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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 Clare Mackie
Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Professor Clare Mackie joined Birmingham City University in January 2018, having previously worked as Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Teaching & Learning) and Deputy-Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sussex (2010-17) and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Medway Campus & Student Experience across all campuses) at the University of Kent (2007-10). Prior to that, Professor Mackie was Founding Head and Pfizer Professor of the Medway School of Pharmacy (The Universities of Kent and Greenwich, 2004-2007), Director of a World Health Organisation Centre for Pharmaceutical Care and Curriculum Development (2000-2003) and Head of the School of Pharmacy at Robert Gordon University (1998-2002).

Professor Mackie graduated with a BSc Pharmacy (Hons) from Strathclyde University in 1981 and qualified as a Pharmacist (MRPharmS) in 1982. Her vision was to shape the future of pharmacy practice through education, but she first wanted to establish her high personal credibility and integrity as a practitioner. With two years of management experience, and a strong entrepreneurial instinct and ability to motivate others, she built a successful practice base of four pharmacies within six years. In 1991, she completed her membership of the College of Pharmacy Practice (CPP) by Examination and won an award for excellence in practice (the first such award) and subsequently served on four college committees (1991-96). In 1992 she graduated from Glasgow University Medical School with a Master’s of Medical Science in Clinical Pharmacology. From 1991-94 she worked at the Scottish Centre for Post Qualification Pharmaceutical Education (Tutor then Assistant Director, Strathclyde University).  In 1996, she won the United Kingdom Clinical Pharmacy Association (UKCPA) Education and Training Award (the first such award), was the founding Chair of the United Kingdom Clinical Pharmacy Association ‘Primary Care Practice Group’ and subsequently served on the education and general committees (1996-99).

Her credibility in practice, not only at grass roots level, but as a leader within her profession led to her being invited to deliver 250 keynote speeches including addresses at each of the major Pharmacy conferences including the Scottish (1995), Irish (1996), Welsh (1996) and English (1997) annual conferences and the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (1996) annual conference, prior to entering academia. In 1997 she was elected to the Scottish Executive of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain (RPSGB) and in 1998 she was elected to the Council of the RPSGB and subsequently served on nine RPSGB committees and working groups (1997 to 2003).

From 1996 to 1998 she completed fieldwork for her PhD by undertaking the first Randomised Controlled Trial of Pharmacist Clinical Medication Review in General Practice (1,673 patients with 9-12 month follow-up) and was awarded her PhD in 2002 (Strathclyde University). Research and Development funding exceeded £3m over the ten years that followed her entry to academia in 1998 with five PhD student completions (three international and two UK) with her sixth and most recent PhD student submitting in September 2018 with viva in February 2019. Her research group undertook several randomised controlled trials which shaped (service design and documentation) the new service of Medicines Use Review introduced in the community pharmacy contract in England in 2005. The impact has been extensive with 3.4 million medicines use reviews conducted in England in 2017/18 at a cost of £94 million.

Professor Mackie has served as an External Examiner for Undergraduate courses at: London School of Pharmacy (1998-2002); University of the West Indies Trinidad (1998-2002) and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (2002-06); Master’s courses at Glasgow University (2001-05) and postgraduate research external examiner at Trinity College Dublin (2000); London School of Pharmacy (2000); and Glasgow University (2012).

She has contributed to healthcare policy and strategy at both a local and national level as demonstrated by membership (including chairing) of various committees and working groups.

Local committees included 10 Scottish Health Board (GGHB & Grampian) Committees spanning 1992-2003 including two as founding Chair (GGHB Pharmacy Research and Development Committee (1995-8) and Grampian Primary Care Alliance Research & Development Consortium (1998-2003). National contributions included 17 Scottish Office and two UK Department of Health committees and working groups spanning the period 1993-2004.

The most far-reaching committee in terms of impact was the Department of Health ‘Review of Prescribing, Supply and Administration of Medicines’ (‘Crown Review’) of which she was a member of the main group and chair of one of the four sub-groups (prescribing for self-limiting and chronic stable conditions). Both reports of Crown Review have been implemented following changes to primary legislation, resulting in the introduction of patient group directions and non-medical prescribing.

Professor Mackie is passionately committed to the transformational impact of university education and seeks to create a culture that engages students as co-creators of new knowledge and pedagogy that attracts a diverse staff and student body. She believes that the ‘Three Es’ of Engagement, Empowerment and Environment are essential for both staff and students to prosper in the current Higher Education environment.

Outside academic life, Professor Mackie likes to spend time with her family, attend live music events and reads crime novels.

Professor Julian Beer
Deputy Vice-Chancellor

Julian BeerProfessor Julian Beer 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 national and international initiatives such as being one of the founders of the world’s first Centre for Brexit Studies and leads the flagship STEAMHouse (circa £75 million) initiative which places the creative industries alongside Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in a trans-disciplinary approach. 

Julian has worked with and advised a number of Government departments and agencies, shadow governments or oppositions and non – governmental and private sector organisations and businesses. He has been heavily involved in devolution and economic development at a national and international level and acts as an advisor on Brexit and is a member of many Brexit task groups and boards. He is a non – executive Director and Chairman of several private sector companies and public sector Boards and committees and acts as an advisor to the West Midlands Combined Authority in a number of areas including the Innovation Board. He is a Sector Champion for Emerging Technologies and Innovation Sub - Board member of the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership, as well as, a CBI Council member for the West Midlands. 

Julian is Professor of Knowledge Transfer at Birmingham City University and an Emeritus Professor at Plymouth University.

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 also 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.

Immediately prior to joining the University, Karen spent seven 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; nine years as the University Secretary and Principal Solicitor and the previous six years as an Academic Lecturer in Law. 

Karen is the sub-editor for the higher and further education section of the Education Law Journal writing regularly on strategic management issues.

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.