Marilyn Holness, OBE

Marilyn Holness, OBE


  • Professor of Education Engagement and Practice, Director of Student Engagement, PFHEA, School of Education
  • 206, Grove House, Froebel

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Personal profile



Marilyn Holness, OBE, is Professor of Education Engagement and Practice and Director of Student Engagement, PFHEA, at the University of Roehampton.  Marilyn works alongside the executive team responsible for setting and implementing the University’s strategic vision, playing a critical role in driving the TEF action plan, the Access and Participation Plan, retention policy, curriculum review and the teaching and learning strategy which includes employability initiatives. 


Marilyn is an experienced senior manager who delivers effective management, resourcing and strategic direction across all aspect of the University’s work.  She operates at corporate level in partnership with executive teams, academics, students, profession services and stakeholder groups within and beyond the institution. In her current role she leads on all aspects of the student experience including a HEFCE/OfS Catalyst project to close the BAME attainment gap.


As a former Head of the Department of Education and Deputy Director of the School of Education at Roehampton University, Marilyn retains a strong interest in this sector. Her scholarship is on enhancing teaching quality and social justice. She has extensive experience across secondary schools and HE in teaching, initial teacher education, student engagement, consultancy and senior leadership. She has a voice on several education governing and advisory boards and her achievements have been recognised and awarded an Order of British Empire (OBE) for Services to Teacher Education.


Career Summary


Marilyn's career spans over 30 years and includes teaching, leadership and management in schools, further and higher education, training and consultancy, publications and professional practice research. She is a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of Southlands College and of the Royal Society of the Arts.


Marilyn is a Professor of Education Practice and Engagement, specialising in professional practice pedagogy.  Her work is embedded in teaching learning and assessment and includes scholarship on professionalism and workforce development; quality enhancement, personal finance education, pastoral care and the student experience. She has successfully attracted external funds and secured repeat business totaling several million pounds by serving the needs of external clients at national and international level which have impacted on her the professional discipline. She has experience working with educationalists internationally and in the UK and has provided training, consultancy, professional lectures, seminars and workshops for bodies that include the TDA, Examination Boards, FSA, British Council, government departments, local authorities, the Metropolitan Police Force, quality assurance bodies and other universities.


Marilyn is Director of Student Engagement at Roehampton University and she is a strong advocate of student voice, working in partnership with Roehampton Student Union, academic and professional services departments to ensure that students remain at the heart of decision making.  She leads student engagement initiatives across the university and is responsible for growing student participation, agency and efficacy via collaborative partnerships that deliver solutions for success in student outcomes.  As Director of Student Engagement, Marilyn plays a key role in delivering the University’s Education Strategy including driving the TEF action plan, and targets of the Access and Participation plan and leading the University’s application for the Equality Challenge Unit Race Equality Charter.


In her previous role she was deputy director of education responsible for strategic oversight of teaching, learning, quality assurance (improvement and enhancement), staffing and finance in the School of Education and prior to that was the head of the department of education at Roehampton University, leading the largest academic department in terms of programmes, staffing and budget.  During which time she successfully raised student numbers, satisfaction, grew third stream income and research, raising the profile of the department, helping it to gain a reputation for quality in ITT across the sector.


Highlights include: working on behalf of British Council, leading and supporting quality enhancements and the development of teacher standards in teacher education across the Caribbean basin; Establishing Roehampton STEMPOINT London South Brokerage for STEMNET;  Validating and franchising in partnership with VT Education the National PSHE Postgraduate and Undergraduate Certificate delivering accredited CPD to PSHE leads across England;  Securing EU funding and leading a MA Erasmus Mundus Programme in collaboration with Oslo University Norway, Charles University Prague CZ and associated partners in Malaysia and South Africa which facilitated significant opportunities for knowledge exchange through NGOs, student conferences, research outputs and an edited book deal.  Marilyn’s track record also includes the creation and management of a National Student support programme from scratch that impacted 100+ universities c250,000 students, which still has impact today as part of the FCA’s Money Advice Service and which has informed financial capability education at RHB Bank in Singapore and Malaysia. Current successes include leading Roehampton University’s HEFCE/OfS Barrier to Success bid, Re-Imaging Attainment for All project in collaboration with Carshalton College and Queen Mary University London, which focuses on closing the BME attainment gap through enhancements in assessment processes,


Previously as Deputy Principal of Southlands College, she delivered effective and empathetic student support for c2,000 students, achieving a range of proactive measures and innovations to maximise the student experience, increase student satisfaction, enhance the quality of learning for students to meet academic expectations, which contributed to the strategy to increase student retention.


Marilyn has wide experience as a London teacher and as a teacher educator. She is a qualified secondary school teacher of Economics and Business and is a high-quality provider of Initial Teacher Education, achieving outstanding grades for all OfSTED inspections that she has led.  


An activist and expert on a range of briefs with a voice on several higher education governing and advisory boards.  Marilyn holds trusteeships for a multi academy education trust and a national educational charity. In 2009 she was awarded an OBE for her services to Teacher Education.

Professional affiliations


Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy

Highly experienced senior staff with wide-ranging academic or academic-related strategic leadership responsibilities in connection with key aspects of teaching and supporting learning; responsible for institutional strategic leadership and policymaking in the area of teaching and learning; who have strategic impact and influence in relation to teaching and learning that extends beyond their own institution.


Trustee of the Personal Social Health Education Association

The national body for Personal, Social, Health and Economic (PSHE) education, leading the effort to ensure that every pupil receives high-quality provision with the aim of driving up standards of PSHE provision in schools across the country by providing PSHE professionals with dedicated support, resources, training and guidance.  


Trustee of the Willow Learning Trust

The vision of the WLT is to raise standards in the local community through close partnership between Trust schools, building on existing strong links between schools to develop an innovative, creative, collaborative curriculum, shared assessment systems and an achievement culture with a comprehensive, inclusive ethos. 

Fellow of Southlands College (Roehampton University)

Southlands College provides an open and encouraging atmosphere for all of its members. It is a place where all are welcome, where diversity is celebrated, where learning and scholarship meet action and experience.


Fellow of RSA

The mission of the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) is to enrich society through ideas and action, the RSA shares powerful ideas, carries out cutting-edge research and builds networks and opportunities for people to collaborate.