Ucas appoints Ofqual’s Jo Saxton as new chief executive

Chief regulator who oversaw return of GCSE and A-level exams to take over at admissions service

September 26, 2023

UK admissions service Ucas has appointed a new chief executive following the departure of Clare Marchant.

Jo Saxton, currently chief regulator of qualifications at Ofqual, will take over at Ucas in January as it continues to plan for an expected rise in the number of university applicants over the remainder of the decade.

Dr Saxton, a former senior civil servant in the Department for Education, has been at Ofqual since 2021 and has overseen the return of GCSEs and A levels after exams were cancelled during the pandemic. Her predecessor, Sally Collier, resigned following controversy surrounding an algorithm used to determine pupils’ grades.

She is a graduate of the University of Cambridge and holds master’s and doctoral degrees from New York University. In 2022 she was awarded an honorary PhD by the University of Buckingham’s School of Education.

Ms Marchant led Ucas for six years, overseeing a doubling in the number of applicants it supports and moves into putting apprenticeships on an equal footing to traditional degrees.

She has become the University of Gloucestershire’s new vice-chancellor, replacing Stephen Marston who retired at the end of July.

Dr Saxton said she was “delighted” to take up the role at Ucas, adding that the organisation was “at the heart” of giving students of all ages the “opportunities to achieve”.

Trudy Norris-Grey, chair of Ucas’ board, said Dr Saxton “brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise coupled with a proven track record of transformative leadership in education”.

Education minister Gillian Keegan said she was “hugely grateful” to Dr Saxton for “guiding Ofqual through the challenges that followed the pandemic, ultimately overseeing a smooth return to exams and normal grading”.

“I look forward to continuing to work with Jo in her new role at Ucas, supporting students to progress onto university, degree apprenticeships and the world of work,” Ms Keegan added.

Sander Kristel, chief operating officer at Ucas, will act as interim chief executive until Dr Saxton is in post. The Department for Education said it will soon begin the process for appointing a new chief regulator and an interim appointment will be made in due course.


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