most about my role is providing support to students and helping them to get the best out of their time at university, whether as their line manager or in a pastoral setting. My Ambitious Futures placements saw me working in Student Services, Recruitment and Admissions, and an academic faculty, and the three very different experiences enabled me to recognise that after the programme I wanted to work within an area that supported the retention and progression of students at university. Being able to identify what I enjoyed about working in higher education and where my interests lie is definitely something I owe to the Ambitious Futures programme!

How did your involvement on the programme help you to gain this role?

Following the Ambitious Futures programme, I secured a permanent role in the Student Experience team at the University of Salford where I undertook my first placement. The placement allowed me to gain knowledge of the services the team provided as well as the skills necessary for the role. Most importantly, during the five months of my placement I was also able to demonstrate to the managers of the directorate that I learn quickly, can meet all my objectives and work on my own initiative.

After two academic years in post, I felt I had learnt all that I could from the role and was ready for a new challenge. When applying for my current role, a promotion, I was able to demonstrate that I had a varied set of skills gained from my three diverse placements. The recruitment panel were also very interested to hear about the Ambitious Futures programme during my interview and told me that they thought the programme was a fantastic initiative!

Katie Blow

Name: Katie Blow
Partner Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Degree: BSc Psychology 
Year of Graduation: 2011

Current role: Student Guidance and Support Officer, School of Applied Sciences, University of Huddersfield.

Description: I provide pastoral support to students on a range of different issues, liaising with staff to ensure students receive the correct support. I act almost like an alternative personal tutor, helping students with things that they may not feel comfortable talking to an academic staff member about.

What do you think are the key characteristics required to be successful when pursuing a career in higher education?

I think it's important to be passionate about Higher Education, and the area that you want to work in within the sector. For me, if I didn't care about the students or their education I'd be terrible at my job and I wouldn't be able to use this passion to get other staff members excited about the projects I want to run or get their support to improve things. If there's nothing that particularly tickles your fancy yet, then Ambitious Futures is more than likely going to uncover it for you.

Higher Education runs on people, sometimes people running databases and systems, but people nonetheless! I think to be successful in Higher Education you need to be able to work with people from across the University, in different job roles and at different levels, and enjoy it. When I left Royal Holloway, my colleagues in the Library would refer to me as 'the Spider' because I always seem to know someone who might know someone in X who could help with Y. I think it's important that you value what others do (especially if it's something you would hate!) because without them, the wheels in the University cog wouldn't turn.

I think it's essential to be able to have a sense of humour in HE, there will be times when the systems crash, the order you've made takes too long, your project gets stopped mid proposal, there will also be times when you and your colleagues are working long hours to pull something off and it helps to be able to have a laugh about it and enjoy it. I think that's the most important thing actually, enjoy what you do. If you enjoy what you do, then you are going to work harder in that role and create opportunities for yourself to develop.

Caroline Miller

Name: Caroline Miller
Partner Institution: University of Leicester
Degree: BA English
Year of Graduation: 2010

Current role: Web Communications Officer, University of Leicester

Description: My role as Web Communications Officer in the central marketing team means that I have responsibility for creating and maintaining the University’s online course information, as well as oversight and responsibility for the University’s website as a whole.

On top of this, I get the chance to be involved in projects such as creating the website for Clearing. It can be daunting as projects like this are business-critical but they are an exciting challenge.

A key part of my role is providing advice, support and guidance to colleagues across the University on best practice for the web. This is a great opportunity to build relationships and help people to create better work in the future.

I have particularly enjoyed being involved in the process of designing the University’s new website. This has meant that my role has strayed more into the technical side of web communications but I have discovered that I love this aspect of my work and I really enjoy being able to bridge the gap between my marketing and technical colleagues.

How did your involvement on the programme help you progress your career?

The University of Leicester and Birmingham City University are quite different institutions and experiencing both has been really valuable. I think this will give me an advantage when I come to apply for my next role as experience of two contrasting institutions is often a benefit.

Helping to set up the International Summer School at BCU was invaluable for helping to get to know students from other countries and their expectations of a university. I am now a lot more familiar with the audience that I am writing for on the website.

My placements were in central departments of the universities which brought me into contact with many different academic and professional services departments, and the wide range of roles and people this encompasses.

© The Graduate Programme for University Leadership 2016. All Rights Reserved.