Meet the Governors

Meet the Governors

David Ash

David is the Chair of the Corporation, and Chair of both the Governance & Search Committee and the Appeals Committee.

David and his family settled in Worcester in 2001. He has worked as a lawyer throughout his career; he gained a Law Degree at the University of Sheffield then qualified as a Solicitor in 1980. After a few years in private practice, he tried a change of tack and joined the Royal Air Force as a Legal Officer; he signed up for five years but enjoyed it so much that he stayed on for twenty. After leaving the RAF, he was a specialist lawyer in the Higher Education sector; initially he was the Deputy Director of Legal Services at the University of Birmingham and then worked as a freelance Consultant in short-term posts at various other universities.

David has always been interested in sport and currently cycles, runs, walks mountains and skis. In the past he has also dabbled in football, rugby, tennis, rock climbing, windsurfing and snowboarding. His other main interests are contemporary music and watching football and cycling. At times he has been a School Governor, Chairman of a local Community Centre, youth football coach, ski instructor and member of a Mountain Rescue Team.

David was born and raised in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and, unsurprisingly, is a lifelong fan of Newcastle United.

Jane Britton

Jane is a member of the HE Academic Board.

Jane is Pro Vice Chancellor Communications and External Affairs at the University of Worcester.

She is a member of the University’s Executive Board and Chair of the UW Enterprises Board, which manages the University’s commercial activity. Her role includes strategic leadership at a senior executive level in many areas across the University with specific responsibility for Student Recruitment, Strategic Marketing and Market Research, Corporate Communications, Admissions and International.

Originally from Canada, she holds a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Calgary and a Master of Arts from the University of Birmingham.

Helen Butler

Helen is a member of the Remuneration Committee.

Helen is originally from London via Plymouth, and has lived in the West Midlands for seven years. She is Head of Data Governance in Strategic Planning at the University of Birmingham and is also one of the convenors of the national Data Governance Network for Higher Education professionals. 

Prior to taking up this newly created role, Helen was an Assistant Director in Registry at Birmingham, and has also worked as Academic Registrar, Head of Registry Services and Faculty Registrar at universities in the South West and West Midlands, responsible for institutional matters relating to student administration, regulations, policy and quality assurance. 

Gaynor Cheshire

Gaynor is a member of the Governance & Search Committee.

Gaynor moved to Worcester in the 80’s to do a Bed Degree. In the late 70’s and early 80’s she worked as a dancer, performing in a variety of films and projects. After qualifying she moved into education. Initially as a teacher, then head of faculty, deputy head and headteacher. She has been a head of three secondary schools and prior to her retirement on 2022 she was 12 years as CEO of a multi academy trust. Under her tenure the trust was named as leading edge, won an international schools award and ran a prestigious theatre.

Gaynor has sat on numerous boards. Has been an advisor to the arts council, author of a text book and a variety of education packs. She continues to provide consultancy work for MATs and leadership training to both public and private sector organisation.

Vicki Davies

Vicki moved to Worcester in the 90’s and began her career as a journalist, working for a number of newspapers and magazines, both in the UK and abroad.   Moving into marketing communication, Vicki has worked for numerous regulatory, health, education and infrastructure organisations over her career delivering successful marketing communication, transformation, public relations and employee engagement programmes and projects.  Recently retired as a Director of Communication for National Highways, Vicki gained a Masters degree from St Andrews University and holds postgraduate qualifications in marketing, internal communication as well as business and personal coaching.  She is a Fellow of both the Institute of Leadership & Management and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations.   

Vicki is an associate lecturer at the University of Worcester.   Vicki enjoys travel, theatre, swimming and long walks with her miniature Schnauzer.  Vicki was born and brought up in Surrey and West Sussex but can occasionally be found watching a game of rugby at Welford Road, supporting Leicester Tigers with her husband.

Michelle Dowse

Michelle is Chief Executive/Principal and a governor of Heart of Worcestershire College.

Born in London and raised in Milton Keynes, Michelle graduated from the University of Bath with a degree in Business Administration.  After graduating, Michelle settled in the West Midlands where she has lived for 30 years and fondly calls home. 

After a successful career in the private sector for 20 years working in fast moving consumer goods, the logistics sector, Chambers of Commerce and the professional services sector, Michelle joined the Further Education sector in 2008.   She has 15 years senior level experience in the sector working at nine Further Education Colleges including colleges located in  Manchester, Birmingham,  London and Cambridge, before joining the Heart of Worcestershire College. 

Michelle is passionate about improving opportunities for others having experienced the benefits of post 16 education herself, which she admits changed the course of her own life. Her focus is on delivering sustainable growth which meets the needs of the region, ensuring students leave the college life, work and career ready, and providing students with the very best teaching, learning and support to enable them to make a difference both in the workplace and in our communities.

