Sally Turnbull

Associate Consultant

Sally brings expertise in strategic planning and the use of data to inform decision-making and drive performance. Her work focuses on achieving clarity on priorities and intended outcomes and enabling decision-makers to utilise the range of planning tools to spark creativity, drive delivery and manage risk.

Sally has over 20 years of experience in strategic planning, 16 of which have been spent in higher education. Alongside offering consultancy services, she also undertakes interim roles, recently including providing support to the Strategy and Organisational Enhancement Directorate at the University of Wolverhampton and acting as Interim Strategic Planning Director at the University of Hull, leading a series of internal reviews and drawing up proposals for:

  • Refocusing and restructuring the planning team with the integration of data-focused roles across the University
  • Achieving significantly enhanced data exchange between core systems to support enhanced access and analysis
  • An integrated planning process
  • A data strategy, supported by governance, quality management and validation frameworks.

Sally spent 13 years leading the planning function at UCLan, latterly as Director of Planning and Insight, covering a broad range of planning activities, including policy and data analysis, business intelligence, data returns, performance metrics, assurance and market research. Before working in HE, Sally worked with the public, private and third sectors in economic regeneration, developing strategic responses to social challenges relating to housing, health and young people.

Sector-level roles include active membership of the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) Development Committee, and a UUK working group on the Lifelong Learning Entitlement. Previous roles include: membership of the National Executive of the Higher Education Strategic Planners Association (HESPA) and Chair of the Higher Education Data Insight Group; representing HESPA members on the HESA Provider Forum; membership of the Higher Education Data Landscape Steering Group until it was decommissioned in February 2020; and membership of the DfE burden reduction taskforce.

Sally’s recent higher education publications:

Sally has a strong interest in how data on higher education are used to inform the public narrative about the sector and has authored two publications on the topic:

  • A Guide to UK League Tables in Higher EducationJanuary 2018, HEPI Report number 101. This report looks under the bonnet of the three main UK league tables – The Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide, the Guardian University Guide and the Complete University Guide. Intended as a reference tool for governors, managers and policymakers, it reveals how the wealth of data is used by league tables compilers. It also highlights some limitations of league tables in the hope that greater awareness will lead to more effective and appropriate use – by governors, policymakers and others.


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