As Aston University’s governing body, the Council, has a duty to oversee the University’s development and to assist it to fulfil its primary objectives of teaching and research. Comprising 15 members, with a majority of independent governors (at least one of whom is an Aston graduate), as well as five staff and one student members, it carries ultimate responsibility for the University’s strategic direction, finances, property and human resource and employment policy.
The Council has specific responsibility for approving the delivery and effectiveness of the University Strategy which sets out the institutional mission and vision, academic aims and objectives and identifies the financial, physical and staffing strategies necessary to achieve them.
Members of the Council are drawn from a variety of backgrounds including industry, commerce, public service and academia. Independent members of Council play a role similar to that of non-executive directors or trustees of charities, and bring to the University a wide range of commercial and professional skills and expertise, as well as experience of the wider community. They also form a useful sounding board for the Vice-Chancellor and members of the Executive Team and provide valuable advice and help in Aston’s development and management. By becoming a member of the Council whether in an ex officio, independent or academic capacity, the individual concerned agrees to play as full a part as possible in its affairs, including membership of its sub-committees, and to accept the corporate responsibility for the Council’s decisions.
The Council's Powers are set out in University Statute 5
CLASS 1 – EX OFFICO MEMBERS (4)
Pro-Chancellor and Chair of Council
Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive
Chief Operating Officer
CLASS 2 - INDEPENDENT MEMBERS (8)
Dr Melanie Gibbs*
Dr Toby Lewis*
Dr Rob Perrins**
Dr Vijith Randeniya, OBE*
Deputy Chair of Council
Dr Jason Wouhra, OBE
Dr Mike Wright*
Senior Independent Member
CLASS 3 - ACADEMIC STAFF MEMBERS (2)
Dr Hannah Bartlett
Appointed by the Academic Assembly
Professor Paul Topham
Appointed by the Senate
CLASS 4 - STUDENT MEMBERS (1)
President of the Students’ Union 2020/21
ASSOCIATE MEMBERS OF COUNCIL (1)
Professor Gill Nicholls, OBE
Higher Education Adviser to Council
IN ATTENDANCE AT MEETINGS
Deputy Vice Chancellor Engagement
Director of Governance, Secretary to Council and Senate
Appointments in Classes 2 and 3 expire on 31st July
* denotes a second full term of office
** denotes an exceptional third term of office
- Ranjit Dhindsa
Ranjit is the UK Head of EPIC (Employment, Pensions, Immigration and Compliance), at Fieldfisher, which is a £250 million turnover European law firm with offices in four UK locations – Birmingham, Manchester, London and Belfast. Ranjit's team is based in Birmingham and most of her clients are looked after through the Birmingham office. Fieldfisher also has offices in Silicon Valley and China.
Ranjit has over 20 years' experience as an employment lawyer, including being an owner and director of a business, and is currently a member of the firm's Executive Committee. Ranjit is a trusted business advisor for a number of clients in different industry sectors, many of whom she has worked with since she first qualified as a lawyer. Whilst providing advice on all aspects of employment law, Ranjit has a particular focus on supporting and helping businesses manage change – be it setting up a new office in the UK or abroad, restructuring, managing industrial relations (particularly with Trade Unions and Works Councils) and where necessary assisting businesses with mergers and acquisitions as well as divestments. Ranjit is regularly invited by clients to undertake bespoke training on a wide range of topics. She enjoys speaking to business leaders and managers, and assisting them in navigating their way through the changing employment law landscape.
Ranjit understands the challenges of running organisations having been a director and shareholder in a boutique law firm, and a partner and member of the Executive Committee of international law firms.
Ranjit has a keen interest in the education sector. She has more than 15 years' experience as a legal advisor to a number of well-known universities. Her advice has included dealing with governance and compliance issues, helping resolve disputes, and where necessary acting as an independent investigator.
She is also a member of the Employment Lawyers Association (having previously been the Midland's representative), the Industrial Law Society and the Discrimination Law Association.
Ranjit is also a Member of Council of the University's Audit and Risk Committee.
- Dr Melanie Gibbs
Melanie Gibbs’ industrial roles, predominantly with Rexam plc, and as a management consultant, have covered most aspects of manufacturing management including development, technical, quality, “comms”, training, production and sales. She particularly enjoyed her time leading process improvement and “Lean” because she hates waste, whether that be of physical resources, time, effort or talents.
