The University Council

The Council is the University's governing body. It comprises lay members (who make up the majority of the membership), staff members, and student members. 

Chair of Council – Alastair Da Costa 

University of Leeds Chair of Council, Alastair Da Costa

Alastair has extensive leadership experience in the professional services sector and in the further and higher education sectors.

In addition to his role as Chair of Council at the University of Leeds, Alastair is Chair of Capital City College Group, one of the largest further education providers in the UK, he was recently Chair of digital education business 01Founders Limited and has served on the Councils of the London School of Economics and the University of Sussex.

Alastair has been a partner and shareholder in a number of professional services organisations and is currently Executive Chair of specialist legal search and recruitment firm, Fox Rodney. Alastair qualified and practised as a corporate lawyer. He had a long career with international law firm DLA Piper, where he was a Partner, Managing Director (for Asia Pacific and Middle East), Global Board and Executive member.

Between 2018 and 2021, Alastair served as a Commissioner to the UK Government’s Social Mobility Commission and was lead commissioner for further education and adult skills. Alastair has a Law degree from the University of Leeds, an MSc in Development Management from The London School of Economics.

Email Alastair Da Costa via a.dacosta@leeds.ac.uk.

Council members

Jessica Balme

With a keen passion for improving the student experience, Jess has worked in higher education since 2014, joining the University of Leeds in 2017. Jess is the Curriculum Records Operational Manager in the Student Education Service (SES). She also specialises in timetabling and has worked across several teams in the SES. Jess won a Faculty Partnership Award in Engineering & Physical Sciences in 2021 for innovation.

Jess has a degree in journalism and keeps up with current affairs. Outside of work Jess enjoys antipasti and has a collection of over 50 scarves.

Stephanie Burras  

After graduating from the University of Leeds, Stephanie qualified as a commercial solicitor and became a partner at Pinsent Masons. On leaving law in 2004, Stephanie set up the Ahead Partnership, a social enterprise working with local and national employers to deliver programmes aimed at supporting young people to achieve their full potential and addressing inequality. 

Stephanie also served on the board of Leeds City Regional LEP for seven years and served as Chair of the Employment Skills Panel. Stephanie has been a member of the international advisory board for the Leeds University Business School for the last ten years. 

Tom Clark

Tom joined the Council in 2019. With over 30 years’ experience in technology, he has held a variety of leadership roles in multiple countries, and is currently Chief Technology Officer in The Ardonagh Group and a member of Council for the British Computer Society.

He was previously Group Chief Architect and Chief Information Officer, Lowell Group, Chief Information Officer at Leeds Building Society, IT Director for HSBC Global IT Operations and Vice President for IT for HSBC Global Software Delivery in Chicago. He has experience in the full range of IT-related services expected at a senior level, including cyber security and risks, digital, IT strategy, and infrastructure and asset management. He has previously been a non-executive director of Ongo Homes, Scunthorpe.

Qualified with a Bachelor degree in Business Studies and a Masters degree in IT Management, he is also a Chartered Fellow of the British Computer Society.  

Seb Elsworth

Seb has been a lay member of the Council since 2016. He graduated from the University in 2004 with joint honours in History and Philosophy.

Since 2015, Seb has been chief executive of Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, which supports charities and social enterprises across England to be more financially resilient through developing enterprise activity and providing blended finance. 

Seb’s previous roles have been within the charity sector covering policy, strategy and funding. Following his graduation, he held two consecutive terms on the executive of Leeds University Union, during the latter of which he also served on the Council as a student representative. 

Seb was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2022 for services to Social Investment.

Helen Grantham

Helen joined the Council in 2019. She studied her law degree at the University of Leeds and qualified as a solicitor at Hammond Suddards (now part of Squire Patton Boggs).

She has spent the majority of her career as General Counsel and Company Secretary of listed companies across a range of industries – retail, building materials, security and leisure. She stepped down as General Counsel and Group Secretary at the Co-Op Group in 2022 where she led their legal and secretarial functions and is a member of the Executive Team. She is currently Chair of the Yorkshire and North East Advisory Board at the Canal and River Trust.

She participates in the School of Law mentoring scheme.

Peter Goldsbrough

Peter Goldsbrough is an experienced board member and chair. He is a trustee of the Fidelity UK Foundation, trustee of Dartington Trust, and Senior Advisor to The Boston Consulting Group, where he advises CEO and board-level executives of FTSE 100 companies and their equivalents around the world.

He previously chaired The Boston Consulting Group UK Partnership. He was also previously a non-executive director with Imperial College Healthcare. He is a Visiting Professor at the Institute of Global Health Innovation, Imperial College. He was previously a member of the Education Endowment Foundation advisory board.

Dr Kendi Guantai

Dr Kendi Guantai is the University of Leeds Dean for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and an Associate Professor of Corporate Communications. She is responsible for delivering on key aspects of the University of Leeds EDI strategy as well as developing and embedding decolonial praxis as part of the student Access and Success strategy. 

