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Durham University

University Committees


Please contact the election's returning officer: James Walsh

Voting guidance is available here.

The deadline for voting is 4pm 22nd June 2020

Members of staff (Academic and related) at grade 7 and above (with the exception of ex-officio members of Senate) are eligible to vote.

The election is a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Further information is available here.

For further guidance please contact the election's returning officer: James Walsh


Members of the Academic Electoral Assembly are invited to elect six individuals to its Standing Committee and to serve as members of Senate.There are six seats to be elected to serve from 1 August 2020 for a period of three years.

Given Senate's responsibilities as the guardian of academic standards and a debating forum for matters of strategic academic importance, AEA members elected to serve on Senate are expected to demonstrate the following:

  1. A commitment to attend and participate in meetings of Senate and the Standing Committee of the AEA normally twice a term.
  2. Sufficient relevant experience of teaching and/or research to be able to contribute effectively to discussions on academic policy at Senate. This experience to be derived from playing a significant and direct role in these activities at an appropriate level.

Nominations have been received from the following (clicking on candidate names will take you to their supporting statement):


Jason Arday

Ilan Zvi Baron Cristina Costa Jens Funke Sol Gamsu Giles Gasper
Richard Harris Fire Kovarovic Iain Lindsey Anna Llewellyn Julieta Litka Milian Catherine Montgomery

Simon Oliver

Thomas Renstrom Zoe Roth James Smith Marek Szablewski Stephen Taylor

Sara L. Uckelman

Candidates Statements

Jason Arday (Proposer: Vikki Boliver, Seconder: Hannah King)

There are many intersectional disparities that reside within Durham University. One of the most pressing issues as we embark on our submission to the AdvanceHE Race Equality Charter (REC) is the dearth of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) staff within the university and the paucity of representation within the Senate and other senior representative spaces. The need for creating a university space that is truly diverse is essential in attempting to achieve greater diversification. In advocating for these values, I would like to draw upon my experience as an anti-racist scholar-activist and member of the Durham Self-Assessment Team for the REC to centre issues of racial inequality within Durham and collectively engage in university-wide interventions to address existing racial disparities particularly for BAME academic and professional staff who often reside on the periphery of these important conversations through conscious or unconscious exclusionary mechanisms. My work around race equality within higher education has involved me sitting on several boards: University and College Union (UCU) Black Members’ Standing Committee (BMSC), UK Council for Graduate Education (UKCGE) Working Group on BME Participation in Postgraduate Research and the Universities UK Advisory Group on tackling racial harassment in higher education. As a Black academic at Durham and given the current dearth of representation within the Senate and the need to glean BAME staff perspectives, I would be honoured to have the opportunity to bring these important and often excluded perspectives from the margins to centre.

Ilan Zvi Baron (Proposer: Yulia Egorova, Seconder: Cameron Harrington)

I am standing for AEA because of how important it is that we have a strong AEA representation to address the following key matters: 1) A commitment to democratic process and accountability; 2) Transparency in financial matters; 3) Duty of care – workloads and job precarity need to be properly addressed. I’ve been at Durham for about a decade now. I’ve been on both UG and PGT Faculty Education committees. I’ve been a dept. Union representative, impact officer, programme level director, director of PGT programmes, Deputy Head of School, and interim Head of School. As the interim Head of the School of Government and International Affairs, I was involved in developing the Faculty’s response to “Durham Unbound.” I was also active in coordinating a response to Durham Unbound across the Senate. During this time I witnessed first-hand the dedication, expertise and passion that so many of us have for our institution. But I also saw how important it is that there are proper procedures and oversight for addressing institutional change. These are uncertain times, and the role of the AEA will be increasingly important in securing a sustainable future for the University and for protecting staff.

