Head of Access and Participation, Sector Practice, Office for Students
Nicola’s role is to accelerate the closing of equality gaps in access and participation by identifying and promoting the best available evidence about what works. This year she is focusing on four effective practice challenge areas: BAME attainment, disabled students, local graduates and contextual admissions.
Previously, as national lead for skills policy in the higher education sector, she worked extensively on technical education and apprenticeship reform in order to improve choice for students. She has extensive national expertise in improving outcomes for graduates and responding to employers’ requirements. At HEFCE she produced two independent reviews into employability (Shadbolt and Wakeham, 2016), established the £10m Degree Apprenticeship Development Fund, launched a £40m digital skills employer-university partnership called the Institute of Coding and designed the £6m Local Grads programme which aims to improve outcomes for commuter students and graduates who prefer to stay local.
Before joining HEFCE, Nicola spent 12 years at Aston University in Birmingham as Director of Employability and before that she worked in graduate recruitment. In 2015 Nicola received an MBE for services to graduate employability and Higher Education. She is a Governor at Birmingham Children’s Hospital.