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Caroline and Helen to lead Planning & Strategy Office

Caroline Charles and Helen Williams will lead Planning and Strategy Office

Caroline Charles (L) and Helen Williams (R)

Caroline Charles and Helen Williams will jointly lead the Planning and Strategy Office (PSO) from 1 August, for a fixed term of two years.

Their appointment follows the decision of Dr Rachel Stewart, the current Director, to leave her role at the end of July. Rachel has been in her role since 2013 and decided to use the voluntary redundancy scheme to explore new opportunities.

The PSO provides University Executive Board with information, analysis and interpretation and sector data to support evidence-based planning and decision-making. It is also supports the development and implementation of strategy and strategic projects.

Caroline and Helen will ensure that UEB continues to have this support as we embark on crucial programmes like the Strategic Foundations Programme. Their existing roles will not be backfilled to enable our University to make the savings.

Announcing the appointment, Dr Richard Messer said, “I am pleased that Caroline and Helen are taking on the leadership of the Planning and Strategy Office. They are both experienced members of the team and will provide continuity as we seek to manage the transition following Rachel’s departure.

“Rachel has done fantastic work over the past eight years. She has put in place a strong team whose advice and guidance is valued by me and my UEB colleagues. It is sad to see her go, but I know that Rachel will continue to be successful in whatever venture she chooses next.”

Caroline and Helen said, “We are delighted to have this opportunity to lead the Planning and Strategy team for the next two years. We look forward to continuing to work closely with colleagues across the institution to support delivery of the University strategic priorities.”

Rachel said, “I have been at the University on and off since 1988. During this time, I have learned so much, developed so many skills and worked with many wonderful colleagues. I am grateful for the opportunities that the University has presented over the years, but I feel it is time to explore what lies beyond Reading and beyond university administration.”

Long association with Reading

Rachel’s first role was as a part-time Library Assistant. After a few months administering student grants at the then Berkshire County Council, she came back to work at the Department of Construction Management in 1990 – spending eight years as a Postgraduate Administrator.

During this time, she was also studying part-time at the University. Rachel graduated with a degree from the Department of History of Art in 1998 and followed it up with a PhD in architectural history – which was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Board and a University scholarship.

Following a variety of fixed-term academic and project roles at Reading and other universities, Rachel came back to work at the Centre for Career Management Skills at the University in 2006, becoming its Director in 2007.

In 2008, she worked with the then PVC Research and Innovation, Professor Christine Williams, on a project to establish a consortium of universities to collaborate on understanding how the sector could better meet the skills needs of the pharmaceutical and biotech industries, and was instrumental in securing £1m+ government funding and over 20 industry partners to support a two-year internship project based at Reading, which explored graduates’ and employers’ experiences of transitions to employment in the biopharma sector.

Rachel joined the then Planning Support Office (PSO) in 2009 as Senior Academic Project Manager, undertaking a variety of projects for members of the Executive Board. She became Acting Director in 2012 and then Director in 2013, from which position she developed PSO into the Planning & Strategy Office

In this role, she also led the institutional preparations for the research impact element of Research Excellence Framework 2014, coordinated and wrote a successful institutional submission to Teaching Excellence Framework 2 in 2017, and has driven the work to improve the management of change at the University.

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