“The Ambitious Futures programme is a vital part of our professional services development, ensuring we are equipped for tomorrow’s challenges.  Not only does it give talented graduates the opportunity to embark on an extremely fulfilling career, it also provides our sector with inspirational leaders who will continue to provide world-class higher education in an increasingly competitive market. “

Rachel Sandby-Thomas CB, Registrar, the University of Warwick

Why Join the Scheme?

Ambitious Futures provides a first class foundation for a graduate career in professional university management.

Through the projects they undertake trainees on the scheme deliver exceptional value for their institutions. Being part of the scheme brings new perspectives, helps galvanise change and speed up improvements in processes and services. Alumni from our scheme are highly sought after and secure excellent roles on completion of the scheme.

Being part of Ambitious Futures helps the sector to retain the best graduate talent. It confirms your University as a forward thinking employer and an excellent place to work.

“The Ambitious Futures programme is an investment in our future. The quality of the trainees matched with the unique structure of the programme create an environment in which the trainees can flourish and contribute materially to the University. Through the programme their potential is transformed into a demonstrable management and leadership skillset. We have successfully appointed each of our trainees to permanent roles on completion of the programme, and they are now making a real impact.”

Dr Neale Laker, Director of Academic & Corporate Governance, University of Dundee

Return on Investment

Jonathan Lamley, Ambitious Futures Programme Director, University of Nottingham

The work that our graduates has delivered has been transformational. From developing project plans to support our first transnational initiatives, to work reviews to improve the usability and accessibility of our HR presence on the internet. Their work has one common theme: the fresh perspective, energy and passion that is tangible in those who have chosen a career in our sector.

The Ambitious Futures graduates that I have had the pleasure to work with have, in every case, been exceptional. They provide great value for money – and are an investment for the future.

Paula Sanderson, Registrar and Secretary (Chief Operating Officer), SOAS


  • Our scheme is highly competitive - with almost 30 applications per place
  • 90% of scheme alumni pursue their careers in higher education at the end of the scheme
  • Three quarters of scheme alumni take up roles either in their host institution, or their partner institution

Fees & Timescales

Management Fees

Joining the scheme costs £8333 plus VAT per trainee per cohort.

The management fee covers all aspects of the scheme:

  • recruitment and selection,
  • scheme promotion (eg via social media sites);
  • scheme organisation: management of the placement exchanges, support throughout the programme to trainees, and host institutions
  • residential induction, four one-day development workshops per cohort; and an end of cohort consolidation/ celebration event
  • one year’s membership of the AUA and highly discounted rates on attendance at the annual AUA residential conference, which includes a bespoke session for our trainees
  • group coaching for the trainees (3 sessions per year);
  • organisation and delivery, via external experts, of a programme of professional development for the trainees, which runs alongside their practical placements. This programme is credit bearing and counts towards an MA in Educational Leadership.

Participating institutions pay the trainees’ salary for 18 months, plus some incidental expenses associated with professional development and placement 2.

For full details please contact the Ambitious Futures office.

Management fees are payable in the financial year before the cohort commences – ie 2019/20 for the trainees starting September 2020.


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