Cristina Costa (Proposer: Julie Rattray, Seconder: Richard Smith)

I am applying for membership of the AEA standing committee as I believe I bring teaching and research experience relevant to this role. My research is centred on the intersection of education and social issues with a special focus on social inequalities in higher education, curriculum innovation and digital practices. These are areas of knowledge and discussion pertinent to the Senate, more so in the context of COVID-19. In March 2020 UK universities experienced the largest and quickest transition to digital education to date. This has raised questions regarding how we support staff and students, how we adapt and develop curriculum for online contexts and what type of support structures we need to allow students to experience Durham online. These are issues I can speak to from a research and teaching perspective. I also bring to the role a wide and varied experience of teaching, supervision and curriculum development in the areas of sociology of education and educational technologies across different qualification levels (B.A., Master’s and PhD). My teaching experience is based on on-campus and online contexts. I believe that through my experience and knowledge I can contribute to discussions on academic policy to the Senate. Information about me:

Jens Funke (Proposer: Chris Done, Seconder: Barbara Ravelkofer)

I am a Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences joining Durham in 2007 from the US. Since 2016 I have been an active member in the Standing Committee (SC) and Senate. I was part of the team that wrote our response to the `Durham Unbound’ paper which contributed to its defeat in Senate. This academic year I also served as the SC’s representative on the Senate Membership Review Committee, and currently I am the SC co-lead for the HoD nomination review. The diversity in the Standing Committee and our ability to work together as academic staff members from different departments and backgrounds is our greatest strength and enables us to effectively influence academic policy at Senate. I strongly believe in the concept of a university being a community of scholars with Senate as the central academic governing body. Senate has been finally reasserting itself with the Standing Committee playing a crucial role. We need to reinforce this development in these threatening times with a dramatically changing environment for higher education. My experiences in the last years put me in a very good position to continue to competently represent academic staff and to make our voices heard.

Sol Gamsu (Proposer: Vikki Boliver, Seconder: Stefano Cremonesi)

I have always been active in university politics. Previously I lobbied Bath University and attended national focus groups about the Concordat for ECR staff. As a student I organized demonstrations against fees and campaigned with cleaners for the living wage. I am an active UCU member, involved in responding to lecture capture and Durham Unbound. Since joining Durham Sociology in 2019 I have co-organised our WP/outreach, from September I will be MSc Sociology programme lead. I am a sociologist of education and have published papers, and reports on HE policy. I have written for The Guardian, CLASS, WonkHE, THES and The Sutton Trust. The way Durham is run needs to change. Durham Unbound and the financial difficulties now faced due to Covid-19 have brought into sharp relief the inadequacies of the current management of our workplace and our students’ place of learning. We need greater democratic control over our university. Durham needs to be a community resource, with deeper regional connections, providing an equal and safe space of learning free from racism, sexism, ableism and classism. Casualised staff need to be protected. I will push for a full university democracy review with the review panel elected by staff and students.

Giles Gasper (Proposer: Simon Oliver, Seconder: Margarita Staykova)

I have been a member of Durham University since 2004, in the History Department, and have awards from the university for undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision (with 18 research students to completion). In terms of research, I am very active in the field of medieval studies, directing a large interdisciplniary collaboration on medieval science with participants drawn from science and humanities (Ordered Universe). I have served on University Research Committee (2016-19) and now serve on University Research Management Committee. I was on the College Board at University College (2015-18). Within the department I currently serve as Associate Director of Research (Impact), and hold prizes for impact from Durham and the University of Oxford. I was the co-founder, with Professor Corinne Saunders, of the now Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and its Acting Director in 2012, and continue to direct its summer programme on Latin and Palaeography. Outside Durham I am a Senior Associate at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, a member of two UKRI Peer Review Colleges, and review regularly for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. In the North-East I run an Access to University Scheme based in Sunderland in partnership with Oxford.

Richard Harris (Proposer: Pippa Matthews, Seconder: Roberta Aguzzoli)

I have been an academic for 40 years (full professor for 26 years), with an associated portfolio of publications and grants. I have been Director of Research at 4 Business Schools, and HoD of Economics & Finance at Durham and Newcastle. I have also been a member of UCU (and its previous incarnations) all of my career. Currently I am Deputy Executive Dean (Research) in the Faculty of Business. I believe that in the current pandemic crisis that there is an even greater need to protect research capacity, while recognising the fundamental role that teaching will continue to make in ensuring the University’s resilience and long-run stability. If elected, I would seek to ensure through my active participation in the AEA Standing Committee, that Senate continues to play a full role in looking towards the interests of all its staff, and the academic reputation of the institution.

