Professor de Freitas

New talent at University of Cumbria’s top table


Today, University of Cumbria Vice Chancellor Professor Julie Mennell has announced a number of new top management appointments at the institution.

These new roles have been introduced to strengthen further the university’s leadership in the context of its drive to position itself as a thriving, leading player in professional and vocational higher education.

Professor Mennell says: “I am very pleased to be announcing these new appointments, which ensure we continue to have the skills and expertise necessary to further our future sustainability and success. These appointments bring new talent and expertise into our region as well as drawing on the rich talent base we have in Cumbria. I look forward to our new colleagues joining us soon - I know they will play a major role in our contributing to our region’s and university’s future prosperity and pride.”

Professor Sara de Freitas, will be joining the university as Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic) at the beginning of March 2018 replacing Professor Trish Livsey who will be retiring in June.  Sara will lead on all student-focused activity in the university, including academic quality. Sara is an outstanding academic of international standing with a wealth of expertise in highly respected research and higher education institutions. She comes back to the UK from Murdoch University in Australia where she held the post of PVC in Learning and Teaching.  Professor de Freitas was named most Influential Woman in Technology 2009 and 2010 by the US Fast Company and has published seven books and more than 100 journal articles, conference papers and reports. 

Professor de Freitas says: “I’m really excited to be joining the University of Cumbria and look forward to working closely with students and staff to ensure that they have the best experience and set of outcomes. The University of Cumbria has many strengths to build upon, not least its commitment to high-quality education and widening participation, connections to the local area and relationships with external partners.”

From 4 April, 2018, Jackie Arnold MBE, currently corporate responsibility lead (and former Head of Strategy and Skills) for BAE Systems, will join us on a part-time basis as a Professor of Practice. Jackie has an outstanding track record in industry and has a passionate belief in this region and a desire to ensure the future growth of the Cumbrian business economy, opening up new opportunities for generations to come.  Jackie will provide senior executive industrial expertise, supporting the university’s plans to align further to the regional agenda.

Jackie says: “I’m very excited at the prospect of supporting the activity to create a thriving higher education provision within our beautiful county which supports the achievement of our economic ambition.”

Robin Casson, who joined the university before Christmas in an interim role, has been confirmed Head of Academic Partnerships & Skills. Robin brings a wealth of experience and skills having spent forty years in the education and skills arena, including as a head teacher and as Director of Education & Skills for Northumberland County Council.

Robin says: “I am delighted to be leading this area of work at the University of Cumbria.  I agree wholeheartedly with the values and principles of the university and seek to use my skills, knowledge and experience in supporting the university in meeting its challenges and taking advantage of every opportunity.”

The final new appointment in this cohort is that of Dr Jean Brown, former Head of Strategic Development Service at UCLan, who will take up post as University Secretary on 1 April 2018.

Dr Brown says: “I’m really excited to be joining the University of Cumbria leadership team and look forward to playing a role in supporting its future development”.




Notes for Editors


Biogs below for info:

Professor Sara de Freitas – Sara has worked as an educator, researcher and senior executive in four universities in Australia and the United Kingdom, most recently as Pro Vice Chancellor at Murdoch University, leading on cross-university curriculum change, blended learning and transnational education. Before working in Australia, Sara was Director of Research at Coventry University, UK, where she founded and developed the Serious Games Institute, bringing together commercial and academic partnerships to fuel regional economic growth. Her research findings are published in seven books and over 200 peer-reviewed journal articles, conference papers, book chapters and technical reports (with over 7,000 citations). Sara is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and sits on over 60 international programme committees and advisory groups, and has undertaken over 120 international keynotes, presentations and public lectures in four continents.


Jackie Arnold MBE – Jackie is corporate responsibility lead for BAE Systems Submarines, responsible for ensuring the appropriate partnership working to support the community in creating the environment to allow the business to deliver its business plan – primarily to design, build and commission nuclear submarines for the UK MoD Submarine programme – and ensure the community benefits. In this role Jackie is responsible for the corporate responsibility agenda and as such owns the strategic relationship with local partners. She is also vice chair of Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, a member of the North West Business Leadership Team and chairs the Furness Economic Development Forum. A chartered accountant, Jackie has previously spent time in practice, public sector and private sector businesses and before this role with BAE she held roles as Chief Accountant and Head of Strategy and Skills.


Robin Casson - Robin brings a wealth of experience and skills to our university having spent 40 years in the education and skills arena, most recently as Director of Education and Skills for Northumberland County Council, and prior to that seven years as a secondary school headteacher.  He is Cumbrian by birth, and descended from generations of Cumbrian farmers. As headteacher, he led his school to a place in the top 100 most improved schools in England and was identified by the National College for School Leaders as “an innovative and influential national leader in education and training”.  As Director of Education and Skills for Northumberland he was responsible for early years and child care, school improvement, services to young people, and adult learning.  He also gained experience in the FE sector as chair of the Board of Northumberland College and was a Visiting Fellow in Enterprise at the University of Northumbria. 


Dr Jean Brown – Jean started her career in organometallic chemistry, working for ICI following post-doctoral experience in Canada.  After a few years she moved into higher education, initially working for Uniac, a provider of internal audit and assurance services to the sector, followed by twelve years at UCLan, returning to Uniac in 2016.

Jean was Head of the Strategic Development Service for the majority of her time at UClan, supporting the VC’s team across a range of areas – including leading the development of the university’s strategy and strategic planning processes; planning for a successful HEFCE Assurance Review; and ensuring that appropriate governance processes were in place.  At Uniac she uses her experience and pragmatic style to support the enhancement of systems and processes in universities across the sector. She has recently led Uniac through a range of successful ISO audits and published a comprehensive report on the value of risk management. Jean is joining the university on a part-time secondment from her role at Uniac.