She is a Leeds Institute for Teaching Excellence (LITE) Fellow, researching authentic self-expression and ‘Sense of Belonging’ in relation to students classed and racialised lived experiences, and also a sought-after international key-note speaker, often running workshops on EDI, Decoloniality and Communication in Higher Education and Beyond.

Dr Guantai is very active in community and third sector spaces, and is the immediate past Chair of The Board of Trustees at ActionAid UK, an international charity that works to make the world a more equitable and safer place, with and for women and girls. 

She co-founded and chaired the award-winning Leeds African Communities Trust, which started the first multi-ethnic food hub in Leeds during the COVID-19 lock-down. She was also the co-chair for the Leeds Academic Collaborations with the Third Sectors (ACTS!) and remains an active member of the University of Leeds Community Engagement Network in Research, Education and Civic Engagement.

As part of the Business School’s collaboration with industry, Dr Guantai designs and delivers webinars for the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women's Programme. She is also a mentor on the KPMG Cross Company Allyship Programme, and was honoured to be an academic group lead and team supervisor for KPMG’s inaugural ‘Shaping 2040’ ESG Report

Although her current role means that she no longer leads post-graduate modules in Corporate Communication Strategy and Reputation Management, she none-the-less remains active in various communities of practice and is a past President of the International Association for Business Communicators (EMENA region).

Finally, Dr Guantai is a member of the University Council, as well as the University Senate.

Shivani Gug

Shivani is the 2024/25 elected officer for Education within Leeds University Union’s Student Executive.

Lucy Hart

Lucy is the 2024/25 elected officer for Union Affairs and Communications within Leeds University Union’s Student Executive.

Lauren Huxley

Lauren joined the University of Leeds in 2013 to study  BA Theatre and Performance followed by an MA in Applied Theatre and Intervention and has remained a member of the University community since.  

She previously held the positions of Activities Officer and Union Affairs Officer at Leeds University Union before taking up her current role as Student Experience Officer in the Lifelong Learning Centre.

In this role she supports mature, part-time and foundation-level learners at the University and works to develop a sense of belonging among students from widening participation backgrounds. 

Professor Peter Jimack

Peter is a Professor of Scientific Computing in the School of Computing, and Director of the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Fluid Dynamics. He joined the University in 1990 as a Lecturer in Mathematical Software. 

Peter has since undertaken a wide range of leadership positions at school, faculty and University level, and roles across many parts of the organisation including School Director of Research, Faculty Pro-Dean for Research, and Executive Dean of the Faculty of Engineering between 2010 and 2019.   

Most recently, he was interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Student Education. As Executive Dean he played a key role in establishing the Joint School with Southwest Jiatong University. 

Professor Simon Kelley

Professor Simon Kelley has been Head of the School of Earth and Environment since April 2021. He joined Leeds from the University of Edinburgh, where he was Head of Geosciences. Prior to this, he was a Head of Department and Associate Dean at the Open University. Professor Kelley is also a member of Senate.

His research interests cover a wide range of Earth Sciences, with a specialism in geochronology, or the measurement of the rates and timescales of geological processes. He has been closely involved with the development of innovative laser and mass spectrometer-based techniques for measurement of noble gases. This work has been augmented by research in the use of Technology Enhanced Learning, arising from his leadership of the internationally successful Virtual Microscope for Earth Sciences at the Open University.

Iain Moffatt

Iain joined the Council in 2019 and is a chartered accountant by profession.

He retired from KPMG in September 2019 after 22 years as a partner, for the last seven heading KPMG’s UK national business, and prior to that, he was the senior partner in Leeds. During that time he has worked with most of Yorkshire’s leading businesses and institutions.

He is now a non-executive director of two companies, and is a governor of Barnard Castle School. When he is not doing this, he’s following most sports and playing some.  

Stuart Murphy

Stuart grew up in Leeds. Most recently, he was CEO of the English National Opera launching free tickets for under 21s and pioneering diversity and social mobility programmes.

Before that he launched and ran BBC3 then Sky Atlantic and oversaw all Sky’s entertainment output. He commissioned Gavin and Stacey, An Idiot Abroad, A League of their Own and Torchwood among others. He is a Fellow of the Royal Television Society and has a CBE for services to opera and his son is a recent graduate of the University.

Dr Yvette Oade CBE DL

Yvette has been a lay member of the Council since 2015 and until recently the Chair of the University Research Ethics Committee. 

She joined Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust as Chief Medical Officer in June 2013, retiring in 2020 to become Medical Director at Nightingale Hospital Yorkshire and Humber. Yvette is currently the acting Regional Medical Director for NHS England, North East and Yorkshire.

Her portfolio includes responsibility for quality improvement and patient safety, and leading medical education and research. 

Originally trained as a doctor in Leeds, Yvette became a Consultant Paediatrician in Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation NHS Trust. On moving into clinical management, she held a number of senior managerial roles before being appointed Executive Medical Director.  

