IHE Annual Conference 2023 highlights

Thank you to all who joined us at One Great George Street on 28 November for the UK’s flagship event for the independent higher education sector.

Thank you to all who joined us at this year's IHE Annual Conference. 2023 marks our first year at the wonderful One Great George Street in Westminster, and IHE's 15th birthday!

The day was filled with thought-provoking discussion, opportunities to network and share ideas with others in the sector, and a chance to explore the services our exhibitors offer independent higher education providers.

Our programme explored some of the key issues independent providers are grappling with: navigating sector regulation, supporting student success, responding to changing models of HE delivery, education funding reform, and much more.

IHE Conference 2023

For further information on our speakers, sessions, sponsors and exhibitors, view the conference agenda and Delegate Guide via the buttons at the end of this page. You can also see our live tweets from throughout the day here.

We'd like to say a big thank you to our Gold sponsor Jisc, who were also exhibiting on the day. Discover their catalogue of services for independent higher education providers here.

The event provided an opportunity to reflect on 2023 and prepare for the new year. Speaking of which, we'll be back at One Great George Street on Tuesday 26 November 2024 for next year's IHE Annual Conference!

The day's highlights:

The day began in the Telford Theatre with a warm welcome from James Pitman, Chair of the IHE Board.

James Pitman, Chair of the IHE Board

Then it was time for the IHE Chief Executive's address from Alex Proudfoot.

Alex Proudfoot, IHE Chief Executive

Next, Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Matt Western MP, set out the Labour vision for the higher education sector, from regulation to student choice. You can read the full transcript of his address here.

Shadow Minister for Higher Education, Matt Western

Our first panel discussed 'Flexible funding for a lifelong learning system'.

From left: Joy Elliott-Bowman (Director of Policy and Development, IHE), Jess Lister (Associate Director, Public First), David Kernohan (Deputy Editor, Wonkhe), Jonathan Shaw (Strategic Director, Kent Further Education)

Delegates enjoyed refreshments, networking, and meeting exhibitors in the Great Hall.


Our second panel explored 'The risk and opportunity of regulating in the student interest'. 

From left: John Blake (Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students), Philippa Pickford (Director of Regulation, Office for Students), Peter Sharpe (IHE Board Member)

After a break for lunch, more networking, and another opportunity to visit the exhibition, our first set of breakout sessions began:

  • Building sustainable independent higher education
  • A local skills revolution: how IHE members can create opportunities across the country
  • Meaningful student engagement
  • Assessing quality and Degree Awarding Powers within OfS
From left: Rachel Nicholson (IHE Board Member), Lucy Van Essen-Fishman (Lead Policy & Research Analyst, HESA), Corin Crane (Chief Executive, Coventry & Warwickshire Chambers of Commerce), Jim Farmery, Director of External Affairs, Production Park

After a final break, the next set of breakouts commenced:

  • Strategies for growth: from start-up to world-leading
  • AI: preparing for the future
  • Towards an international student employability strategy
  • Creating conditions for success: the role of independent providers in closing the gaps
From left: Yinbo Yu (Head of Engagement & Partnerships, UKCISA), Lindsay Nygren (UKCISA student ambassador), Mark Hilton (Policy Delivery Director, BusinessLDN), Rhianna Skeates (International Careers Consultant, Queen Mary University of London)

Delegates then returned to the Telford Theatre for the pre-recorded ministerial address 'Extending the ladder of opportunity to all'. Robert Halfon MP, Minister of State for Skills, Apprenticeships and Higher Education, discussed the Government’s continuing reform agenda, his personal passions and priorities for the future of skills, the promise of the Lifelong Learning Entitlement (LLE), and the importance of a sustainable and international tertiary education sector. You can read the full transcript of his address here.


Our final panel then brought the day to a close, discussing 'IHE at 15: the past, present and future of higher education policy'.

From left: Nick Hillman (Director, HEPI), Jo Johnson (Chairman, FutureLearn), Alex Proudfoot (Chief Executive, IHE)

After some closing remarks from James Pitman, Chair of the IHE Board, it was time for our 15th anniversary celebration and the IHE Awards 2023!

It was wonderful to welcome guests from the sector, IHE friends past and present, and our supporters and partners, to join us in recognising excellence in the sector and celebrate a significant milestone for IHE.

You can read the full list of awards winners here.

Sue Hindley, Founding Chair of the Board
Dr Roxanne Stockwell, Chair of the IHE Board 2018-23
IHE Awards Ceremony 2023
IHE's 15th anniversary celebrations

You can see all of the photographs from the day here.

You can find out more about future IHE events here.

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