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Expert Panel

The Commission is supported through access to an expert panel, made up of experts who are conducting their own work in this area.

Amanda Melton

Former Chief Executive, Nelson and Colne College Group

Following a modern languages degree, Amanda worked in international software systems sales and implementation, supporting geneticists in early digital analysis techniques. She became a teacher in IT, business and languages with the arrival of her family – now grown up.

Amanda Melton was appointed Principal and Chief Executive of Nelson and Colne College in March 2012. The College is rated Ofsted ‘Outstanding’, and is one of the top five performing colleges nationally, delivering A Levels, technical and vocational training up to degree level, and Apprenticeships. Since Amanda’s arrival, the College has expanded to include Lancashire Adult Learning, delivering adult skills education across the County. In 2018, Accrington & Rossendale College also joined the Nelson & Colne College family under Amanda’s leadership.

In 2013, Amanda led the creation of the Pendle Education Trust, a multi-academy trust initially set up to address the particular needs of poor-performing schools. The Trust is currently responsible for five academies, of which three have already improved by two Ofsted grades since transferring to the Trust.

Amanda is formerly a Director at the Lancashire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP Champion for Skills and Technical Education) and Chair of the Lancashire LEP Skills Advisory Panel. She was also formerly Director of the East Lancashire Chamber of Commerce.

Audrey Cumberford MBE FRSE

Principal and Chief Executive, Edinburgh College

Having graduated in 1987 with a Bachelor of Education, Audrey moved to Bristol University to take up a two-year Graduate Assistant Lecturer post, undertaking research within the field of sports psychology. Following this, she left the higher education sector and moved into private industry before returning to the education sector where she held a number of senior roles. Audrey was appointed to her first principal role in 2010 and in 2012 led the merger of three colleges in the West Region to establish West College Scotland.

Audrey has since taken up post as Principal and Chief Executive of Edinburgh College, Scotland’s largest Regional College, in September 2018.

Audrey served two terms on the Scottish Funding Council Board and was appointed a Member of the Government’s Enterprise & Skills Strategic Board which was established in November 2017. She is the Vice Chair of Scotland’s Colleges Principals Group and was recently appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.


Stephen Evans
Stephen Evans

Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute

Stephen became Chief Executive of Learning and Work Institute in 2016 after two years as Deputy Chief Executive, where he was responsible for Learning and Work Institute’s research and development work. He joined from Working Links, a leading provider for employment and skills services, where he led on policy, strategy and business development. Prior to this, he worked for the London Development Agency as Director of Employment and Skills, commissioning programmes and leading the work of the London Skills and Employment Board; was Chief Economist at the Social Market Foundation; and spent six years as Senior Policy Advisor in HM Treasury.

Robin Ghurbhurun

Managing Director, UK Further Education and Skills, Jisc

Kathleen Henehan

Research and Policy Analyst, Resolution Foundation


Smita Jamdar

Partner and Head of Education, Shakespeare Martineau

Smita is a recognised leader in her field, specialising in constitutional, governance and regulatory advice which helps educational institutions thrive in a rapidly changing landscape. She has helped institutions to innovate and develop, to widen their reach, build institutional resilience, and deliver the best outcomes for students and other stakeholders.

Smita has also been recognised in this year’s Legal 500 2020 as a leading individual in Education.

Her approach is best summed up by Chambers & Partners: "She is very knowledgeable about the sector, very well informed about the challenges the sector faces, and insightful about how we could change and adapt." Smita is a member of the Higher Education Commission and an enthusiastic contributor to sector debate through the firm’s education blog, Going Further & Higher and her Twitter feed. She has an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the University of Warwick.


David Jones OBE

Former CEO, Coleg Cambria

David Jones’ is the former Chief Executive of Coleg Cambria.

Born in Aberystwyth and brought up in Ceredigion, David has studied or worked across all regions of Wales.

A Chartered Engineer, David has over 30 years of experience working in Further and Higher Education. He was first appointed as Principal/Chief Executive of Deeside College in 2004 and has since led the three mergers which led to the creation of Coleg Cambria in 2013. Coleg Cambria is recognised across Wales and the UK for its innovation, its strong partnerships with schools, and the strength of its links with its community and local economy.

David’s current external appointments include chairing the Deeside Enterprise Zone Board, the newly formed AMRC Cymru Board, the CBI North Wales Committee and he is vice chair of the Collab Group of leading UK colleges. He is also a member of the Welsh Government’s European Advisory Group.

David was appointed as a Deputy Lieutenant of Clwyd in March 2010 and was awarded an OBE in the 2015 New Year’s Honours List in recognition of his services to education. David also won the TES UK FE Leader of the Year Award in 2017.

Marie-Thérèse McGivern

Former Principal and Chief Executive, Belfast Metropolitan College

Marie-Thérèse was appointed Principal and Chief Executive of Belfast Metropolitan College in 2009. She worked closely with the Governing Body in ensuring the efficient and effective management of the College. This included its financial performance and the quality of its teaching, learning and assessment.

Marie-Thérèse began her career as a teacher in further education. In the 1990s she moved to develop policy for the Youth Service in Northern Ireland and in 1995 joined the Civil Service as a secondee to the Urban Regeneration Initiative, Making Belfast Work. She was appointed Director of Development at Belfast City Council in 1999 and has spoken all over the world on the issue of urban regeneration.

Marie-Thérèse has held numerous advisory, visiting and honorary posts. She is a member of the CBI Council for Northern Ireland, a member of the Association of Colleges World Skills Portfolio Group, a board member of the Titanic Foundation, a non-executive Director of the Strategic Investment Board, a Director of the Collab Group and is a Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute.

She has received a great many awards over the course of her career, with the most recent being Outstanding Business Woman of the Year Award (Women in Business, November 2017). Other accolades include the IOD UK Public Sector Director of the Year Award (2015) and the Women in Leadership Network’s Inspirational Leader of the Year award (2013).


Anja Meierkord

Labour Market Economist, OECD

Anja Meierkord is a Labour Market Economist at the OECD, where her work focuses on changing skill needs in the context of longer working lives, accelerating technological change and globalisation, and what governments can do to prepare for these changes. For the past nine years, she has helped different levels of government make evidence-based decisions in employment, education and social policy. Prior to joining the OECD in 2017, she was Associate Director at the research consultancy Ecorys in London where she advised UK and European institutions on education and skill policy. She has also worked for the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions in Dublin and the Administration of the Berlin Senate.

The Independent Commission on the College of the Future