She has also held a number of non-executive roles in the public sector, most recently as Chair of South Gloucestershire Primary Care Trust and Vice-Chair of Gloucestershire Police Authority.
Melanie is a Chartered Physicist with a BSc in Chemical Physics and PhD in Mechanical Engineering from University of Bristol. She recently fulfilled a childhood ambition to train as a teacher and now teaches Science and Mathematics at an Islamic secondary school in Gloucester.
Melanie is a member of the University Audit and Risk Committee.
- Toby Lewis
Toby is Chair of the University's Audit and Risk Committee.
- Dr Sue Noffke
After graduating from Aston University with a degree in Business Administration and Biochemistry in 1989, Sue Noffke joined Schroders (the British multinational asset management company) as a UK equity analyst. Sue spent the first three years of her investment career covering various sectors including insurance and general retail. Since 1993, Sue's role has been UK equity manager for a number of Schroders institutional clients. She has also been an Associate Member of the Institute of Investment Management and Research since 1992. Sue is co-manager of the both the Schroder Prime UK Equity Fund (since 2006) and the Schroder UK Core Fund (launched in March 2011). Sue became lead fund manager of the Schroder Income Growth Fund in July 2011.
The Telegraph referred to Sue as “The UK’s leading female Fund Manager”, in 2011. That same year, financial analysts Citywire said that “Sue Noffke is the best female fund manager in the business”.
Sue was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Aston University in April 2014.
Sue is Chair of the University’s Nominations and Governance Committee and a member of the Remuneration and Workforce Strategy Committee”.
- Dr Rob Perrins
Rob was educated at Marlborough College, Wiltshire and at Aston University where he gained an honours degree in Geological Sciences.
He joined The Berkeley Group in 1994, having qualified as a chartered accountant with Ernst & Young in 1991. He was appointed to the Group Main Board in May 2001, becoming Group Finance Director shortly after. In September 2009, he rose to the top of the company, becoming Managing Director of the Berkeley Group. In 2010, Rob devised and launched a major new 10-year plan for the company. This set out a strategy to make Berkeley one of the most successful and sustainable businesses in Britain. It focused the whole company on four key goals and commitments to the quality of service and product Berkeley would deliver. Under Rob’s management, the Berkeley Group has earned a reputation for outstanding commercial performance and the ability to create beautiful homes in sustainable homes in sustainable places where people want to live. In 2014, Berkeley sustained 21,000 jobs across Britain and contributed £1.4 billion to the UK’s Gross Domestic Product.
Rob was awarded an Honorary Degree by Aston University in 2016.
Rob is Chair of the University's Finance and Infrastructure Committee.
- Dr Vij Randeniya, OBE
Vij graduated with a degree in Modern History in 1981. He joined London Fire Brigade and spent 15 years serving at some of the UK’s busiest fire stations including Brixton and Whitechapel. In 2000, Vij was promoted to West Midlands Fire Service as Assistant Chief Officer and in 2003 to Deputy Chief Fire Officer. He was appointed as Chief Fire Officer in March 2009. He served as Chief Fire Officer for West Midlands Fire Service from November 2008 – December 2013.
He has a Master’s Degree in Management and is a Member of the Institute of Fire Engineers.
He has been a visiting lecturer at both the Defence Academy at Shrivenham in Oxfordshire and the National Police Improvement Agency training centre at Ryton in Warwickshire. Vij was appointed to the Board of Governors of Birmingham Metropolitan College in July 2010 and became Chairman of the Board from September of the same year. Vij was elected to the Chief Fire Officers Association Presidential Team in August 2010, and served as President from September 2012-2013. He was appointed as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Birmingham St Mary’s Hospice in June 2014. Vij is the Vice Chair of Birmingham Women and Children’s Hospital, he is a Non-Exec on The Dudley Group of Hospitals and is a DEFRA appointee chairing a committee for the Environment Agency. He has also been the Principal Fire consultant for KPMG.
Vij was awarded an OBE in 2006 and an honorary Doctorate of Science by Aston University in 2010.
Vij is Deputy Chair of the University Council, Chair of the University Remuneration and Workforce Strategy Committee and a member of the Nominations and Governance Committee.
