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Our Vice-Chancellor's Office

View the full VCO structure chart here.

Professor Philip Plowden 

Professor Philip Plowden joined the university in August 2017, having previously served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of Derby.  Prior to that, Professor Plowden worked for almost 20 years at Northumbria University, where he was Dean of the School of Law.

Professor Plowden graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Oxford, but then qualified as both a solicitor and barrister.  In practice he specialised in human rights and public law. He maintains close links to legal practice and education and is a member of the Law Society's Education and Training Committee.  He was also a non-executive board member at the Office for Legal Complaints, which manages the Legal Ombudsman scheme. Before entering the legal profession, he worked for the Citizens Advice Bureau Service in London for almost a decade.

In 2005 Professor Plowden was appointed as a National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. His research interests are based in criminal law and practice, and in legal education and pedagogic practice. He also has an interest in the field of privacy law and freedom of information. Professor Plowden has been influential in the development of clinical legal education in the UK, and in strengthening an international network of legal clinicians, centring on the ‘International Journal of Clinical Legal Education’, which he edited for many years.  

Outside academic life, Professor Plowden is a huge fan of American Football, as well as a self-confessed geek, with a long-standing interest in genre fiction and computer gaming.

Professor Peter Francis
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic)
Professor of Criminology

Professor Peter Francis joined Birmingham City University in July 2021. He previously worked at the University of Northumbria, University of Hull and the University of Leicester. His responsibilities as Deputy-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) include the academic portfolio, academic partnerships and TNE, home and international student recruitment, student experiences, student support, and student mental health and wellbeing. He also leads on the University’s response to TEF.

Professor Francis graduated from Newcastle upon Tyne Polytechnic, and the University of Hull. With a track record in higher education leadership, Professor Francis’ career spans all aspects of academia, from education to research and knowledge exchange. Along with experience working as a Senior Advisor to the Home Office, and member of national committees and Boards, this means that he is extremely well placed to lead the academic agenda for a university embedded in its community, which is student centred and known for its business engagement, innovation, and academic excellence.

As an active researcher, Professor Francis has undertaken consultancy, evaluation and applied research for public, private and third sector bodies. He has supervised PHD study on domestic violence, community policing, the culture of policing, youth justice, crime prevention, partnership working, policing victims of racist violence and he has a particular interest in exclusion and intersectionality. His published research has focussed on victims and victimisation, criminological research methods, policing, prisons, drug testing at work, and crime and social divisions. He is currently writing a book on Contemporary Criminological Theory for Sage Publications.

Professor Francis has a keen interest in student employability, and educational / learning analytics, and in student mental health and wellbeing. He has supervised doctoral study into employability and sport, while he has recently published three articles on educational analytics in HEIs, and on the platform society. Currently he is leading a major multi-partner and multi-site R&D project on mental health analytics using student data to create thriving and striving student cultures. The team he is leading was awarded OfS Mental Health Challenge Competition funding to examine student mental health and wellbeing delivered through advanced educational data analytics, relationship management, and effective models of support. Having spent the last year developing the model and approach, the project team are now working towards its operationalisation in several HEIs, alongside engaging with the wider sector on interoperability and implementation. He is also supervising three PhD students as part of this project.

Professor Francis’s interests outside of BCU lie in the creative arts and culture, vinyl collecting, and live music, travel, and the highlands and islands of Scotland.

Professor Julian Beer
Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise

Julian Beer

Julian is Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research, Innovation and Enterprise at Birmingham City University (BCU). He is Professor of Knowledge Transfer at BCU and an Emeritus Professor at Plymouth University and a Visiting Professor at BML Munjal University, India and a Visiting professor at LP University in India. He received the Amity University India Excellence Award for his contribution to international academia in 2020. He is a founding Member of the Institute of Knowledge Transfer and a Fellow of the Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange as well as, a longstanding member of the British Sociological Association and PraxisAuril. He has an extensive track record in designing, developing and leading flagship programmes, projects and partnerships to unlock capital and revenue and connect innovation and talent, and engage Higher Education as a catalyst for change and growth positioning universities as “anchor” institutions internationally, nationally and in regional economies.

He has founded and led several Research Centre’s and Institutes as well as led numerous national and international initiatives including, leading the development of clusters, innovation centres and science parks as well as, creative industries related facilities; establishing a number of marine related initiatives, for example, a ground breaking marine renewable energy facility as well as, a marine innovation hub and specialist business support programmes and partnerships nationally. In 2021 he will be launching the Midlands Innovation and Knowledge Exchange Institute and leads on the development of the Munjal/BCU Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (STEAMHouse India) in India.  

Julian co–founded the world’s first Centre for Brexit Studies (CBS) and currently leads the flagship Arts Council and government backed STEAMHouse (circa £75 million) initiative which places the creative industries alongside Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in a trans-disciplinary approach. He has also led national programs and projects on university strategy, positioning and distinctiveness and is a frequent contributor to Universities UK, as well as, Universities Alliance activities and a commentator in the press and media and through academic channels on a range of socio-economic topics.   