Michelle is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and has studied leadership at both Loughborough and Oxford University.

In her spare time, Michelle loves travelling, the theatre and spending time outdoors with her friends and family,  especially if it is by the water.

Chris Hallam

Chris is Vice Chair of the Corporation and a member of the Audit Committee, Governance and Search Committee and Remuneration Committee.

Originally from Merseyside, Chris graduated from Loughborough University in 1984 with a BSC in Banking & Finance. Thus began a 42-year banking career which saw him work in London, Oxford and Toronto before putting roots down in Worcestershire 22 years ago. He clearly liked the County so much that he refused various opportunities to move with his work preferring to raise his family in Worcester.

During his varied career, Chris worked for HSBC, Santander and, latterly, TSB. He is experienced in all aspects of banking, business development and general management having led both large and small functional teams across multiple locations.

He was previous a director and Chair of the Audit Committee at the Gloucester Heritage Urban Regeneration Company Limited and, more recently, he was Chair of the Worcestershire LEP’s European Structural Investment Fund Sub-Committee which focused on channelling available European funding within the County in support of the strategic aims of the LEP.

Chris has coached grassroots football teams in the County, managed cricket teams from U10s through to U15s and recently qualified as an ECB cricket umpire. During the summer months, most Saturdays and Sundays are spent on a cricket pitch somewhere in Worcestershire either umpiring or watching his sons play cricket.

Chris is also a Governor at a primary school close to his home.

Adam Hall

Picture and bio to follow.

Julie Hurlston

Staff Governor.

Picture to follow.

Julie was born in Germany in an RAF hospital close to where her parents were posted. She came to England at the age of two and has lived locally since that time.  

Julie came late to Higher Education, having raised a large family of six children. She undertook an Access to Higher Education course at Kidderminster College and from there went on to gain an LL B (Hons) at the University of Birmingham. Julie then gained a training contract and qualified as a Solicitor in 2004. During her time in Education, Julie was Student Governor at Kidderminster College and was elected to the Senate at University of Birmingham.  

Julie continued to work in Law, managing a team in the Birmingham office of a large International Business. Julie has also worked in Probate, Fraud and Housing Law. Making the decision to follow a more altruistic path, Julie went to work for St Basils, which works with young homeless people, and at Fircroft College of Education. It is from these roles and the people that she encountered, that she saw the value of education for al. Julie gained a PGDE from University of Warwick in 2016. Whilst on the course Julie was delighted to have the opportunity to teach at a school in the heart of Ghana. Conditions there were very different to those we have in the UK, but it was a wonderful experience and had a profound influence on the way that Julie teaches and on her understanding of the value of an accessible and inclusive educational offering, that is known by for its excellence.  

Having joined the college as a trainee teacher, Julie has taught in a number of departments including Health and Social Care, English, Law, Business and has now settled into a role in Management and Professional.  

Julie now lives with her husband in Bromsgrove. She is currently undertaking an MA in Character Education with University of Birmingham and her studies take up much of her spare time. When she does have time on her hands Julie enjoys craft activities, knits, bakes and sews. She enjoys spending time with her 7 grandchildren and her close family. Julie loves a holiday, the theatre, books and poetry.  

Tony King

Tony is a member of the Audit Committee.

Tony is currently Group Treasurer of Sanctuary Group, a Worcester based not for profit housing and care provider.

Following achieving a business qualification from Oxford Polytechnic, he started his career in a London based business information company followed by 15 years in the banking sector in various credit and risk roles which included a period working in Vienna. He joined Sanctuary in 2000 and moved to Worcester when the organisation moved its headquarters here a few years later. He has been involved with the Worcestershire LEP since its inception and is a trustee of an Oxfordshire based children's charity.

Denis Miles

Denis is the Chair of Remuneration Committee, Vice Chair of Governance and Search Committee and a member of Audit Committee.

Denis was born in London and went to university in Cardiff where he obtained a degree in Economics, was elected President of the Students’ Union and became the first ever student governor of the University of Wales.

He spent 17 years in the aluminium industry in London, Wales, Cumbria and Birmingham, the latter two as a Financial Director and Company Secretary. He then spent eight years as UK Finance Director of a UK-US group making industrial machinery. He has been a Chartered Management Accountant since 1980.

Denis moved to government from 2000 to 2011, holding senior financial positions in the Learning & Skills Council and Skills Funding Agency in the South West Region and as National Director of Provider Financial Management. He worked closely with colleges and representative bodies and was heavily involved with all major capital project applications, financial aspects of merger proposals and working with colleges in financial difficulty.

