Wonkhe is the home of higher education policy, bringing the sector together through expert analysis, debate and insight. A community of diverse voices, we provide platforms to drive the policy conversation forward because we love HE and want to make it better for everyone. 

NEON is the professional organisation supporting those involved in widening access to higher education. NEON enables those working in widening access, at all levels and in all sectors, to affect change in their own organisations and communities. NEON’s version is for access to and success in higher education should not be related to social background but based on ability and willingness to participate. 

NEON is a membership based organisation and have over 150 members including over 100 HE providers and deliver a comprehensive annual programme of professional development and thought leadership. 

For more information on NEON please go to

Blackbullion is the financial wellbeing platform that equips young people with money skills for life and improves access to financial support. Available to 1 million+ students at almost 50 partner universities and colleges across the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. Our platform is deeply embedded into student support departments to help with funds distribution and provide financial education, giving students the skills and confidence to create a money-smart future. 

In today’s landscape, it is more important than ever that higher education institutions reimagine the campus experience. Technology has a critical role in driving this transformation. Microsoft can help drive innovative student engagement, transform operations, and ensure a secure, connected campus to empower you to reimagine education.

LinkedIn Learning is an online learning platform that combines an unmatched library of more than 17,000+ courses taught by real-world experts, with LinkedIn data and insights drawn from 750M+ member profiles and billions of interactions. These insights give you a unique and real-time view of how jobs, industries, organizations, and skills are evolving, while helping you identify the skills that your organization needs to succeed. These insights also fuel course recommendations that connect learners to the most relevant, applicable learning that is easy to engage with on any device. 


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Most innovative approach to supporting students

David Gilani, Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy – Middlesex University

David started his career at the University of Southampton where he was a Students’ Union sabbatical officer, before moving over to the University to establish their Student Communications function. He now works at Middlesex University as their Head of Student Engagement and Advocacy leading on their efforts to engage both current students and alumni. He is a strong proponent of the student voice and in 2012 he founded the Student Publication Association, which supports student journalists across the UK and Ireland. He believes strongly in universities working together to support student engagement efforts, and is currently chair of the CASE Student Communications conference and Leads the AUA’s Student Experience and Engagement Network.

Tom Hill, Head of Service Development – Pearson Higher Education UK

Tom leads a team responsible for designing digital services that support effective learning and skills development in both formal and informal educational settings. The team have a particular focus on supporting student transition into higher education and have this year launched Futures, in collaboration with Blackbullion and the Bank of England, which is a free platform designed to help 16–18-year-olds make informed life choices. Tom comes from an editorial background, having previously been at McGraw-Hill Education for 7 years before joining Pearson. 

Vivi Friedgut, Founder and CEO – Blackbullion

Vivi Friedgut is the founder and CEO of Blackbullion, the financial wellbeing platform that’s simplifying the world of finance and access to funding for young people, globally. Vivi is deeply committed to shaping the future of financial wellbeing by redefining fintech and financial learning, to foster conversations and connection for Blackbullion’s customers, community and partners. Vivi is a champion for the startup community, and active commentator within the fintech community, recently named as FinTech Magazine’s Top 100 Women. Her second book, Stay Financially Healthy, was published in 2022.

Most innovate approach to developing employability skills

Jennifer O’Brien, Academic Lead of Sustainability Teaching and Learning – University of Manchester

Dr. Jennifer O’Brien is Academic Lead for Sustainability Teaching and Learning at the University of Manchester, UK, Principal Fellow of Advance HE and an Inaugural Fellow of the Manchester Institute of Teaching and Learning.  Working with Education for Sustainable Development particularly through the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, Jen believes that students are a huge force for change. A development geographer by training, Jen’s interdisciplinary research focuses on sustainable development, particularly within marginalised communities.  Stemming from her research, Jen is interested in the intersection between innovative pedagogy and independent field or applied, research and directs the University of Manchester’s University Living Lab. Jen inspires and equips learners to ethically address challenges of sustainability, inequality and social justice to affect positive change.

Ralph Blunden, Client Partner for Academic Sector – LinkedIn Learning

Ralph Blunden is Client Partner for the Academic sector at LinkedIn Learning in the UK and Ireland. Collaborating on skills development both to support staff and students in their career progression within HE and FE, Ralph was previously leading on account development and relationships in the technology consulting firm, Forrester Research, with a focus on digital transformation organisations. Ralph has over 20 years of experience in management and sales and marketing across both technology and education sectors. His passion and drive at work comes from identifying and partnering with clients on their vision to build a successful and agile organisation for the future. 

Kevin Lyons, Senior HR Manager – Pearson

Kevin Lyons is Senior HR Manager at Pearson and a commentator on HR trends and topics and has greatly enjoyed his career in Human Resources with successful companies. His passion is Talent, and what he sees as the key pillars of inclusive Talent Management, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion combined with Learning & Development and Wellbeing. He is also fascinated by the impact of technology on HR, organisations and wider society, and as a History graduate he believes strongly in evidence-based management. 

Most innovative approach to bringing inclusivity and sustainability into the classroom

Dr. Alex Blower, Access and Participation Manager – Arts University Bournemouth

Having worked as a researcher and professional in widening Higher Education participation for the last decade, Alex is a TEDx speaker and writes regularly for national and international publications on issues related to inequality and university access. Alex is a founder member of Practitioners from Underrepresented Backgrounds United through Education (PURSUE), a national network of Higher Education practitioners from working-class backgrounds.

