This iteration of the Programme has now taken place. Please complete this form to be added to the waiting list for the next Programme which will take place in Autumn 2024.

The AHUA’s Secretaries Programme is aimed at University Secretaries* and staff in governance roles seeking to transition from being a technically-focused, ‘compliance’ subject-matter expert, to becoming a strategically-oriented governance adviser to the Governing Council, VC and Senior Management Team.

Please scroll down for further information.

(*In Scotland, the title University Secretary usually encompasses a much wider role, more analogous to the Registrar/Chief Operating Officer role in the rest of the UK.  This programme is not aimed at the Scottish University Secretary role in that form).

Why we are offering this Programme

Secretaries operate at the highest level of University administration.  They have significant responsibilities which go to the heart of the efficient operation of the key decision-taking bodies within an organisation.

To have credibility in this working environment, Secretaries need to transition from being a technically-focused, ‘compliance’ subject-matter expert, to becoming a strategically-oriented governance adviser to the Governing Council and VC/Senior Management Team.  Many Secretaries have not received the training – often of a soft skills nature – to help them do this.

This programme will help you achieve this transformation and become equipped for a range of circumstances which you will face in your daily work.  Being able to manage and resolve difficult workplace situations, in particular, is a critical skill which will help you make a significant contribution to the smooth running of the administration.

Who should attend?

This Programme will be relevant for anyone with governance responsibilities, particularly in providing support to the Governing Council, the Vice Chancellor and the Senior Management Team.

You may be responsible for preparing board and committee papers; circulating the packs; minuting meetings; drafting terms of reference; providing advice on, and interpretation of, the University constitution; arranging induction programmes, training and CPD.  You may liaise with, or be from, HR, Finance, Legal, Risk, Audit etc, offering governance advice to senior colleagues in meetings, and in the normal run of business.  Your exact title will not matter.

Programme focus

The Programme will assume that you have the essential technical skills to ‘do the job’, and will be receiving appropriate ongoing technical training.

The focus of this Programme will be on transitioning from technical expert to strategic adviser, developing the soft skills and power to encourage senior colleagues to accept your advice based on your expertise, and your impact, rather than your formal status.   The Programme will help you build the confidence to have difficult conversations, and manage challenging situations.

What the Programme includes

The Programme will have four key components:

  • How to transition from the technical to the strategic
  • The capabilities needed to be a governance professional
  • What the high-performing governance professional looks like
  • How to become the governance ‘go to’

Programme Structure

The Programme will consist of a one day, face-to-face event.  This will include presentation of the practical issues involved, interaction and discussion, group work, reporting back, and case studies of how governance professionals overcame often daunting challenges to become ‘influential inside the boardroom’.

The Programme will be delivered by Programme Director, Seamus Gillen.  The day will be highly participative in nature, and involve networking.  Delegates will be expected to contribute – this will not be a listen and learn event.

During the day there will also be the chance to engage with a guest speaker and current University Secretary.

Refreshments and lunch will be provided.


Thursday 14 December 2023, in person
9.30 for 10.00, until 16.30

Mills & Reeve, 24 King William Street,
London EC4R 9AT


£350 (no VAT applicable) for AHUA member institutions

£500 (no VAT applicable) for non member institutions

Programme Director – Seamus Gillen

Seamus has not only worked extensively with the board secretary community in the UK and overseas, but he has also been one of the governance professionals principally responsible for developing the secretary cadre. He was previously the Policy Director of the Chartered Governance Institute (CGI) (formerly the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators – ICSA), where he was instrumental in promoting the importance of the role of company secretary, overseeing a number of research projects which examined how the company secretary could develop the wider behavioural skills needed to succeed.

After he left the Institute, he took this work to the next level, and created the Leadership Development Programme for Company Secretaries and Governance Professionals, a scheme – involving coaching and mentoring – to develop the capabilities of company secretaries and other governance professionals.

Internationally, he created the training programme for developing the secretary cadre in Bahrain, working in association with the Bahrain Institute of Banking and Finance, and as adviser to the Central bank of Bahrain. He has trained the secretary cadre in the UAE, Mauritius and South Africa, and this wider international experience has informed the work carried out in the UK, and vice versa.

Seamus’ experience in training board directors more widely is significant. It is this experience which helped him realise that the strategic secretary fits wholly into the director category, and requires training at this level. While it is the chair, and the board as a whole, which owns the governance of the organisation, someone needs to own the discipline at executive (operational) level. That is the person who has the overall responsibility for the wider governance picture, and whom Seamus has identified as the strategic governance adviser.


Applicants will be asked to complete an application form and short personal statement outlining what their role is. Deadline for applications is Thursday 30th November 2023.

Related Resources

Submit your interest to 2024 iteration

Terms and Conditions

For further information, please contact the AHUA office team.