Denis and his wife (a Solihull College lecturer for over 20 years) have lived in Redditch since 1987. He is a qualified tennis umpire and Wimbledon line judge; has run 58 marathons and half marathons; has climbed all 214 mountains in the Lake District; and is a lifelong Blackpool football supporter. He is also proud to say that, in his youth, he saw the Beatles in concert and was at the World Cup Final in 1966!

Stephanie Simcox

Stephanie is the Chair of the Audit Committee and a member of Remuneration Committee.

Stephanie was born, and still lives, in Wolverhampton and studied Business and Finance at the University of Wolverhampton. She is a qualified CIPFA accountant with a Leadership and Management Diploma in Executive Coaching and Leadership Mentoring and Certificate in Teaching in the Adult Sector, and has worked in public sector finance since graduation.

After initially being appointed on a 3 month temporary contract at Walsall Council, her career there lasted 20 years where she progressed from finance assistant to Head of Finance. Stephanie moved to Worcestershire County Council in 2012 and now, as the Deputy Chief Finance Officer, manages the finance business partners, management accounting, financial reporting and financial change management functions for all areas of the Council.

Stephanie is a qualified mentor and coach and enjoys nothing more than encouraging people to be the best they can be and personal and professional development is a key passion. She has been a member of the CIPFA Midlands Council and is currently working on updating the AAT Level 3 qualification criteria.

Stephanie is married with one wonderful daughter and enjoys the theatre, cinema and going out for meals.

Gary Woodman

Gary is a member of the Audit Committee and Remuneration Committee. He is also the Lead Governor for Safeguarding across the College and works closely with the College DSL.

Gary is the Chief Executive of the Worcestershire Local Enterprise Partnership. He is tasked with driving forward Worcestershire LEP and leading an Executive Team to support the WLEP’s ambitions and delivery of the WLEP business plan including the 5G test bed, development of Cyber Valley and Worcestershire Apprenticeships.

From his former role as Head of Policy and Education at Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce, he has brought with him a wealth of business insight and networks as well as considerable experience of Government policy and delivery. Educated at the University of Wales, Cardiff, where he obtained his degree in Leisure and Recreation Management, and the University of Gloucestershire, where he studied for his postgraduate diploma in Business Administration, he previously worked for Gloucestershire County Council’s market towns and economic development arm, overseeing regeneration.

Evan Whakahau

Staff Governor

Kia ora! Evan grew up in New Zealand and studied at Mount Albert Grammar School before training and working in the hospitality industry. 

He moved to the UK in 1997 and worked for a small fashion label in Worcester, Fly Clothing, before retraining in IT and gaining a work experience position with Worcester College of Technology in 2000. He became a permanent network engineer with the College after certification in Cisco Networks, Microsoft, and Apple Server technologies. 

His role during the 20+ years at the College has changed, moving from IT to Marketing where his blend of technical skills has been utilised running digital marketing campaigns, as well as a creative side through videography and photography to produce content for advertising, VLE and social media. Such work and his length of service with the college has meant he’s a familiar face around campus. 

Evan’s hobbies in include touch rugby, D&D and streaming and is a volunteer for Sea Shepherd and his sons under 7 football team, the mighty Badgers. 

He is married with two young children, nestled up near the Malvern Hills. 

Kay Kavanagh

Kay is Clerk to the Corporation.

Kay was born in Birmingham.  Kay has a background in Project Management and moved into Governance over 8 years.  Kay has gained accredited clerk status via ICSA.

Kay has a strong history of working in Governance.  Before taking up her post as Clerk to the Corporation she worked as a Governance Manager for a Multi-Academy Trust.  She also has previous experience as a Parent Governor at her daughter’s school.  Kay is a very moral person and has a strong sense of integrity.  She supports the Governors to make sound, informed decisions about the College’s future.

Kay is very friendly, approachable and highly organised.  In her spare time, she enjoys family time, is a member of Mensa and has a passion for sewing.

James Hancher

Student Governor (Malvern and Worcester)  and member of the Finance and Resources Committee

James works for LEBC Group, a national Financial Planning firm and manages the advice teams in the South and South West of England. James has also run his own business from startup to exit and also worked for FTSE250 firms and the Financial Ombudsman Service prior to joining LEBC.

 James is a Fellow of the PFS, the highest recognised qualification in his industry and also has a MSc in Financial Planning and Business Management, and a BSc in Business Administration and Computer Science. James is currently studying for the CMI Level 7 in Strategic Management & Leadership Practice.

Outside of work & study James lives in Worcester with his wife, Claire, and his 6 year old daughter. This usually means he can be found in his weekend role as Dad’s taxi, driving her to her hectic social events.