Fire Kovarovic (Proposer: Sarah Elton, Seconder: Gillian Bentley)

I have served on Senate since 2017, leading the AEA response to lecture capture in 2019, joining the Respect Commission 2019-20 and co-chairing the Standing Committee since the beginning of this academic year – one that showed us we must work harder to consult appropriately, consider everyone’s needs equally, and make decisions collectively. If re-elected, I’ll work to embed EDI principles at the heart of our academic policies, continue to develop processes that facilitate involvement of the wider AEA membership in decision-making, and provide a clearer means of communication between the Standing Committee and the AEA. There’s no question that, after rising to the challenges of lecture capture and ‘Durham Unbound’, the entire AEA desires this. More importantly, we deserve it. I’ve been at Durham for 11 years and am an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology. In addition to my experience on Senate, I’m a co-organiser of the Mothers and Mothers-to-be Support Network (MAMS) and member of the Learning & Teaching Network. Both provide me with insight as a Senator; conversations with them convince me that we must remain dedicated not only to our shared academic endeavours, but to improving the university’s commitment to safeguarding staff safety and well-being.

Iain Lindsey (Proposer: Nicole Westmarland, Seconder: Simon James)

I am standing for election to help Durham to become a more socially just, inclusive university that strongly contributes to communities across County Durham and the North East. In advocating for these values on Senate, I would draw on experience from six years at Durham, first as Assistant then Associate Professor in the School of Applied Social Sciences and now the Department of Sport and Exercise Sciences. I am proud that, through four years as Admissions Officer, sport and exercise degrees have led the university in widening participation. My teaching with our diverse cohort does, however, indicate how much the university needs to change to enable students of all backgrounds to prosper once they arrive here. Currently, I act as Research Impact Officer, a citizenship role in which I have prioritised developing links with local communities to meet the social justice objectives which are central to our department. I believe that this sense of social and educational mission is fundamental to our university navigating uncertain times that lie ahead. The university’s staff have already pulled together to protect colleagues and students’ education; if elected, I would use membership of Senate to contribute further to support colleagues’ collective endeavours and wellbeing.

Anna Llewellyn (Proposer: Jonathan Tummons, Seconder: Rille Raaper)

By standing for election, I am driven to achieve an exceptional and equitable academic environment for Durham. Within my time in the School of Education I have experience of strategic and operational activities and thus comprehend the need to navigate both for all staff and students. Specifically, I have led a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, as well as serving as undergraduate director of education, deputy director of education, and chair of board of examiners. Moreover, I have represented the School of Education in Faculty Education Committees and exam boards. I have a strong commitment to Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, which is demonstrated through both my teaching and research (having published on LGBT+ inclusion). Thus, I consider, it should be axiomatic that academic polices are fully inclusive, which includes recognising the privileges within which the university operates. My other relevant experiences include working as an external examiner at several universities. Additionally, I have a PGCE and a PG Cert in HE and have recently completed an Advance HE Further Leaders programme. In 2017, I was a recipient of an Excellence in Teaching and Learning Award at Durham University. I am also a Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.

Julieta Litka Milian (Proposer: AnnMarie O'Donoghue, Seconder: Elizabeth J. Grayson)

I believe that my international academic background and diverse experience makes me a very good candidate to join the Senate. I have studied and worked in five universities: Warsaw University, where I obtained my undergraduate and MSc in Organic Chemistry, the Military University of Warsaw (PhD), The University of Hull (Research Trainee), The University of York (Post-Doctoral Research Fellow) and Durham University. I have had the privilege to work at Durham University for over 10 years and I have seen first-hand the extraordinary changes in the university sector in that time. As a Teaching Fellow in the Chemistry Department at Durham University, I am proud of my work with students as a workshop and lab coordinator, supervisor of dissertation students and outreach demonstrator, among other roles. I have had a successful career, winning The Luckhurst-Samulski Prize for the best paper published in Liquid Crystals and published articles in journals in both Poland and the UK. I am keen to add my voice to the Senate at this difficult time during the covid-19 crisis. It is now more than ever that we need new ideas, critical thinking and a clear understanding of the trends that covid-19 has accelerated.