In a private and academic capacity, Julian frequently works with start-ups and small to medium sized businesses as a mentor and advisor. He has contributed to numerous national and regional research reports and strategies on a range of topics. Julian was appointed in October 2020 to the Government’s Strategic Trade Advisory Group (STAG 20/22) as the UK’s academic member, Chaired by the Minister for International Trade, which informs HM Governments Trade strategy and policies. He has contributed to a number of All Parliamentary Groups and to the Mayor of London as well as the Mayor of the West Midland respective Fiscal and Financial Commissions and advisory groups.  He has worked with and advised a number of Government departments and agencies including, Cabinet Office - where he was an advisor for Wave 2 City Deals. He has also worked extensively with governments, opposition parties and non–governmental and private sector organisations and businesses. He has been heavily involved in devolution, economic development, enterprise, entrepreneurship and social enterprise nationally and internationally and acted as an advisor on Brexit, as well as serving as a member of many Brexit and economic related groups and boards.

He is a non–executive Director and Chairman of several private sector companies and public sector Boards and committees. He is a Trustee of the Millennium Point Trust as well as the Creative Industries Federation UK Council; Director of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Institute of Technology; Advisory Board member for Innovation Birmingham and a member of the West Midlands REDI Advisory Board.  He acts as an advisor to West Midlands Combined Authority in a number of areas including as an Innovation Board member and West Midlands India Partnership Board member.  Internationally, he is a member of the Governing body of the Munjal/BCU Centre of Innovation and Entrepreneurship and an Advisory Board Member of Amity University – India. He is a Board member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as, a Non-Executive Director of Birmingham Tech; member of the Innovation Birmingham Advisory Board and a former CBI Council member for the Midlands.

Julian was President of the British American Business Council (Midlands) where he was awarded, in 2018, the Chamber of Commerce Presidents Medal for impact in the West Midlands business community. He was the inaugural President for the Transatlantic Chamber of Commerce and led in 2018 and 2019 high profile transatlantic trade conferences in Birmingham and has been voted in for a third term as President and led an expanded Global Trade Conference in June 2020. Julian works closely with other Embassies and the British Council and has represented both the Midlands and the UK on international partnership and trade missions and initiatives notably in 2019 in India, forging some significant partnerships and state government relationships. Subsequently, Julian is leading on the development of the flagship projects and relationships in India.

Miss Karen Stephenson LLB, Solicitor, MA
University Secretary

Karen Stephenson

Karen Stephenson joined Birmingham City University in June 2016, as University Secretary.

As University Secretary Karen is responsible for all matters of governance, and legal and statutory compliance. She is Clerk to the Board of Governors and Company Secretary to a number of subsidiary companies.  The post has line management for the Governance Team, the Legal & Compliance Team including Equality Diversity & Inclusion, Insurance and DPA/FoI, and the UKVI Team. Karen also has institutional responsibility for compliance with the Prevent Duty, along with being the University lead for University Strategy, the OFS (Office for Students), Business Continuity and Student Mental Health.

Karen is a qualified solicitor with particular expertise in higher education corporate governance and all issues that arise out of the institutional relationship with students. She has written and published extensively on matters relating to Higher Education management and student governance.

Immediately prior to joining the University, Karen spent  7 years as an external legal adviser in private practice advising a number of HEIs on issues involving corporate governance, strategic management (including faculty, department and course restructuring) and Board matters.  She also advised on all aspects of the student/university relationship and management of complex student litigation. 

Prior to that she spent 15 years at London South Bank University; 9 years as the University Secretary & Principal Solicitor and the previous 6 years as an Academic Lecturer in Law. 

Karen is a member of the Law Society and AHUA (the Association of Heads of University Administration).

Steve Rimell
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Resources) /Chief Finance Officer

Steve Rimmell

Steve Rimell joined Birmingham City University on 1 July 2020 as Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Resources) and Chief Finance Officer. 

His role is to manage the core resources that underpin BCU’s mission of being the University for Birmingham.  His portfolio includes Finance, IT, Estates & Facilities, the Planning and Performance Department (PPD), the University Change Team and Continuous Improvement Team.

A Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, Steve has a Law degree and an MBA from Manchester Business School at the University of Manchester. He has worked across the financial services and utilities sectors for large organisations such as Bank of America, British Gas and Barclaycard, as well as experience of the education sector as Chief Finance Officer / Deputy CEO at Stockport College.

Steve joins BCU from the BES Utilities Group where he was the Group Chief Executive / Chief Finance Officer, and as well as his experience in Finance he has worked extensively as an executive leader across strategic, commercial, and operational portfolios.

Professor Julie McLeod
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Learning & Teaching

Julie McLeod

Professor Julie McLeod joined Birmingham City University in January 2020 as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Learning & Teaching) leading on the teaching and learning strategy and responsible for the Directorates of; Quality Standards & Inclusion, Education Development Service and Library & Learning Resources. Prior to that Professor McLeod was interim Pro Vice-Chancellor (Education) at Bucks New University and Pro Vice-Chancellor (Student Experience) at Oxford Brookes University since 2014.

Having qualified from University College London with a BSc (Hons) Pharmacology, Professor McLeod completed her PhD at the Royal College of Surgeons and moved to the University of Bath where she undertook research into the immunology of autoimmune diseases and cell apoptosis. Professor McLeod moved to UWE, Bristol where she undertook her academic and biomedical science career, publishing widely on immune ageing and alternative models of allergen testing, supported by UK and EU grant funding. Professor McLeod became Pro Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching in 2011.

Professor McLeod has been a QAA assessor and, more recently, was an assessor for the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) subject plots for the Medical Health subject panel. She has worked with the Department of Health in implementing Modernising Scientific Careers and is an executive member of the Heads of Biomedical Sciences. She has been invited to speak on a range of aspects related to enhancing the student experience.

Outside of academic life she lives in Bristol with her husband and son and is a Bath Rugby supporter.