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Sector wide 'Ambitious Futures' programme for university leadership bags brilliant Award


The University of Nottingham’s Ambitious Futures Graduate Programme, in partnership with Brunel University London and 15 other institutions, has been recognised for its development of the future leaders of higher education by Times Higher Education (THE) last week.

The 15th and largest ever THE Awards ceremony took place on 28 November 2019 at the Grosvenor House Hotel, London and was hosted by comedian Julian Clary. It celebrated the extraordinary achievements of UK universities and their staff and champions the tireless efforts of vital charities, such as Who Cares? Scotland 

Up against five other shortlisted nominees, the national Ambitious Futures programme was given the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Leadership Development’ award.

The programme recruits high-calibre graduates who complete three six-month placements across two different universities. The trainees lead on various projects, gaining challenging practical work experience. They also follow a programme of professional development and mentor support, and are given membership to the Association of University Administrators where they receive invaluable networking opportunities and sector wide perspectives.

Key achievements include:

  • Receiving 1000 applications for 28 places in 2017/18
  • Encouraging increased diversity with 19% of entrants from ethnic minority backgrounds
  • The only fast track programme tailored for the higher education sector

More than 90% of the 2017-18 cohort continued to work in higher education and the majority of the current cohort have already secured permanent positions.

Christine Abbott and Sam Woolley from Ambitious Futures accepted the award, along with Brunel’s current Ambitious Futures trainee, Simone McNichols-Thomas.

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(Top Image: From left to right, Julian Clary, Christine Abbott, Sam Woolley, Simone McNichols-Thomas and Alison Johns)

(Bottom Image: From left to right, Simone McNichols-Thomas, Paul Thomas and Robyn Fitzharris)

Sally Jones, the newly appointed Chief Operating Officer for Ambitious Futures, is keen to expand the programme, develop the talent pipeline for the higher education sector and continually enhance the employability of its trainees.

Editor of Times Higher Education, John Gill said: "Our hope, as ever, is that the successes can, where possible, be rolled out and scaled up so that others can benefit from the innovation and creativity on display.”

Chief Operating Officer at Brunel, Paul Thomas, is a founding champion of the scheme and has pushed for Brunel students to make the most of the opportunities offered by the programme.

“At Brunel we recognise the talent of our students and see how our institution and the sector will benefit from their fresh outlook and drive to succeed. I hope the THE award can raise the platform of the programme so that both our students, and other universities, are eager to get involved,” said Paul Thomas.

There is still time to apply for the Ambitious Futures Graduate Trainee Programme 2020/21 APPLY NOW

Find out more about Ambitious Futures on the website.

Reported by:

Simone McNichols-Thomas, Media Relations
+44 (0)1895 265219