Yvette served for two years as the Chief Medical Officer of Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Deputy Chief Executive, focusing on quality improvement and patient safety. She was also involved in the development of the Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network.   

Yvette is a trustee of Yorkshire Cancer Research and Vice Chair of Leeds Hospitals Charity.

Professor Alice O’Grady

Alice is a Professor of Applied Performance and currently Dean for Student Education with responsibility for Quality and Standards. She is a Leeds graduate, having completed her undergraduate and PhD studies at the University.   

Alice took up her post at Leeds in 2003 and has held various leadership positions in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries including Admissions Tutor, MA Programme Leader and Director of Student Education. She served a five-year term as Head of School from 2015 to 2020. In her current role she leads the University's assessment strategy and chairs a number of key committees, including the Quality and Standards Committee and the Digital Assessment at Leeds Project Board. 

Leyla Okhai

Leyla is the Director of Diverse Minds UK Ltd, providing workplaces with training, and consultancy on mental health, wellbeing and inclusion and is a Trustee for the charity Serendipity Arts. Previously, Leyla was the Head of Centre for Equality, Diversity and Inclusion at Imperial College London for five years.

Before joining Imperial College, Leyla worked at the University of Oxford for six years, firstly in student recruitment, specialising in increasing applications from underrepresented BAME young people, then becoming Oxford University’s first specific advisor for race and religion.

She is a Leeds alumna and was Leeds University Union’s Welfare Executive Officer from 2003 to 2004.

Elizabeth (Liz) Richards

Liz’s career has spanned the financial, data and software sectors. Qualifying as a chartered accountant, she went on to become the Chief Financial Officer of credit reference agency Callcredit (now Transunion). She has undertaken various non-executive roles, including within higher education.  

She is currently the Chair of the Audit Committee at both dotdigital and Tracsis, and the Chair of the Finance and Investment Committee at Yorkshire Cancer Research. Previously, she served for six years as a non-executive director of Leeds Trinity University, including as Chair of the Audit Committee and as a member of the Remuneration Committee.  

As a languages graduate of the University of Leeds, Liz has remained an active member of the alumni community as part of the Leaders in Residence programme in the Leeds University Business School.

Wallace Sampson

Wallace has worked in local government for over 35 years, culminating in 15 years as Chief Executive of Harrogate Borough Council.  

Before this, he worked in a variety of roles at councils in Doncaster, Chesterfield, Kirklees and Bradford, where he was Strategic Director Customer Services and Assistant Chief Executive for Regeneration and the Environment.  

Wallace also has experience as a trustee and non-executive director, as a former trustee of St Michaels Hospice in Harrogate and, since 2020, as a non-executive director at the Harrogate and District Foundation Trust Hospital. Previously, he served as a trustee at the Harrogate Climate Change Coalition and as a director of two companies owned by Harrogate BC.

Ken Sargison

Ken has had a portfolio career. Originally from Sheffield, he started work as an apprentice in the steel industry before becoming a mature, non-traditional entry university student. During his studies, education and skills became his career focus following his belief in the power of education making a difference to individual lives and economies. He developed his career in education progressing from lecturer to senior post holder and then for over 25 years, in professional services working for KPMG and Deloitte, in which he became a Partner in the UK and then Australian Firms. His area of focus is building consulting business, delivering public sector transformation, education and skills engagements in the UK, Middle East, Far East and Australia. 

In 2020, he retired from the Deloitte Australia Partnership, having been a part of the national leadership teams of the Public Sector Transformation, Human Capital, and Education businesses. He had also been a member of the board of the Queensland office with oversight of the regional strategy, business growth and how the office made an impact that mattered both internally and externally.

He returned to the UK and is now the founding partner of a boutique consultancy business that operates globally.

Janet Sheriff

Janet is CEO of the Collaborative Learning Trust and a National Leader of Education. Janet has worked in school leadership, including several inner-city schools, for nearly 30 years. In 2009 she was the first BME secondary headteacher to be appointed in the city of Leeds and the first female headteacher in the 400+ year history of Prince Henry’s Grammar School (a comprehensive, non-selective school). 

In 2018 Janet led the development of the Collaborative Learning Trust, a multi-academy trust with Prince Henry’s Grammar School as the founding school. The Trust has subsequently grown to include diverse schools across the Leeds and Bradford area.

Janet is passionate about increasing diversity in school leadership and has led a range of initiatives and activities (often in partnership with the DfE) to make a difference in this area. In 2021 she was awarded an OBE for services to education.

Heather Swanston

Heather joined the Council in September 2023 and is a chartered accountant and chartered tax professional who has been operating in the restructuring and change management space for the last 25 years. 

She retired from PwC in May 2023 after 21 years as a partner, having led the Global Restructuring Services business for her last four years and the UK Restructuring and Refinancing business for six years prior to that. 

She has spent significant periods of time living and working overseas, most recently returning from Japan in February 2023, and is passionate about the development of teams and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in the workplace. 

She and her children, Harry and Lydia, studied at Leeds University. 

You can read more about the Council on our Secretariat website

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