Catherine Montgomery (Proposer: Chris Brown, Seconder: Craig Stewart)

I have held professorial roles at the Universities of Hull, Bath and now Durham. I have experience and proven success in leadership at senior levels, shaping and implementing departmental, faculty and university policy, particularly with reference to internationalisation. I have senior management experience at Dean (acting), Associate Dean and Head of Department level. I have experience of university governance at the highest level of an institution: in a previous senior role as Academic Director of International Partnerships (working with Pro-Vice Chancellor International and Doctoral) leading internationalisation at the University of Bath and before that as a member of the University of Hull Council. I served on Council and Senate at Hull University for three years. I am an experienced, successful and enthusiastic teacher at Undergraduate, Masters and Doctoral level. I am a National Teaching Fellow 2010 and an invited Fellow of the Royal Society for Arts 2018. I am keen to make a contribution at Durham University and support the university using my previous experience in international education and in governance in other institutions.

Simon Oliver (Proposer: Bennett Zon, Seconder: Karen Kilby)

I came to Durham in 2015 as Van Mildert Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology and Religion. Prior to this I was Head of the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of Nottingham and a member of Senate. I have nearly twenty years’ experience of teaching, curriculum development, and PhD supervision across four universities. I have served as external examiner of UG and PG programmes at Leeds, Aberdeen, Oxford and St. Andrews. In previous posts, I established two successful distance learning MA programmes and understand the opportunities and pitfalls of this mode of delivery. My research lies at the interface of theology and philosophy, being particularly concerned with the doctrine of creation, theological anthropology, and the historical relationship between theology and science. I am currently involved in two international research projects in these areas. Beyond academia, I have significant governance experience as a member of the Chapter (the Governing Body) of Durham Cathedral, playing a central role in the Cathedral’s strategic planning and general oversight of its operations. I am wholeheartedly committed to Durham’s collegiate structure, its traditional academic values, the fostering of diversity and inclusion, and the flourishing of all students and staff through excellent teaching and world-class research.

Thomas Renstrom (Proposer: Leslie Reinhorn, Seconder: Laura Marsiliani)

I joined Durham University in 2001, and have been member of the Senate since 2008. I have a first degree from Stockholm School of Economics and a DPhil from University of Oxford, and working experience from the University of Birmingham, Tilburg University (The Netherlands), and University of Rochester (USA). I believe that the main role of universities is to discover and disseminate knowledge (through research and teaching). Some research findings have enormous benefits to society, beyond present generations. Those benefits may not be quantifiable today (or maybe not even understood). Therefore we need to emphasise a long-term perspective on research, ensuring an intellectually stimulating environment where academic freedom is encouraged. Each academic has unique knowledge which students should be allowed to take advantage of in order to gain a unique learning experience. There is a risk that certain quality-control measures, in reducing teaching flexibility, may lower teaching quality since teaching tends to become standardised. I do not believe that academic freedom reduces efficiency. On the contrary, it contributes to a more fulfilling a working environment that ultimately enhances productivity. I would like to have the opportunity to represent these views in the Senate and to serve the Durham University community.

Zoe Roth (Proposer: Laura Chuhan Campbell, Seconder: Hansun Hsiung)

I am running for AEA Standing Committee to increase staff governance and oversight of University policy and procedures. I am an assistant professor in MLAC. Recently, I was actively involved in organizing staff opposition to the ‘Durham Unbound’ proposals across the University. I have further experience coordinating research, teaching, and communication between departments, having served as assistant director of the Centre for Visual Arts & Culture and the Visual Culture MA director. We now find ourselves in an unprecedented crisis. Staff consensus and input is paramount. It will only be achieved if senior management engage in real transparency, consultation, and open discussion. The AEA will thus play a crucial role in representing staff voices and holding the University to account. We have all seen the consequences of opaque, ill-conceived policies—including Durham ‘DOES’/‘Phase 2’, lecture capture, and ‘Durham Unbound’—on staff morale and the proper functioning of the University. As an AEA Standing Committee member, I will focus on: - Coordinating and increasing cross-departmental communication about policy changes. - Representing the views of junior/early-career staff and those on fixed-term contracts. - Instituting standardized consultation processes and timelines for new policies.

