College appoints new Chair and Vice Chair to its Corporation Board

Hopwood Hall College and University Centre has appointed two highly esteemed new members to its Corporation Board.

Gary Buxton MBE, a Coaching Psychologist with a private practice in Manchester, who established the Young Advisors Charity, has been named Chair Designate and will assume the role of Chair in July 2024.

Gary said: “I’m really thrilled to be joining Hopwood Hall who are outstanding in their field and nationally recognised for making education inclusive. I hope I can combine my experience of working with schools, technical education providers and universities to carry on the good work of Nazir and celebrate all that Hopwood Hall continues to achieve.”

He will succeed current Chair Nazir Afzal, who is stepping down from the post after six years.

In addition, Ben Ward has been appointed as Vice Chair Designate and will take up the role in July 2024.

Ben, who is the Chief Executive Officer for University of Manchester Students’ Union, will succeed current Vice Chair Clive Reid.

The two designates both bring a wealth of experience to the Board at Hopwood, which has campuses in Middleton and Rochdale, Greater Manchester.

The appointments come during a very momentous time for the college after it was awarded the prestigious Queen’s Anniversary Prize.

Gary, who was awarded an MBE in 2014 for services to the young people of England, and Ben, who is a Trustee of Manchester Literature Festival, were recruited via Peridot Partners.

Dan Baxter, Principal Consultant at Peridot, said:

“It has been such a pleasure to have supported Julia and the Board at Hopwood Hall College with this recruitment process, funded via the FE Governor Recruitment Service which we deliver on behalf of the Department for Education.

Gary and Ben are both successful, experienced and respected leaders and they are passionate about making positive impacts in all that they do. With the College already achieving such wonderful outcomes for its students and local communities, I can’t wait to see Hopwood have even more success across the region with the support of Gary and Ben on their Board.

We at Peridot wish them both, and the College, all the very best for the future.”

Julia Heap, Principal and CEO of Hopwood Hall College and University Centre, said:

“I’m so excited to be welcoming both Gary and Ben to our ambitious Corporation Board.

“These two appointments both bring an incredible amount of insight, expertise and experience and we’re really looking forward to all the ways in which they will help us build upon the huge momentum we have at Hopwood Hall College.

“I’d like to send a heartfelt ‘thank you’ on behalf of colleagues, students and stakeholders to both Nazir and Clive for their many years of service and the work they’ve done over the years to ensure the college has experienced so much success.”

Nazir Afzal, Outgoing Chair of the Corporation, said:

“When I became Chair of Hopwood Hall College we were strangers and now as I leave six years later, it feels like family.

“The college is thriving, winning awards – including the highest honour in education, the Queen’s Anniversary Prize – and developing learners who others may have left behind.

“I am delighted that my successors are committed to continuing the journey to excellence.”

Clive Reid, Outgoing Vice Chair of the Corporation, said:

“I would not have thought that when I was asked to be a Lay member of the Audit Committee many years ago I would eventually become Vice Chair of the Governing body.

“Now that my term of office is coming to an end, I am pleased to have seen the development of the college and the improved reputation it has in the community, region and indeed nationally.

“I have thoroughly enjoyed my involvement with Hopwood Hall and look forward to watching it on its continued path to distinction under the new Chair and Vice Chair, together with the excellent leadership of the Principal Julia Heap.”


Gary Buxton, BA (Hons.), GMBPsS, PCC, FRSA, MBE

Gary was educated at Ulverston Victoria High School in Cumbria and graduated in Psychology from the University of Reading. Gary works as a Coaching Psychologist with a private practice in Manchester and is a non-executive director across the social, public and corporate sectors.

With a special interest in improving outcomes for young people, Gary established the Young Advisors Charity in 2007 and grew the organisation to employ over 1,500 people nationwide. From 2015–2019, as the inaugural Director, he set up the Youth Services Division for Ingeus, a B-Corp multinational organisation, delivering government services across 12 countries. In the four years with Ingeus, Gary successfully mobilised a contract portfolio valued at £70 million.

Gary holds a number of volunteer and non-executive roles including Governor and Non-Executive Director at The University of Manchester; Governor of The Apprentice Academy and Vice Chair of Victorious Academies Trust. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire in the 2014 Birthday Honours for services to the young people of England.

Gary aspires to leveraging his own experiences to foster an environment at Hopwood Hall College where strategic governance, academic excellence, and social responsibility converge to create unparalleled opportunities for students and staff alike. He is particularly excited about contributing to the college’s mission to empower individuals and communities through education, ensuring that every student has access to the resources and support they need to succeed.


Ben was educated at Deben High School, Felixstowe and graduated in Politics and Economics from the University of Loughborough. He is the Chief Executive Officer, University of Manchester Students’ Union, one of the largest student unions in Europe and he is the Managing Director for Manchester Academy Venues.  Ben leads a staff team of 90 full-time and 350 part-time staff with the organisation having a turnover of £8.5million. Holding a number of volunteer and non-executive roles including being a Fellow of St George’s House, Windsor Castle; Trustee, Manchester Literature Festival; Lay Member, University of Manchester Medical School; Member, Oxford Road Culture Partnership Board and Trustee, SUSS Pension Scheme that brings together a wealth of experience and skills that Ben will bring to the Vice Chair role.

Ben is looking forward to supporting the college in their journey to reach ‘outstanding status’ over the coming years, ensuring the Board is focused on removing barriers and ensuring that the voice of learners is truly embedded at all levels of the college.


Middleton Campus
Rochdale Road, Middleton
Manchester, M24 6XH
0161 643 7560
Rochdale Campus
St. Mary’s Gate
Rochdale, OL12 6RY
01706 345 346