Dr Rhiannon Birch

Principal Consultant


With a background in information management, strategy development and strategic planning, Rhiannon brings expertise in the design and establishment of integrated planning cycles, linking strategy, performance evaluation and risk management with operational design, process improvement, action planning, workforce, and budget planning.

Rhiannon supports members and clients in finding practical solutions to challenging strategic problems ranging from developing strategy and defining performance frameworks to reviewing operating models and devising plans for significant organisational change. Her approach to assignments is grounded in logical and comprehensive strategic planning processes, cultures, and practices. She supports university leaders to develop strategies and business plans, advises on opportunities and risk, and completes robust options appraisals to identify the way forward. Rhiannon’s specialist support has included in-depth reviews of tuition fees and financial awards, comparative studies of professional services roles and resourcing, and development of bespoke data and insight.

An advocate for data-led decision making and data literacy, Rhiannon joined SUMS in 2022 following an extensive career in senior management positions where she focussed on strategy development, risk management and operational delivery both in and external to HE, including Director of Planning & Insight at the University of Sheffield, Head of Membership & Professional Records for the British Medical Association, and Director of Strategic Insights & Planning at the University of Derby. Rhiannon has a PhD in higher education policy from the University of Sheffield as well as a PGCert in Higher Education Management from the University of Southampton.

How has Rhiannon recently supported universities?

  • University of Leeds: market insight to inform student recruitment size and shape
  • University of Leicester: development of workforce planning
  • University of Gloucestershire: development of a new Target Operating Model for professional services
  • University of Cambridge Institute of Continuing Education: student journey process mapping review

Outside of work Rhiannon is most likely to be found in her garden, ably assisted by her two cats.

Connect with Rhiannon on LinkedIn