You are here

  1. Home
  2. External Events and Publications
  3. Biennial APS Conference
  4. APS Conference 2023
  5. Keynote speakers, co-chairs and panel members

Keynote speakers, co-chairs and panel members

Keynote speakers

Liz Marr

Dr Liz Marr

Former Pro-Vice Chancellor, Students, The Open University

Dr Liz Marr is former Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Students) at The Open University. Her responsibilities included the student experience, student voice, student engagement and student satisfaction with a major focus on student success.  She also had oversight of student employability, the Access, Participation and Success Strategy (including the APP), the Teaching Excellence Framework  (TEF) and Quality Monitoring and Enhancement (QME). 

Liz has over thirty years of experience in UK higher education with particular interest in lifelong learning and continuing education and their role in social justice and social mobility.  She is passionate about opening opportunity for all who wish to participate in learning, both formally and informally. 

Click to download Liz Marr's keynote slides (.pptx)


Ross Renton

Prof Ross Renton

Principal, Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) Peterborough

Professor Ross Renton is the Principal of ARU Peterborough, a new university for Peterborough. Professor Renton was previously Senior Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Worcester, where he held strategic responsibility for key aspects of the student experience, widening participation, employability, international and a range of partnerships and resources.

His experience has included being a designated Widening Participation Expert for the Office for Students, Co-Chair of the Forum for Access and Continuing Education (FACE), Chair of Widening Participation for GuildHE and a main panel member of the Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) Subject Pilots.

He is also a Visiting Professor at the Open University, and was previously Dean of Students at the University of Hertfordshire

Click to download Ross Renton's keynote slides (.pptx)


Mette Anwar-Westander

Mette Anwar-Westander

Founder and CEO of Disabled Students UK

Mette Anwar-Westander is the founding director of Disabled Students UK (, recognised by Shaw Trust as one of the most influential disabled-led organisations in the UK. DSUK uses an evidence-based approach, empowering disabled students to share their insight, with the ultimate goal of informing policy and increasing accessibility in higher education. The latest DSUK report outlines five key lessons which higher education providers can take from the pandemic to become more accessible going forward. Mette is an Oxford graduate and is currently studying for an MSc in Cognitive Neuroscience.






John Butcher

Prof John Butcher

Professor of Inclusive Teaching in Higher Education, The Open University

John Butcher is Professor of Inclusive Teaching in Higher Education. As Director, Access, Open and Cross-curricular Innovation at the OU, he is responsible for the development, enhancement and implementation of the institution's pan-University teaching curriculum.

John has published Developing Effective 16-19 Teaching Skills and co-edited Leading Professional Development in Education (both Routledge) and many journal articles, including those in: Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, Journal of Further and Higher Education, International Journal of Academic DevelopmentInnovations in Education and Teaching InternationalThe Curriculum JournalJournal of Education for TeachingTeacher DevelopmentResearch Papers in EducationOpen LearningMentoring and Tutoring.  He is Managing Editor for the international journal Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning.

John is an active researcher and has successfully supervised 14 doctorates to successful completion.

As well as co-chairing the conference John is also presenting the seminar What do we know about the impact of an Access programme?


Diane Butler

Diane Butler

Associate Dean, Academic Excellend (STEM), The Open University

Diane is currently Associate Dean for Academic Excellence in the STEM faculty of the Open University. Her main teaching focus has been the delivery of interdisciplinary distance science teaching. 

Her current interests focus on supporting academics to develop skills relating to the scholarship of teaching and learning (SoTL) and the creation of vibrant scholarship communities. She is also EDI lead for the faculty and leads on projects related to inclusive curriculum and virtual internships for underrepresented students.  

As well as co-chairing the conference Diane is also co-presenting the seminar Employability and Student Success: Virtual Internships for Underrepresented Students.


Shona Littlejohn

Shona Littlejohn

Depute Director (Student Experience and Widening Access), The Open University in Scotland

Shona took up the post of Depute Director of The Open University in Scotland in August 2017 with responsibility for student experience and widening access. Shona previously worked as Vice Principal and Pro Vice Chancellor at Robert Gordon University where she had accountability for the student experience and external relations portfolios for almost 10 years. Prior to that, Shona was Chief Executive of Scottish Enterprise Tayside and has experience in both private and voluntary sectors.



Mychelle Pride

Mychelle Pride 

Associate Dean for Teaching Excellence, The Open University 

With more than twenty years’ sector experience, Mychelle’s work has focused on enabling students to achieve to the best of their abilities, improving student voice/engagement, and quality assurance and enhancement. In her current role as Associate Dean Students and Teaching in the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS), Mychelle has strategic responsibility for student outcomes, Access, Participation & Success (APS), student voice/engagement, and recognising and rewarding teaching excellence. Mychelle’s research interest is student mental health, in particular, what an institution can do to help students with mental health difficulties stay on their courses and achieve positive results.

As well as co-chairing the conference Mychelle is also presenting the seminar Language Technology in the workplace: an A.I. student co-creation project.




Panel members

Ian Pickup

Prof Ian Pickup (panel host)

Pro Vice Chancellor (Students), The Open University

Ian is Pro Vice Chancellor (Students) at the Open University.  The PVC (Students) portfolio ensures that the needs and concerns of students are represented at the most senior level of the university and shared and addressed throughout The OU. The objective is to deliver high quality student outcomes, including a reduction in unequal outcomes between students with different characteristics and backgrounds.

