MEDIA RELEASE: Les Ebdon Joins Applied Inspiration


It is now clear what Professor Les Ebdon, former Director of the Office for Fair Access (OFFA) will be doing in his retirement: working.


He has joined global consulting firm, Applied Inspiration International, as a consultant, drawing on his obvious expertise in widening participation and fair access, and also as a former Vice Chancellor.


The British and Australian advisory firm has been operating in the UK for the last four years, delivering a range of services supporting the development of effective widening participation strategies and operations. Their most recent work is in WP Optimisation, building on their innovative benchmarking of the sector’s operational performance. Their Australian arm has been busy with student success focused organisational reviews, restructures and programme evaluation as the sector adapts to a new operating environment, working for some top-quality universities including the University of Melbourne, as well as the development of alumni development programmes targeted at state schools.


On his appointment, Professor Ebdon said: “I had a lot of opportunities to consider since retiring. I have been very aware of the work that Applied Inspiration’s Managing Directors, Sean Johnson and Emma Thomas have been doing across the country to widen participation in higher education. I have found them impressive in their professional approach to evaluation, design and development of effective and efficient WP programmes. They build on a solid theoretical and evidence base, offering pragmatic and nuanced solutions designed to enhance institutional performance. Their most recent WP performance dashboard and Weighted Performance Score model is a great example. I am very much looking forward to working with the team. Sean and Emma are innovative thinkers with a deep passion for their work.”


Professor Ebdon will act as a consultant to Applied Inspiration, working directly with clients and also providing strategic business support as a member of the Applied Inspiration Advisory Board.


Applied Inspiration now boasts two former Vice Chancellors on their panel. Emeritus Professor Chris Gaskell, former Vice Chancellor of the Royal Agricultural University, has been working with them since late 2017. Managing Director, Sean Johnsons says: “Professor Gaskell’s expertise in small and specialist institutions adds depth to our offer to the sector as we watch the increase in competitive activity play through. We have sought to put an outstanding team of experts together from both the UK and Australia. We have Professor Sally Kift, Dr Nadine Zacharias (Australia) and Jackie Powell (UK) on our panel as well.”


Managing Director, Emma Thomas said: “Our whole team is delighted to be welcoming Professor Ebdon to the family. We are very excited about the work we are set to do over the coming year, which we see as a huge value add to the sector in the accomplishment of widening participation agendas. Our business is built on a fiery core of commitment to social mobility and empowerment through access to education for all. Being from Barnsley, cited in the 2017 State of the Nation report as one of the worse performing areas for children accessing a university education (<10%), I can’t wait to see the results of our powerhouse team and make the difference to the lives and prospects of the UK’s disadvantaged young people.”




Further Notes to Press:

Professor Kift is an internationally recognised thought-leader in the area of transition to university and the first-year experience. In 2017, Sally was awarded the prestigious Australian Award for University Teaching Career Achievement Award for her contribution to Australian higher education. Sally is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (PFHEA), a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Law (FAAL) and elected President of the Australian Learning and Teaching Fellows.


Dr Nadine Zacharias is Senior Research Fellow at the National Centre for Student Equity in Higher Education, Australia. She was the inaugural Equity Fellow in 2016. She was the former Director, Equity and Diversity at Deakin University where she led one of the most integrated and effective Equity teams in Australian higher education.


Jackie Powell is well known in UK widening participation circles, having lead the Higher Education Progression Partnership, a joint venture between University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University. She was also a board member of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE).


For further Information or to arrange an interview contact:

Sean Johnson, Managing Director, 07653 007 132

Les Ebdon, Consultant, Applied Inspiration 07793595553