Appointment of the Chief Executive


Thank you for your interest in becoming the Chief Executive of NCUK.

Northern Consortium UK Ltd (NCUK) is unique in higher education. We are the operating company of Northern Consortium, a charity composed of leading UK universities dedicated to giving international students access to universities, worldwide, and helping them to succeed when they get there. We offer a range of high-quality qualifications that combine the highest academic standards with the development of exceptional language, study and cultural skills. In conjunction with NCUK’s excellent university applications service, NCUK qualifications provide students with the best route to university in the UK and selected other countries. This is demonstrated by the tens of thousands of students who, over the Consortium’s 30+ year history, have excelled on their NCUK qualification, and at their destination university and onwards into their career.

NCUK’s primary purpose is to support the charitable objectives of its parent charity, Northern Consortium, to advance education.

Through 2020 NCUK successfully adapted its offer and operations in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, moving quickly to effective remote working, support for remote teaching and learning, and to digitally-supported assessments for its students.  To continue to thrive and succeed, NCUK needs to capitalise on that success, realise new and existing market opportunities, further develop its products and services and make its offer relevant to new groups of students. Most of all, it needs to sell its strengths and its relevance in the current HE environment: it is well-established, its programmes are widely-accepted and they are proven to deliver positive results for students. With a strong international brand and an ever-growing range of partnerships, NCUK has laid the foundations for further growth and success.

After a period that has been dominated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, NCUK needs to explore and initiate new ways of working, including significant continued investment in a digital transformation programme which will enable us to remain competitive, and to adapt to the changing environment quickly.

We are seeking to appoint a Chief Executive who can lead the academic and commercial development of the company as it delivers its strategy to grow in a very competitive, constantly changing, and dynamic international market for the recruitment, preparation and placement of students and provision of other education services.

As Chief Executive, you will lead a small but high impact organisation with substantial potential to grow, and to increase the charitable benefit that it provides. Your knowledge and experience of international education, Higher education, and your commercial acumen will enable you to shape a growth strategy for NCUK and deliver NCUK’s new ‘Future Ready’ strategy in a way that is consistent with our mission and values of quality, integrity, innovation and collaboration. You will bring outstanding leadership and relationship management skills, and the ability to initiate and develop collaborations with a broad range of partners, domestically and internationally. You will need to be able to make sure the organisation adapts strategically, quickly and effectively to the changing HE environment.  The role usually requires regular international travel.

You will also act as an ambassador for NCUK, representing the organisation at key partner events such as graduation and awards ceremonies, and have the ability to engage with key stakeholders in senior positions at universities and within other key organisations.  You should be able to command the respect of senior figures within academia, industry and politics, and be a credible spokesperson for NCUK on key issues.

You will find out more about NCUK on this website and our recruitment consultants at Anderson Quigley would be pleased to discuss the role with you, in strict confidence: their details can be found on this site.

I firmly believe that NCUK has the potential not just to compete in its market, but to excel, positioning itself as a pioneer in international educational and the outstanding provider of university pathway programmes and placement services. NCUK’s response to the changes needed in light of the pandemic has proved to our stakeholders that we are able to help them flourish despite changing circumstances.  I do hope you will express an interest in leading our organisation into the next phase of its exciting development.

With best wishes,

Neil M McLean CBE
Chair, NCUK Board of Director

About us

What We Do

NCUK is a unique organisation, founded by UK universities, with a history of innovation in international education. Since the Consortium’s inception in 1987 – in a pioneering UK-Malaysian university partnership – our high-quality pathway programmes have enabled over 35,000 overseas students to gain admission to university.

NCUK qualifications prepare international students for study at undergraduate and postgraduate level, with embedded English language and study skills. NCUK students have access to 45 universities in the UK, Australia, the USA, New Zealand, Canada, the Caribbean and Malaysia and benefit from excellent advice and guidance on university admission.

NCUK develops, maintains and administers academic qualifications that prepare students for entry to university. The company also provides a university admission or ‘placement’ service which supports NCUK students in progressing to university following their course.

NCUK licenses educational institutions to deliver its academic qualifications. We currently have more than 85 study centres across 30 countries on four continents.

Our largest partnership, the Sino British College (SBC) in Shanghai, offers full UK degree completion and has over 1,500 students registered on NCUK pathway qualifications.

You can read more about NCUK’s global network here and visit our main website here:

Academic Pathway Programmes

NCUK currently offers three pathway programmes:

  • The NCUK International Foundation Year (IFY) is a modular qualification that prepares students for first-year entry to a wide range of bachelor’s degree courses. Students take a combination of three modules appropriate for their intended degree course and one of NCUK English for Academic Purposes for proof of English where needed.
  • The NCUK International Year One programmes (IYOne) in Business, Engineering and Law are first year undergraduate degree level equivalent programmes that articulate into the second year of selected undergraduate degree courses at NCUK Universities. The IYOne can be combined with the IFY to form a 2+2 study programme.
  • The NCUK Pre Masters Programme (PMP) provides specialised English for Academic Purposes (EAP) training and an introduction to the research skills needed for success at Master’s level.

