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The FutureLearn Leadership Team

The FutureLearn Leadership Team is made up of the Executive Team and Advisory Board. Their purpose is to lead FutureLearn into the next stage of growth and elevate the vital role FutureLearn can play in reskilling and upskilling people from across the world, narrowing skills gaps in the most in-demand areas.

With more than two-thirds of SMEs and nearly 90% of large companies facing skills shortages, this purpose has never been more important. The Leadership Team will collaborate to support the company’s goal of transforming access to education.

The group’s collective insights from higher education, government and industry associations put FutureLearn at the centre of some of the most impactful developments in online education, such as stackable accredited learning and the Lifelong Loan Entitlement.

With the experience and expertise of the executives and advisory board, FutureLearn is fast becoming the go-to platform for career-based lifelong learning, making quality education accessible to all.

FutureLearn Executive Team

Jo Johnson

Executive Chairman

An influential figure in education policy, he served as Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation under three different Prime Ministers between 2015-2019 and before that as Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit.

Jo today maintains a number of roles across the education system, including as President’s Professorial Fellow at King’s College, London, Research Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School and Fellow of Birkbeck College, London.

He is also Chairman of Access Creative College, the largest independent provider of further education for the creative industries, and Chairman of the House of Lords Special Inquiry into 11-16 Education.

Ian Howell

Managing Director

Before moving to FutureLearn, Ian was employed as the Chief Executive Officer for Higher Ed Partners in the EMEA region. Ian joined HEP as a founding member in 2017 and played a pivotal role in growing the business to become the UK’s largest and most successful Online Programme Management company. He also led the expansion of the business in Continental Europe and Africa.

Prior to joining HEP, Ian ran commercial operations at the Open University for six years where he had direct responsibility for international student recruitment, corporate sales, strategic partnerships, and apprenticeships.

Before moving to the Open University, Ian worked for Thomson Reuters for 11 years in several senior leadership positions within their Asset Management Division and prior to this served as an officer in the British Army.

Ian holds a BA in Geography awarded by the University of Southampton and is a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Vitaly Klopot

Chief Operating Officer

Vitaly has been part of the Global University Systems family since 2009, including 4 highly successful years at Arden University as Chief Commercial Officer where he was instrumental in growing the company to where it is today. 

Vitaly’s passion for transforming education and his more significant amount of board-level experience means he’s more than well placed to steer FutureLearn as we enter into an exciting new chapter for the company.

Advisory Board members

Lord David Blunkett

Chair of FutureLearn Advisory Board

David Blunkett is a member of the House of Lords, former Education and Employment Secretary, and former Home Secretary. 

He has an extensive involvement with education, having taught in both further and higher education institutions. He is currently a Professor of Politics in Practice at the University of Sheffield, and Chair of the Board of the University of Law.

Julia Buckingham

CBE, Chair Of The Board Of Trustees at the Institute of Cancer Research

Professor Julia Buckingham CBE was Vice Chancellor and President of Brunel University London, as well as the President of Universities UK, until 31 July 2021. She became Chair of the Board of Trustees at the Institute of Cancer Research in August 2021 and an independent Member of Council at the University of Surrey in 2022.

Julia was appointed a CBE in 2018 for services to biology and education, and elected to a Fellowship of the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2019.

Sir Michael Barber

Chancellor of the University of Exeter

Sir Michael Barber has been an adviser on education and delivery to successive governments since the mid-1990s, and has worked for governments on every continent. 

He is currently advising HM Treasury on the skills agenda. He has worked in senior roles in the private sector, and is also the author of ‘How to Run a Government’ (2016) and ‘Accomplishment’ (2023), both published by Penguin.

Andy Haldane

Chief Executive Officer of the Royal Society of Arts

Andrew G Haldane was Chief Economist at the Bank of England and a member of the Bank’s Monetary Policy Committee until 30 June 2021. He became Chief Executive of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) in September 2021. 

Among other positions, he is an Honorary Professor at the Universities of Nottingham and Manchester, a Visiting Professor at King’s College London, a Visiting Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the Royal Society and the Academy of Social Sciences. He has authored around 200 articles and four books. 

Kirstie Donnelly

MBE, Chief Executive Officer at City & Guilds

Kirstie Donnelly is Chief Executive at the City & Guilds Group, having first joined the organisation in 2011. Prior to this role, she was responsible for City & Guilds, ILM and DigitalMe brands operating globally.

Kirstie is a passionate advocate of the role of digital and social media in transforming how people live, learn and work. Her commitment to this area was recognised when she was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Honours for e-learning services in 2011.

Douglas Blackstock

President of the European Network for Quality Assurance in Higher Education

Douglas Blackstock was Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) until his retirement in October 2021. He currently serves as the President of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA), alongside serving as a board member of Qualifications Wales and a commissioner for the Lifelong Education Commission.

Professor Steve West CBE

Vice-Chancellor, President, and Chief Executive of the University of the West of England, Bristol

Professor Steve West CBE has been the Vice-Chancellor, President, and Chief Executive of the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE) since 2007, and he is the current President of Universities UK.

Steve holds a number of national and international advisory appointments in higher education, healthcare policy and regional government. He was awarded a CBE in the New Year’s Honours list 2017 for services to higher education.