James Smith (Proposer: Patricia Waugh, Seconder: Peter Garratt)

Our university, like others in the sector, faces unprecedented challenges to its teaching and research activities. I am motivated to stand for election as an AEA Standing Committee member to ensure that the views of academic staff are clearly voiced in Senate during these times. As recent debate over proposed changes such as the shift to online education has shown, the Committee has a vital role to play in scrutinising proposals and making critical interventions on behalf of staff. In coming years Senate will be a key forum for ensuring that the pressures created by immediate circumstances do not undermine our longer-term academic values and standards. I am currently a Professor in the English Studies Department, specialising in modern and contemporary literature, having joined Durham as a Lecturer in 2012 after study and postdocs in Australia and the UK. I have significant experience, often working across disciplines, that will make me an effective representative in the Senate. This experience includes teaching at all levels in my Department, leading collaborative research projects and the cross-departmental Centre for Modern Conflicts and Cultures, and contributing to administrative roles such as coordinating the self-assessment for my Department's first Athena Swan Bronze Award (awarded 2020).

Marek Szablewski (Proposer: Cheryl McEwan, Seconder: Kay Schiller)

I bring wide-ranging skills and experience to the AEA SC, developed during my long service at Durham University. Over 27 years I have worked as fixed term researcher, taught, and contributed to the working of my Department and the wider University in multiple ways. In Physics I have chaired H&S and Teaching Laboratory Committees and belonged to the Physics EDI Committee. I was a Respect Commission member. Our work highlighted the ways in which we as a community need to work harder at our interactions to create a fairer and more collegial University, more respectful of differences. Good governance is vital for the University. As an elected AEA Senate member I have consistently advocated good governance and participated in the Senate Effectiveness Review. I have been vice and acting chair of the AEA Standing Committee. In 2019 I was elected vice-chair of the Senate Agenda Setting Committee. Clear communication from Senate to staff is essential, as is transparent and accountable democratic decision-making. I believe that elected members on Senate have a responsibility to speak up in order to voice not only their experience, but also the experiences of all AEA members. I am committed to speaking up in constructive ways.

Stephen Taylor (Proposer: Marek Szablewski, Seconder: Toby Watson)

I have a deep commitment to Senate as the institution which provides assurance on academic matters, not only to Council but also to the whole University community. I believe that a strong and independent Senate is crucial to the vitality and effectiveness of the University as a scholarly community. All of this has been demonstrated in my previous service in Senate, and particularly as Chair of the Senate Effectiveness Review (2014-16) and of the Senate Agenda Setting Committee. (2016-18). I can bring to the role of AEA representative on Senate broad experience of teaching and research in both disciplinary and interdisciplinary contexts not only at Durham but also elsewhere in the sector, as Director of Research (leading on REF2014) and HoD in the Department of History, as an officer of the Royal Historical Society, as Director of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and, previously, as Director of the Graduate School in Arts and Humanities at the University of Reading.

Sara L. Uckelman (Proposer: Justine Wolfenden, Seconder: Sol Gamsu)

I am standing as a candidate for the AEA because I feel strongly that universities are collectives of academics who should jointly and cooperatively be the ones setting the agenda for teaching, research, innovation, and development. In recent years Durham University has seen an increasingly heavy-handed upper management attempt to force through radical changes to the university's structure and mission without consultation or recognition of what those who truly make up the university – academics, support staff, college staff – do, and why we do it the way we do. We in the AEA need strong representation at Senate to stand up against these increasingly out of touch proposals. As an immigrant, I have been unable to vote where I live for almost 15 years. This has only served to sharpen my belief in the importance of equal and robust franchisement, and in the need for strong candidates to stand up and fight on behalf of those who may not have any voice. In many other areas, others have been my voice for me; here is my opportunity to be a voice for others. In my 5 years at Durham University I have been active in all aspects of academic life, active in the Learning and Teaching network; founder of the new Durham Centre for Ancient and Medieval Philosophy; and as a member of the DUCU committee. I did not come to Durham as an activist, but my time here has made me one. If elected, I will continue to be a voice for those who cannot speak, a voice on behalf of democracy, equality, and opportunity, and I will fight to transform this university back into a true universitas of scholars.