University Alliance
University Alliance logo.png
Formation2006; 16 years ago (2006)
TypeAssociation of United Kingdom-based universities
Legal statusAssociation
Region served
United Kingdom
Debra Humphris, Vice-Chancellor, University of Brighton
Chief Executive
Vanessa Wilson
Formerly called
Alliance of Non-Aligned Universities

University Alliance (UA) is an association of British universities which was formed in 2006 as the Alliance of Non-Aligned Universities, adopting its current name in 2007.[1]

Its membership is made up of technical and professional universities with a mission to drive growth and innovation in Britain's cities and regions through research, teaching and enterprise activity, with a particular focus on links with business and industry and applied research with real-world impact.[2]


Alliance institutions educate almost a quarter of UK undergraduate students, including 25% of those on STEM courses and 41% of all part-time students. They deliver 39% of the UK's sandwich degrees with a year's experience in industry and maintain links with over 16,000 businesses, including 11,000 SMEs.[3] It is the only UK university association or grouping which is above benchmark on both access and retention of students.[4] A large proportion of courses (43%) offered by Alliance universities are accredited by professional bodies.[5]

In 2015, University Alliance launched the Doctoral Training Alliance, the UK's largest multi-partner doctoral training programme building on its members' research strengths and industry-focused ethos.[6] The initial programme in applied biosciences for health was followed with further programmes, focused on energy and social policy.[7][8] In 2018, with a €6.5million award from the European Commission, this programme was expanded to include international students, with the launch of the extended Doctoral Training Alliance, DTA3/COFUND[9]. In 2017 it began a Teaching Excellence Alliance programme focused on professional development, sharing best practice and innovation in industry-engaged teaching and developing students' social capital.[10]

Alliance universities employ over 20,000 research staff and account for more than a fifth of teams undertaking world-leading (4*) research in health, general engineering and art and design, according to the most recent Research Excellence Framework.[11] In student enterprise, 40% of the UK's successful graduate start-ups – those surviving beyond three years – come from Alliance graduates and collectively graduate start-ups from Alliance universities employ more than 8,000 people and account for £172m in annual turnover.[12]

University Alliance has an ongoing partnership with the Australian Technology Network group of universities, following a memorandum of understanding signed in 2013.[13] In 2017 a delegation took place to strengthen links between the two groups.[14] A pitchbook document promoting UK excellence in degree-level technical and professional education to international audiences was published by University Alliance in October 2017, developed in collaboration with the British Council, the Department for International Trade and the UK government's GREAT Britain campaign.[15]


In 2016 University Alliance published a series of reports on the leadership role of universities as 'anchor institutions' in their cities and regions, supporting health and wellbeing,[16] life chances,[17] skills,[18] widening participation in HE[19] and innovation.[20] In February 2017, University Alliance put forward proposals on lifelong learning, calling on the government to take steps to ensure people can benefit from educational opportunities at all stages of life.[21] Following this, ministers announced funding for pilot projects to test new approaches to lifelong learning in the March 2017 Budget.[22]

Its policy work has also focused on the role of universities in supporting the UK's industrial strategy[23][24] and nurturing arts, culture and the creative economy.[25] University Alliance's proposals for accelerated degrees[26] and for the creation of Research England within UKRI with knowledge exchange explicitly recognised within its remit have been adopted by the government as part of the Higher Education and Research Act.[27] The organisation has also shaped the design and methodology of the next Research Excellence Framework, REF 2021, following a government-commissioned review by Lord Stern.[28][29][30][31]

Following the EU referendum, in August 2016 University Alliance highlighted the need for an effective post-Brexit replacement for EU Structural Funds as the UK leaves the EU, with £100m of ERDF and ESF monies focused on boosting skills and raising productivity in less prosperous regions being channelled each year through universities.[32] This was subsequently reflected in the recommendations of the House of Commons Education Committee's report Exiting the UK: Challenges and Opportunities for UK Higher Education in April 2017 and in UK government proposals for a 'Shared Prosperity Fund'.[33][34][35]

University Alliance has also undertaken policy work to understand and define teaching excellence in the context of professional and technical education: a collection of essays published by the organisation in 2017, Technical and Professional Excellence: Perspectives on Learning and Teaching included contributions from the National Union of Students, Confederation of British Industry, British Council Chief executive Sir Ciarán Devane, Office for Students Chair Sir Michael Barber and others.[36]

In December 2017 the findings of The Hidden Story, an AHRC-funded study on university knowledge exchange with the creative industries were published, having been undertaken by Alliance universities. It mapped the ways in which higher education institutions support the sector and build cultural infrastructure contributing to understanding of this activity and how it can be measured.[37]

University Alliance contributed to Vocation, Vocation, Vocation, a report on BTEC qualifications as a route into HE, published by the Social Market Foundation in association with Pearson in January 2018.[38] In the foreword to the report, University Alliance Treasurer and Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham Trent University Prof Edward Peck emphasised the contribution which vocational qualifications had made to social mobility, meeting employers' skills needs and as a preparation for technical and professional degree courses.[39]