- Dr Jason Wouhra, OBE
Jason brings considerable experience of business and governance to the role of Council member, as well as a passion for developing opportunities to improve the employability of young people, seeing business as a force for social change.
He joined the family firm of East End Foods after completing his law degree in 1998. He was director and company secretary of East End Foods plc until its sale to Private Equity in 2019. The company had grown to be the country’s foremost brand of ethnic food ingredients, supplying multiple retailers such as Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons and the majority of independent retailers in the market as well as restaurants and catering establishments.
Jason has recently established Lioncroft Wholesale Limited and re-purchased East End Foods’ wholesale division. This new business will continue to build on the already strong heritage under the “East End Wholesale Stores” name. Jason has ambitions to grow the wholesale division substantially over the next few years.
Jason has a degree and masters in commercial law, is an Institute of Directors (IoD) chartered director and became the youngest and first BAME chairman of the IoD in the West Midlands in 2013.
Other prominent positions include non-executive director of University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust as well as past and present chairmanships of the West Midlands India Partnership, Library of Birmingham Advisory Board, Birmingham Child Poverty Commission, Aston University Development Board and vice chair of the Black Country LEP.
His charitable work in the city and the region is considerable and Jason has supported and fundraised for many charities over the years. Jason has been a patron of Acorns Children’s Hospice charity since 2018.
He was awarded an honorary doctorate for his contribution to entrepreneurship and business development by Aston University in 2014. In addition, was awarded an OBE by Her Majesty the Queen in 2017 for services to business and international trade.
Jason is a member of the University Finance and Infrastructure Committee.
- Dr Mike Wright
Mike has a diverse, international portfolio of Chair, NED, Remco Chair and Advisor roles in FTSE and North American listed businesses, and in leading Education, Sports, and Arts organisations.
He was an Executive Director of Jaguar Land Rover, retiring in 2016 after making a significant contribution to doubling JLR’s scale since 2008. He held international ExCo-level roles under Tata, Ford, BMW and BAe Systems ownership, spanning strategic, commercial, government affairs and product development disciplines. His responsibilities covered all the major and emerging markets of Europe, US, China, India, and included a 4-year assignment in Germany.
In 2018 Mike was elected to the Uni-Select Inc (Canada) Main Board and became Audit Committee Chair in May 19. Also in 2018, he was appointed to the Main Board and became Remco Chair of Pendragon plc (UK).
He has wide experience of governmental affairs and currently Chairs the newly formed West Midlands Innovation Board and was previously Chair of the Auto Council-sponsored Automotive Investment Organisation within UK DIT (2016-18), Chair of the West Midlands CBI Council (2014-16), and Director of the Engineering Employers Federation (2011-2017). His Education, Sports and Arts activities include: WMG Academy Trust Board Chair, Aston University Council, Baker Dearing Education Trust Board, Warwickshire County Cricket Club Board, Wasps Community Foundation Chair, and Governor of the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Mike was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Science by Aston University in 2014.
Mike had been appointed by Council as the Senior Independent Member and is a member of the University Finance and Infrastructure Committee.
- Professor Gill Nicholls, OBE: Associate Council member in the role of HE Adviser
A graduate of the University of London, Gill has held the posts of Director of King’s Institute of Learning and Teaching (KILT) at King’s College University of London; Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) at Durham University; Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) at Salford University; Vice President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academic Affairs at the University of Surrey; and Interim Provost at the University of Leicester responsible for planning and resource allocation, reviewing and restructuring of academic governance, creating and setting a realistic target approach to enhancement and improvement across the university.
Since her retirement in March 2016 from the University of Surrey Gill has had the opportunity to engage with over 15 Universities through her personal consultancy. This has substantially increased her knowledge and understanding of effective and efficient use of strategic planning and resource management to aid academic objective setting within ever stringent financial environments.
Gill has contributed to many national and international advisory committees including HEFCE Advisory Boards for: Widening Participation, Teaching, Quality and Student Experience, TRAC and financial sustainability, the QAA Degree Awarding Powers Board, Chair of Changing the Learning Landscape Advisory Board, and the EU Commission for University-Business engagement, and a member of Council for the All Parliamentary Committee for Higher Education. She was a member of the recent TEF panel and currently advises KPMG on Higher Education issues.
She received an OBE for services to Higher Education in December 2015