Director and chair of student engagement unit announced

05 August 2013

The director and chair of a new higher education student engagement and partnership unit have been confirmed. HEFCE recently announced funding for the unit, hosted by the National Union of Students (NUS), which will work to involve students more fully as partners in their higher education. Other funders include the Association of Colleges, GuildHE and NUS.

The outgoing HEFCE Chief Executive, Sir Alan Langlands, has been appointed to chair the steering group for the unit in his future capacity as Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds.

Liam Jarnecki takes up the post of Director of the unit on 5 August. From 1998 to 2004, Mr Jarnecki was Director of NUS Devolution based in Edinburgh, where he was responsible for establishing the student engagement network Student Participation in Quality Scotland (SPARQS) (Note 1). More recently he worked at Thames Gateway Skills Alliance.

Heather Fry, Director of Education, Participation and Students at HEFCE said:

‘We are very pleased that Sir Alan Langlands will be taking up the role of chair of the steering group; his knowledge, experience and respect within the sector will be a great benefit to the work of the unit. Liam Jarnecki’s appointment as Director of the unit is also very positive. He will bring his experience with NUS Scotland and Thames Gateway to the role and we are confident that he will work well to support the partnership approach of the unit.’

Toni Pearce, NUS President, said:

‘We’re delighted that Liam Jarnecki will be leading the student engagement unit. His wealth of success and experience in student engagement will be of huge benefit to students and ensure that they are partners in the creation of their education. It is fantastic too that Sir Alan Langlands will continue his involvement in student engagement on a national level. I look forward to working with him as well, and also his successor as Chief Executive of HEFCE in years to come.

Liam Jarnecki said:

‘I’m excited to put my experience of supporting student engagement in Scotland into practice in England. I hope that we will be able to increase momentum towards students being full participants in the creation of their education by supporting institutions and their staff, as well as students and those who represent them, to empower learners.

‘My ambition is that in future students will know about their curriculum before they start their courses and will be full partners in influencing its make-up.’


  1. Student Participation in Quality Scotland (SPARQS) is a successful Scottish model of student engagement in higher education which has been running for 10 years and whose centralised approach has resulted in national progress. There will be benefits to the English unit from shared practice between the two bodies.
  2. The student partnership engagement unit was announced on 2 July.

Page last updated 5 August 2013

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