Tackling barriers to the expansion of degree apprenticeships has been a key area of focus for University Alliance, with the organisation hosting a speech by Education Committee Chair and former Skills Minister Robert Halfon MP in April 2018 addressing this.[40][41]

In its June 2018 report Ladders of Opportunity the organisation highlighted the role of universities in delivering education from Level 4 and Level 5 (sub-degree qualifications) up to Level 8 (postgraduate) of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).[42] The report made a series of recommendations, including greater recognition of achievement at Level 5 within degrees, of experiential learning after completing a degree and greater flexibility in funding and in the delivery of the final year of a degree.[43]


University Alliance holds an annual summit in June hosted by a member institution. In 2017 the event was held at the University of Salford's MediaCityUK campus with speakers including Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and former UK Ambassador to the EU Sir Stephen Wall, and in 2016 at Coventry University with Education Select Committee Chair Neil Carmichael and Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of Bright Blue among those addressing the event.[44] In 2018, at Oxford Brookes University speakers included former Home Office and DEFRA Permanent Secretary Dame Helen Ghosh, Director of Fair Access and Participation Chris Millward and Alison Johns, Chief Executive of AdvanceHE.

In September 2016, University Alliance held a conference with the Higher Education Academy focused on research-informed teaching and how it could best be reflected in the newly created Teaching Excellence Framework.[45][46] The organisation held a discussion event in the Houses of Parliament on lifelong learning in February 2017 with Universities APPG Chair Roberta Blackman-Woods MP and former Universities Minister Lord Willetts.[47]

University Alliance held its first student enterprise competition in May 2017, a Dragon's Den-style contest with students putting forward new business ideas to win investment from a pool of £5,000 hosted at the University of Salford.[48] A follow up competition was held in June 2018.[49]


University[50] Current vice-chancellora
Anglia Ruskin University Roderick Watkins
Birmingham City University Philip Plowden
University of Brighton Debra Humphris
Coventry University John Latham
University of Greenwich Jane Harrington
University of Hertfordshire Quintin McKellar
Kingston University Steven Spier
Leeds Beckett University Peter Slee
Oxford Brookes University Alistair Fitt[51]
University of South Wales Ben Calvert
Teesside University Paul Croney
University of the West of England Steven West


The association is headed by the Chair (Professor Debra Humphris), Deputy Chair (Professor Alistair Fitt) and the Treasurer (Professor Steven Spier) who are elected and serve in office for a period of three years.


No. chairman Term University
1 John Craven 2006–2009 University of Portsmouth
2 Janet Beer 2009–2012 Oxford Brookes University
3 Steven West 2012–2016 University of the West of England
4 John Latham 2016–2019 Coventry University
5 Debra Humprhis 2019 - present University of Brighton

Chief executive

No Chief executive Term
1 Libby Hackett 2009–2014
2 Maddalaine Ansell 2015 – 2018
3 Liz Bromley (acting)[52] 2018
4 Vanessa Wilson 2019–present


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  2. ^ "Strategic Framework 2015–20 | University Alliance". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
  3. ^ "About us | University Alliance". Retrieved 14 March 2017.
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  5. ^ "Unistats dataset | HESA". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  6. ^ "University Alliance launches a new kind of doctoral programme for the 21st Century | University Alliance". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  7. ^ "Doctoral Training Alliance celebrates first anniversary with launch of new industry collaboration | University Alliance". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
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  19. ^ "Widening Participation report – in partnership with SMF & Open University | University Alliance". Retrieved 5 October 2017.
  20. ^ "Creating innovative regions: The role of universities in local growth and productivity | University Alliance". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  21. ^ "Enabling lifelong learning requires bold action from Government | University Alliance". Retrieved 15 March 2017.
  22. ^ Sands, Mark (8 March 2017). "Ministers to test out lifelong education plans". Retrieved 5 October 2017.
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  38. ^ "SMF - Vocation Vocation Vocation report pdf" (PDF).
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  40. ^ "Robert Halfon MP speech on Degree Apprenticeships | University Alliance". Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  41. ^ "Helping everyone get the most out of degree apprenticeships | Wonkhe | Comment". Wonkhe. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
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  43. ^ "Ladders of opportunity – Strengthening the role of universities in technical and professional education | University Alliance". Retrieved 28 June 2018.
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  45. ^ "Breaking down the 'divide' between research and teaching | University Alliance". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  46. ^ "Research-informed teaching case studies booklet | University Alliance". Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  47. ^ "Enabling lifelong learning requires bold action from Government | University Alliance". Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  48. ^ "Innovating Future Business 2017: How can universities grow an entrepreneur? | University Alliance". Retrieved 23 October 2017.
  49. ^ "Enterprise Stars 2018 – the winners | University Alliance". Retrieved 28 June 2018.
  50. ^ "University Alliance website". Retrieved 28 January 2015.
  51. ^ "Professor Alistair Fitt to become the next Vice Chancellor of Oxford Brookes". Retrieved 15 July 2015.
  52. ^ "Liz Bromley | University Alliance". Retrieved 22 May 2018.