Professor George E Holmes DL: An Educational Leader Fostering the Growth of Human Potential Through Education

The Top 10 Most Influential Leaders Transforming Education, 2023

Meet Professor George E Holmes DL, the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bolton – he has a track record spanning almost 25 years in the ‘top job’ in higher education.

Armed with both a PhD and a Doctorate in Education, a Master’s in Business Administration, and a BSc in Economics, Professor Holmes is an academic fully engaged in professional practice, holding a Fellowship of the prestigious Institute of Directors.

Facilitating the Growth of Human Endeavor Through Education

Professor Holmes has a great track record in academic leadership and advisory roles. In addition to his full-time academic management responsibilities, he was the editor of two international journals, specializing in Quality Assurance in Education, for nearly a decade.

Back in 2002, the Secretary of State for Education and Skills, appointed him as an advisor to the Department. Holmes was one of just two sector representatives on the Department’s HE Policy Delivery Steering Group, assisting in shaping the HE White Paper.

Professor Holmes’s commitment to the wider community is as impressive as his academic achievements. He served on the Board of the Octagon Theatre in Bolton for six years and was previously a Board member of the Bolton Lads and Girls Club.

He’s also been a Governor for various institutions, including Bolton School, the ESSA Academy Trust, and for a short time during merger talks at Bury College. As a founding Trustee of the Bolton University Technical College and a Governor at Bolton College, he is truly invested in education.

Before taking the helm at the University of Bolton, the then Dr. Holmes was the Principal of Doncaster College, where he spearheaded the Doncaster Education City Project and secured the largest capital grant in the history of the FE sector at the time. He also played a pivotal role in establishing the Lincoln University Campus prior to being appointed as Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of North London.

Professor Holmes was appointed as one of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s Lord-Lieutenant of the County of Greater Manchester’s Deputy Lieutenants in 2015.

Above all, Professor Holmes firmly believes in the boundless potential of the human spirit. He recognizes the enormous opportunities that the University of Bolton offers to individuals from backgrounds which are traditionally under-represented in higher education.

In 2005 Holmes was appointed to the role of Vice-Chancellor at Bolton where he was tasked with leading the institution following its transition to University status, succeeding the former Principal.

In Holmes’ view, education stands as the most potent catalyst for transformation available to humanity. It possesses the unparalleled capacity to unlock doors that would otherwise remain firmly shut.

Education, he asserts, is the driving force that propels society toward a brighter future. Graduates, he notes, on average not only enjoy longer and healthier lives but also become more engaged and responsible members of their communities, often achieving significantly higher earnings throughout their lifetimes.

Professor Holmes has been a dedicated champion of equality, opportunity, and the celebration of diversity throughout his extensive career, firmly believing that true progress will be achieved when those in positions of power fully embrace the idea that everyone is equal. He sees the opportunity to foster human potential and facilitate the growth of human endeavor through education as a distinct privilege.

Professor Holmes contends that there can be no more gratifying and fulfilling career path than one dedicated to the field of education. Today, he continues to contribute to education as a member of the Board of Bolton College and as the Chair of the Advisory Panel at Regent College, London. With such a background, there’s no doubt that Professor George E Holmes DL is a committed educational leader!

A Beacon of Learning and Progress in The World of Higher Education

The University of Bolton’s journey through the landscape of higher education is nothing short of remarkable. Its roots extend back to 1824, a testament to its enduring commitment to knowledge and learning. In 2004, it achieved the status of a full-fledged university, marking a significant milestone in its history.

A visionary strategy, coined after extensive consultation in 2008, transformed the University into a Teaching Intensive institution, setting it apart from its Research Intensive counterparts. This shift placed a profound emphasis on the student experience, causing it to surge latterly up the national league tables.

In 2005, the University ranked 121 in The Guardian League Table. Fast forward to 2019, and it had climbed to 86, and in the most recent 2023/24 rankings, it has soared to an impressive top 30 position. The University received recognition as one of the highest risers in The Times League Table for 2024, a testament to its dedication to excellence.

For seven consecutive years, the University has been the leader in Greater Manchester for student satisfaction with teaching in the NSS, and it has maintained its position as the top institution in this respect the North West for the past two years. In terms of growth, the University has rapidly expanded its footprint. For instance, its Health programs have seen a remarkable increase, going from zero to over 4,000 students in just eight years.

The National Centre for Motorsport Engineering in Science, Technology, and Engineering is another feather in its cap. Additionally, the University has witnessed remarkable growth in degree apprenticeships, with student numbers going from zero to 1200 in the last five years.

Beyond its borders, the University has forged partnerships across the UK, particularly in London, and has established satellite activities in global hubs like the United Arab Emirates, Athens, Prague, and Pakistan (for 2024). A milestone on the horizon is the University’s forthcoming medical school, set to open its doors in 2024.

The University of Bolton’s journey is a testament to its unwavering commitment to education and its relentless pursuit of excellence. It’s not just an institution; it’s becoming a beacon of learning and progress in the world of higher education.

Creating An Environment Where Colleagues Can Excel

For nearly 19 years, Professor Holmes has held the responsibility as Head of the institution, akin to a CEO in the corporate world. In this role, he has the responsibility for academic leadership and the overall management of the institution. As the Accountable Officer for all public funds, he is entrusted with the stewardship of financial resources.