Ian is a passionate advocate for the role that universities play in society; originally a ‘first generation’ student, he understands the transformative potential of higher education across the life journeys of all learners. Ian gained a BA (with QTS) from the University of Warwick and holds a PhD in Education from the University of Roehampton. He is a National Teaching Fellow, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Professor of the Student Experience in Higher Education.  

Ian joined The OU in April 2023 from the University of East London, where he held the position of Pro Vice Chancellor (Education & Experience) and Chief Operating Officer. Prior to this, Ian held senior leadership roles at SOAS University of London, University College Cork, Ireland, and the University of Roehampton. 


Rehana Awan

Rehana Awan

Lecturer, EDI Implementation, The Open University

Rehana Awan is a Lecturer in Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Implementation and co-chair of the Black and Minority Ethnic staff network. Rehana is also an Associate Lecturer, supporting students on DD102 Introducing the Social Sciences and she tutored on the Access module People, work and Society. Before joining the OU Rehana worked in a local Further Education College as Head of Teacher Training and Access. The commitment to access and inclusion informs her doctoral research project which is focused on student stories and degree awarding gaps for Black and Asian students at the OU. Her other research interests include academic development and online teaching and learning. Rehana is a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (SFHEA) and Fellow of the Staff and Educational Development Association (FSEDA). 


Natalie Baker

Natalie Baker

Vice President, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, The Open University Student’s Association

I am the Open University Student’s Association (OUSA) Vice President, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (VP EDI) and as a disabled student EDI is very important for me. One aspect of my role is working with the student support groups that are run by volunteers from within the group’s community - The Disabled Student Support Group (DSG), The Pride Group (LGBTQIA+ Community) and The Black Asian and Minority Ethnic Group, helping to address any issues that are important to the group and provide a voice for underrepresented and often marginalised student Groups.

My work also involves communicating and working collaboratively with The Open University about all things EDI! I am involved in various committees and working groups across the University and Association helping to shape an inclusive and accessible study experience for all. Outside of this I am studying BSc Psychology and Counselling, currently working through my first Level 3 Module.


Eva Cendon

Prof Eva Cendon

Professor of Adult and Continuing Education: FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany

Prof Eva Cendon, educational scientist, is professor of adult and continuing education at the institute of educational science and media research, FernUniversität in Hagen, Germany. From 2011 until 2020 she was part of the accompanying research team of the funding initiative “Advancement through Education: Open Universities”. In this initiative, more than 100 German higher education institutions developed university lifelong learning concepts and offers together with partners from outside universities.

Since 2019, Eva serves as vice-president of eucen -European University Continuing Education Network. She is Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of University Lifelong Learning, member of the Editorial Board of the Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning journal of the Open University UK und founding member of the University of the Future Network, a global network of higher education researchers and practitioners interested in the futures of universities.

Eva's research interests include the future of teaching and learning at universities as well as strategies and forms of university lifelong learning.


John McKendrick

Prof John McKendrick

Commissioner for Fair Access to Higher Education for Scotland, Glasgow Caledonian University

John H McKendrick was recently appointed Commissioner for Fair Access (to higher education) by the Scottish Government. He is also co-Director of the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit in the Glasgow School for Business and Society at Glasgow Caledonian University. He is primarily concerned to inform the work of practitioners and campaigners beyond the academy who seek to tackle poverty in Scotland. He was co-editor of Poverty in Scotland 2021: Towards a 2030 Without Poverty? (CPAG) and writes a column in the Scottish Anti Poverty Review (Poverty Alliance’s quarterly journal).

He has published many reports, briefings papers and addressed a wide range of Third sector and local government events on issues pertaining to the eradication and amelioration of poverty in Scotland. He sits on the group of National Partners offering advice and support to local authorities and local health boards in relation to the preparation of their Local Child Poverty Action Reports.  He is an external member of the Scottish Government’s Child Poverty Programme Board and Education Scotland’s Scottish Attainment Challenge Programme Board.


Adaora Nwaka

Adaora Nwaka

BAME Advocate, University of Hertfordshire

Adaora Nwaka is a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court duly called to the Nigerian Bar. She is also a member of the Institute of Chartered Mediators and Conciliators (ICMC), possessing vast experience in the fields of Arbitration, Property law and in litigation as a General Counsel. Her stellar academic performance can be seen in her Master's degree in Energy Law and Environment (Distinction) from University of Hertfordshire, where she is currently a Doctoral candidate. She is intentional about pursuing a career in academia and with a focus in Environmental Law. Her passion for research and intellectual development has so far compelled her to pursue further education, as she is devoted to push the frontiers of knowledge in her chosen field of study.

Under the University, Adaora functions as BAME Advocate for the Hertfordshire Law School with the responsibility to encourage and support students from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. In addition, she liaises between staff and students in a bid to create wholesome experiences for students from different ethnic origins and assists staff in the development of diversity inclusive practises. Her ultimate objective as an academia is to impact significantly to her profession, while fostering a culture of inclusivity, curiosity, creativity, and lifelong learning.