Twitter – @EduDetective

Pietro Marini, Teaching Fellow – University of Aberdeen

Pietro has day-to-day responsibilities for planning, coordinating and managing all aspects of research projects to ensure their successful delivery. He has authored several original scientific papers papers and book chapters. Normal routine involves the supervision of undergraduate and PhD students, visiting researchers and research staff. He is Tutor for the Gateway 2 Medicine (G2M) programme which is an innovative and high-profile programme aiming to widen access to medicine. As G2M tutor, supporting the students in their transition to the University environment and ensuring that all our G2M students are able to progress into the MBChB degree. He is also the year 2 Lead of the MBChB degree, coordinator of undergraduate courses and Erasmus+ coordinator for the School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition (SMMSN) at University of Aberdeen.

Professor Sir Les Ebdon, Chair of NEON Executive Committee 

Professor Sir Les Ebdon, who received a knighthood for ‘his services to higher education and social mobility’, is the former Director of the Office for Fair Access, a position he held from 2012 until OFFA’s closure in 2018, and the chair of the National Education Opportunities Network’s executive committee. 

During his time at OFFA Sir Les had a major impact on encouraging universities to think more carefully about their role in fostering widening participation from under-represented groups. This resulted in the participation of these students steadily increasing during his time in post.  

Jenny Lee, Senior content specialist for diversity, equity, and inclusion – Pearson Higher Education Services

Jenny is a senior content specialist for diversity, equity and inclusion, in Pearson’s Higher Education content standards team. Prior to her current role, she led a team of digital content developers, working with authors on a wide range of learning and assessment material. Jenny joined Pearson seven years ago, following editorial roles in schools publishing and on projects for learndirect, BBC Bitesize, and the Design Council.

Most innovative approach to engaging students using education technology

Professor Lisa Harris, Director of Digital Learning – University of Exeter

Lisa joined the University of Exeter in October 2017 as Director of Digital Learning. She is also an Education Incubator Fellow and a FutureLearn Fellow. She runs the Building Your Career in Tomorrow’s Workplace FutureLearn MOOC and modules in Digital Business (#BEMM129) and Digital Technologies and the Future of Work (#BEM2034).

Lisa has led the development and implementation of innovative degree programmes in three UK Universities, utilising cross-faculty expertise supported by industry projects and online learning pedagogies. She has had input at a senior level to research, education and enterprise agendas: inspiring innovative projects to develop new educational programmes, multi-disciplinary communities of practice and industry partnerships. She achieved Higher Education Academy Principal Fellowship (PFHEA) in 2017.

Lisa has been a contributor to a series of practical online marketing workshops for SMEs since 2007 under the title “Punch Above Your Weight”, and to Digital Literacy and Digital Marketing workshops for university staff and students. Accredited online MBA Tutor at the University of Liverpool.

Lisa has a PhD in the management of technological change in the banking industry from Brunel University, a MBA from Oxford Brookes University and a post-graduate diploma from the Chartered Institute of Marketing. Lisa is a published author of many books and academic articles in both ‘old’ and ‘new’ media.

Specialties: digital literacies, MOOCs, online learning, blended learning, web science

Milan Popovic, Training Consultant – Pearson Higher Education UK

Milan is a training Consultant in the Pearson UK Higher Education team. Milan has a strong background in learning technology, and before becoming a Training Consultant, worked at the London School of Economics as a Learning Technologist where he worked with Academics and Departments to increase their use of Learning Tech in their courses. As an “interesting” side note, was also known as ‘Moodle Man Milan’ at one point as he supported staff with their use of the Moodle VLE. Milan holds a BSc in Networking which essentially means he loves to geek out over new technology and trends.

Lesley Howell, Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry – Queen Mary University of London

Lesley started her career as a Senior Demonstrator in Pharmacy at UEA. She moved to QMUL in January 2017 to take up a Teaching and Scholarship faculty position in the Department of Chemistry where she is currently a Reader in Pharmaceutical and Medicinal Chemistry. She is also the Director of Education for the School of Physical and Chemical Sciences. Lesley’s primary scholarship interests are focused on student engagement, the development of novel and innovative approaches to the delivery of practical chemistry as well as the impact outreach and widening participation has on students studying chemistry in HE

Most impactful use of Pearson digital courseware or services

Luke Rabbidge – Head of Customer Success – Pearson Higher Education Services

Luke is Pearson Higher Education UK’s Head of Customer Success. Having joined Pearson in 2004, Luke has worked with hundreds of academics across the UK and Ireland, supporting them to introduce, integrate, and use digital products within their modules. Managing Pearson’s team of Training Consultants, Luke is constantly reviewing the impact of digital courseware implementations and how his team can support educators, technology teams and students to achieve their goals.

Jordon Bolton – Product Manager – Pearson Higher Education Services

Jordon is a product Manager at Pearson Education, with a background in sales. Before becoming a Product Manager, he worked as an Academic Consultant for Pearson, helping academics to find the best resources to help support their teaching, and the students learning. Jordon holds a BSc in Business Management & Economics and is a keen cyclist.

Details to follow