Holmes role includes leading both the Senate and the Executive Board. Professor Holmes exercises comprehensive leadership and management oversight over a University Group that encompasses diverse entities, including a further education college, an apprentice training provider, a multi-academy trust, and an outdoor activity centre. As the Chief Executive, he has responsibility for a workforce exceeding 2000 full-time staff and manages a substantial weekly budget, nearing an impressive £3 million.

Throughout his distinguished career as an educational leader, spanning over a quarter of a century at the most senior levels, Professor Holmes has left an indelible mark. He played an important role in supporting the creation of a new University, the University of Lincoln, in 1996. As Deputy Vice-Chancellor at the University of North London he led the merger team that gave rise to the London Metropolitan University. During his tenure as Principal and Chief Executive of Doncaster College, he oversaw the construction of the largest single new college in Europe, securing the largest capital grant in the history of UK education at that time.

In his tenure as the Vice-Chancellor of the University Professor Holmes has steered the institution toward becoming one of the most financially sustainable universities in Britain. Under his guidance, the University has achieved top-tier levels of student satisfaction.

His leadership also facilitated the historic merger and acquisition that saw the University acquiring Bolton College, marking a pioneering move in the education landscape. Furthermore, he’s charting an exciting course by spearheading the development of a new medical school, solidifying his commitment to advancing education and healthcare.

In Professor Holmes’ view, effective management in higher education hinges on a profound recognition of professional autonomy. He firmly believes that the best approach to leading the dedicated workforce in higher education is to create an environment where colleagues can excel in their respective domains.

Acknowledging the intrinsic self-motivation that most staff possess; he sees the role of the Chief Executive as one that ensures colleagues have the necessary space and resources to perform their roles optimally. Furthermore, Professor Holmes underscores the importance of recognising and celebrating the achievements of the staff, providing them with job security, and acknowledging their indispensable contributions to the institution’s success. To him, it’s “as simple as that”.

Additionally, Professor Holmes envisions a transformative change on the horizon – renaming the University as the University of Greater Manchester. This strategic move aims to forge a powerful association between the institution and one of the UK’s most influential city’s.

Notably, the University is deeply embedded in the Greater Manchester region, with a significant majority of its home students residing full-time and permanently within Greater Manchester. The adoption of the new name, University of Greater Manchester, represents a pivotal moment that aligns with the institution’s standing as a Guardian Top 30 UK University, propelling it toward a heightened global presence.

This decision holds the potential to leverage the universal recognition of Greater Manchester’s name worldwide, setting the stage for ambitious global initiatives. Among these plans are the launch of a global platform for online learning, the rapid expansion of international student enrollment on-campus, and the establishment of satellite campuses in untapped regions across the globe, where populations stand to benefit immensely from the delivery of high-quality British education.

A Shining Example of Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Professor Holmes reflects on the valuable lessons that challenges can impart. He recognises that modern Universities, particularly those bestowed with their university status post-1992, often face unwarranted skepticism from those who opine without a deep understanding. This bias can pose obstacles for institutions striving to establish world-class reputations.

Working in a socio-economically disadvantaged area brings immense fulfillment but can sometimes be marred by unjust discrimination. Professor Holmes acknowledges that the University’s students are among the finest in the sector, even though their talents may not always receive the recognition they deserve from advocates of older Universities.

The University has conquered some monumental challenges on its path to excellence, and it’s not afraid to shout it from the rooftops! They recently clinched the gold standard for student experience in the Teaching Excellence Framework Assessment, a recognition bestowed by the Regulator, the Office for Students.

Now, they’re not just in the prestigious Top 30 in Britain, according to The Guardian University League Table 2024, but they’re also wielding this newfound acclaim as a powerful weapon against prejudice. They’re proudly waving the flag of their success and that of their brilliant students, ensuring their accomplishments reverberate far and wide.

When it comes to education, the University is now a force to be reckoned with. Their offerings in Health, Engineering, Science, Technology, and Degree Apprenticeships are second-to-none. They’ve been on a jaw-dropping growth trajectory, especially in Health-related fields, and they’re even gearing up for the big league with medicine in 2024.

And here’s the point – their students are absolutely loving it! Their track record in student satisfaction has been consistently top-notch, landing them in the top 15 Universities in Britain year-after-year. Just think, two decades ago, they were on the other end of the spectrum, in the bottom 15. Now that’s what you call an epic comeback story!

But what truly sets them apart is their unwavering commitment to teaching. They’re not just a University; they’re the UK’s only true teaching-intensive University. Their laser focus on creating top-notch learning opportunities is undeniable.

The staff at this institution aren’t just passionate about teaching; they’re downright obsessed with it. They’re so devoted that they’ve even redefined career promotion, placing Teaching Professors on a pedestal alongside their Research Professor counterparts. This unique approach fosters a culture where teaching is the ultimate priority.

Above all, the University is synonymous with groundbreaking, creative teaching. Their staff are the trailblazers in this domain, and in many ways, they have no competition. While other institutions might have different priorities like research and knowledge exchange, Bolton’s secret is their unwavering dedication to the student journey, powered by exceptional teaching.

Their core values, etched deep within their academic DNA, revolve around opportunity, diversity, inclusion, the student experience (students always come first), and social justice.

They’re not just shaping minds; they’re transforming the educational landscape by setting a shining example of excellence in teaching and learning. The University of Bolton’s claim to academic prestige isn’t just because it offers education; it’s because it redefines what it means to provide exceptional teaching, learning, and the ultimate student experience.