Our UK Partners

The following 16 UK universities are at the core of NCUK’s offer to students:

Aston University, University of Birmingham, University of Bristol, University of Bradford, University of Huddersfield, University of Kent, Kingston University, University of Leeds, Leeds Beckett University, Liverpool John Moores University, University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford, Sheffield Hallam University, University of Sheffield, Queen Mary, University of London.

NCUK qualifications are recognised by universities worldwide. Those within the expanded network include a further nine in the UK, eight in New Zealand, six in Australia, three in the USA and one in each of Canada, the Caribbean, and Malaysia.

Since 1987, the Northern Consortium and NCUK have supported over 35,000 students in their progression to a UK university.

Our Business Model

NCUK raises revenue through three main sources:

  • Annual operating fees from delivery partners;
  • Registration fees, paid by delivery partners for each student registered on an NCUK qualification; and
  • Commission payments from universities for placement of students onto university courses.

The company has an annual turnover of approximately £5 million. More detailed financial and academic performance information will be provided for shortlisted candidates.

Our Structure

To view NCUK’s organisational charts, please click here.

NCUK Directors 

The NCUK Board of Directors has a wealth of experience from a range of commercial backgrounds and higher education institutions. The current members are:

  • Neil McLean (Chair)
  • Clare Morley (Deputy Chair)
  • Malcolm Butler (Non-Executive Director and representative of the Northern Consortium)
  • Martin Holmes (Non-Executive Director)
  • Stephen Willis (Non-Executive Director)
  • The Chief Executive

NCUK Staff

NCUK employs a team of approximately 40 permanent staff and buys in services from external contractors, particularly for academic development and examination activities.

Most of the staff team is based in our UK Office in central Manchester, with a small team based in a representative office in Beijing, China and colleagues working remotely in Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia.

Due to Covid-19 and its coincidence with the end of NCUK’s former tenancy agreement, the organisation’s UK staff are currently home-working. The company is currently considering its future premises requirements.

Click here to view NCUK’s 30th Anniversary brochure.

Our Ambition

NCUK’s not-for-profit structure and its core values of quality, integrity, innovation and collaboration distinguish it, in an increasingly competitive and commercial sector. NCUK has bold plans for growth and is currently making considerable investment in digital infrastructure to support its continued success. The staff team and the company’s finances have recently been reorganised and the organisation is both well positioned and impatient to achieve its considerable potential.

NCUK is ready to embark on a new ‘Future Ready’ strategy which has four key objectives:

  • To double the number of our students going to our partner universities by 2025.
  • To be Future Ready, acting agilely and responsive to business needs and delivering high levels of customer satisfaction.
  • To balance the needs of our vision whilst ensuring operational sustainability.
  • To ensure there is continuous improvement across all areas of our business, focusing on the use of technology to enhance our product and service offer.

Those objectives will be delivered through six themes of Digital, Students, Product, Partners, People and Efficiency. As CEO, we would expect you to be involved in finalising and launching this Future Ready strategy.

Charitable Objectives, Structure and Governance

NCUK is wholly owned by Northern Consortium (NC), a registered Charity founded by ten Northern UK universities. NC and NCUK form the NC ‘group’ of companies. NCUK fulfils the Charity’s primary purpose – the advancement of education – through provision of educational programmes and associated services. NCUK benefits from strong support and close relationships with those founding universities (the ‘Members’) whose representatives form the Charity’s Board of Trustees.

In addition to fulfilling the charity’s primary purpose, NCUK provides NC with funds to distribute in pursuit of its broader charitable strategy.

NC’s Board of Trustees oversee the group’s strategy, fulfilment of its charitable objectives and public benefit obligations. NCUK’s Executive reports to a supportive and engaged Board of Directors with expertise in higher education and international business. A set of stakeholder groups support engagement across the NCUK network, between delivery partners, universities and across the sector.

Vision, mission and values

Our Vision

To be the outstanding provider of university pathway programmes and placement services.

Our Mission

NCUK provides the highest quality university pathway programmes and placement support to our students, outstanding service to our business partners and a well-qualified, diverse supply of students to our university partners.

Our Values

Quality: To deliver the highest standards throughout our products, services and communications.
Integrity: To build trust and respect through fairness, honesty, equality and cultural awareness.
Innovation: To overcome obstacles and drive effective, efficient delivery with a creative approach.
Collaboration: To work together, building successful, lasting partnerships.

