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Our Trustee Board and Director

The Trustee Board is responsible for directing the affairs of the UPP Foundation, ensuring it is well-run and delivering the charitable outcomes for which it has been created. All UPP Foundation grant applications are reviewed and authorised by the Trustee Board.

Jon Wakeford, Chair of the Trustee Board, UPP Foundation, and Corporate Affairs Director, UPP

Jon Wakeford, Chair of the Trustee Board, UPP Foundation, and Director of Engagement, UPP.

Jon has more than 25 years’ experience in the higher education sector and originally joined UPP in 2000, when the Company was established as a specialist business unit of Jarvis plc.

As Director of Strategy and Communication, he originated the Company’s selective approach to partnerships and played a key role in the establishment of the Group’s bond programme and the acquisition of the UPP by its current shareholders.

As Director of Engagement Jon leads the Group’s interaction with its stakeholders, including all public affairs activities and investor relations.

He has worked as a Senior Advisor for the higher education team at KPMG and is also a member of the cross-party Higher Education Commission.

Jon is a regular contributor to key debates on higher education policy and the future of the sector across press and media.

Karen Morgon, Business Development Director, UPP

Karen Morgon, Business Development Director, UPP.

Karen joined UPP in the summer of 2016 as Transaction Director, but has now been appointed to the new role of Business Development Management.

Starting her career in retail banking, Karen studied to become an associate of the Chartered Institute of Bankers. She then moved into local government, which is where she developed a passion for social inclusion issues and ways of keeping young people in education.  Karen later became involved with a number of school governing bodies, serving on disciplinary committees and focusing on helping pupils avoid being excluded from the educational environment.

Karen has a keen interest in the performing arts and regularly participates in amateur dramatic productions.  She plays the clarinet to orchestral standard as well as being an accomplished choral singer and ballroom dancer.  When not commuting into London from her home in Somerset, Karen is a keen apiarist and also enjoys spending time in her garden or walking her dog.

Rt. Hon Chris Skidmore MP, Chair of UPP Foundation

Chris Skidmore is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Kingswood. He was elected following the 2010 General Election and served as the Universities Minister on two occasions between 2018 and 2020. He has also previously had Ministerial roles at the Department for Health and Social Care and the Cabinet Office. Prior to becoming a Government Minister he was George Osborne’s PPS for a year between 2015 and 2016 when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer. As a backbencher, he now co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary University Group alongside his new role on the Advisory Board at the UPP Foundation.

Before being elected as an MP Skidmore was an education adviser for the Conservatives, working for then-Shadow Education Secretary Michael Gove, and has also served as Director of the Party’s Public Services Improvement Group, run by Stephen Dorrell and Baroness Perry. He is also a historian and published author. His first book, ‘Edward VI: The Lost King’, was released in 2007 and his second, ‘Death and the Virgin: Elizabeth, Dudley and the Mysterious Death of Amy Robsart’, was published in 2010. He has a First Class Honours in Modern History from the University of Oxford.

Professor Mary Stuart

Professor Mary Stuart is the former Vice Chancellor of the University of Lincoln.  She is a graduate of the University of Cape Town, SA and the Open University, UK where she obtained her Doctorate in Social Policy in 1998. Mary was a HEFCE Board member until 2018 and is currently a Commissioner on the UPP Foundation’s Student Futures Commission,  was Vice Chair of UUK’s Advisory panel on Admissions and a commissioner on the Civic Universities Commission, a Trustee of the Universities Partnership Programme (UPP) Foundation and a Fellow of the Bridge Group.

Mary is also a member of the National Civic University Network Advisory Group and a member of the Arts Council Cultural Cities Recovery Roundtable. In 2021, after the establishment of the UPP / Wonkhe Student Futures Commission, Mary has been appointed as one of the Commissioners. She is the Chair of the sub-theme on international students for the future.

Mary was named as the Guardian’s ‘Most Inspiring Leader in Higher Education’ at their HE awards in 2018.  She was also awarded a CBE for her services to Higher Education in the same year.  In 2019 Mary was awarded the City of Lincoln Civic Award and in 2021 was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Lincolnshire Chamber of Commerce.

Ellie Rapley, Commercial Manager, UPP

Ellie is Commercial Manager for UPP Residential Services, UPP’s facilities management business unit, where she has been employed since 2012. Ellie originally joined as an assistant in UPP’s post room whilst studying Psychology at the University of Reading. After graduating, she secured a position on UPP’s customer service helpdesk and subsequently became the helpdesk manager. She was later appointed performance manager for the business standards team before assuming her current position.

Her role involves resolving commercial enquiries and she spends a lot of time working with operational teams to offer direction and help them to review operational processes for the best outcomes.

She is passionate about the community and serves as the communications officer for her local community association in Reading. It focuses on sustainability and improving the locality for the neighbourhood. At UPP, Ellie has been involved with the UPP Gives employee fundraising committee which supports a range of charities through the work of the organisation.

In her spare time, Ellie enjoys cycling and yoga, and has an interest in vintage fashion and drum and bass music. She is also content spending days reading books and playing boardgames. 

Our Director

Richard Brabner, Director of UPP Foundation

Richard Brabner was appointed Head of UPP Foundation in July 2016 and was promoted to Director in 2018. Working with the trustees, he sets its strategy and leads on all aspects of the UPP Foundation’s activities. Richard joined UPP in 2015 as Business Development Manager and his responsibilities included setting up the UPP Foundation.

Prior to joining UPP, he was Head of Policy at the University of Hertfordshire, advising the Vice-Chancellor and senior management team and leading the University’s public affairs function. Before this, he worked as a researcher for two MPs in Parliament. He graduated from the University of Essex in 2007 and holds an MRes in Public Policy and Management from Birkbeck, University of London.