The role

Chief Executive

Job reference:

Purpose of the role

  • Lead the strategic development of NCUK, managing its academic and commercial activities to ensure academic reputation, and financial sustainability and growth;
  • Lead the organisation in its digital transformation and response to the changing HE environment in light of various factors including the Covid-19 pandemic;
  • Work with the NCUK Chair to ensure that the Board of Directors formulates and regularly reviews NCUK’s mission and strategic plan;
  • Ensure that the NCUK Board is able to monitor annual plans and targets;
  • Be responsible for staff leadership, management and administration of NCUK in the execution of the company’s policies;
  • Ensure that the Board receives appropriate advice and information on all relevant matters to enable it to fulfil its governance responsibilities;
  • Ensure that NCUK operates so as to fulfil the core charitable objective of the Northern Consortium;
  • Ensure that NCUK’s strategic and business plans and annual budget are submitted to and approved by the Northern Consortium; and
  • Be responsible for appropriate risk management processes and their regular review.

 Principal tasks 

  1. Working with the NC Board of Trustees and the NCUK Board of Directors 
  • Lead reporting to and communication with both Boards on all relevant matters;
  • As agreed with the Chairs of NC and NCUK, develop strategic proposals for discussion and decision by both Boards as appropriate; and
  • Support the Chairs in ensuring the continued engagement/involvement of all members of both Boards.
  1. Leadership and Management
  • Ensure that a long term strategy is in place, and regularly reviewed, to guide NCUK;
  • Ensure agreed organisational performance objectives are in place, reviewed, monitored and reported on;
  • Facilitate involvement of the whole NCUK staff team in engagement with NCUK’s strategy and achievement of its objectives;
  • Ensure that the NCUK has the human, material and financial resources to achieve its objectives;
  • Lead and manage NCUK to ensure its financial sustainability;
  • Be responsible to the Board of NCUK for the overall financial health of NCUK and its commercial activities, ensuring that expenditure is controlled in line with approved budgets;
  • Ensure that NCUK Board decisions are implemented;
  • Undertake direct line management for the senior executive team; and
  • Ensure that NCUK has appropriate succession planning procedures in place.
  1. Promotion of NCUK
  • Build and maintain effective networks with all principal supporters and stakeholders; and
  • Create opportunities to expand and promote approved activities.



  • Graduate or equivalent professional experience;
  • A record of success in both operational and strategic management, preferably in the education sector;
  • Experience of organisational leadership in an international context; and
  • Experience as a director of a public, private or third sector body.


  • Good understanding of the HE sector, including recent and likely international policy developments;
  • Cross-cultural awareness and understanding;
  • An agile approach to responding to a changing environment;
  • The ability to forge relationships with HE leaders and managers;
  • A commitment to teamwork and ability to effectively manage human and material resources;
  • Experience of the integration of academic and commercial activities;
  • Clear entrepreneurial skills and a proven ability to obtain, develop and deliver new business opportunities;
  • The ability to think strategically and take initiative within policy objectives;
  • The ability to contribute to policy development at Board level;
  • Excellent analytical skills and the ability to apply them to strategic issues;
  • An ability and willingness to travel both within the UK and internationally;
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills; and
  • Solutions and performance focused, with the ability to see and resolve organisational problems.

Terms of appointment

The salary commensurate with the responsibilities of the role will be negotiated with the preferred candidate.

Additional benefits include:

  • 27 days’ holiday per annum plus the eight statutory bank holidays
  • USS pension scheme – 10.4% employee contribution/22.5% employer contribution.
  • Relocation allowance in appropriate circumstances

Due to Covid-19 and its coincidence with the end of NCUK’s former tenancy agreement, the organisation’s UK staff are currently home-working. The company is currently considering its future premises requirements and may return to physical premises in mid/late 2021.

How to apply

Anderson Quigley is acting as an employment advisor to NCUK. An executive search process is being carried out by Anderson Quigley in addition to the public advertisement.

Should you wish to discuss this role in strict confidence, please contact Elliott Rae on +44 (0)7584 078 534 or Helene Usherwood on +44(0)7719 322 669.

The closing date for applications is noon on Friday 19th February 2021

Applications should consist of:

  • A full CV;
  • A covering letter (maximum of 2 pages) setting out your interest in the role and details of how you match the experience criteria of the person specification;
  • Please include the names and addresses of two referees. Referees will not be approached until the final stages and not without prior permission from candidates; and
  • As part of your application, please complete an online Equal Opportunity Monitoring Form by clicking here.

Completed applications should be uploaded at using the reference AQ1011


Closing date: noon on Friday 19th February
Longlisting: Friday 26th February
Preliminary Interviews with AQ: w/c 1st March
Shortlisting: Thursday 11th March
Final Panel Interviews: Friday 26th March