Who we are

The CDBU was founded in November 2012. We have a long and distinguished list of 66 founding members, which includes Nobel prize winners, members of the House of Lords, several former vice-chancellors and cabinet members, and many world-famous scientists and literary figures. 

Click here to see the full list.

The day-to-day running of the CDBU is managed by an executive committee:

Professor Julian Preece  (Chair) is Chair of German at Swansea University. He joined CDBU in 2012 in response to a founding commitment to promote smaller degree programmes, briefly known at that time as SIV’s (‘strategically important vulnerable subjects’). He has played a key advocacy role at the University Council for Languages (UCFL), where he was a vice-chair 2016-2020.

Dr Sean McMahon (Deputy Chair) is a Reader in Astrobiology at the University of Edinburgh. He is interested in microbial palaeobiology and the search for life on Mars. He has studied or conducted research at five other universities (Oxford, Aberdeen, Yale, Durham, and London).

David Wolton (Treasurer) is a publisher and long-term charity organiser.

Dr Carlos Azevedo is a Visiting Fellow at the Open University. His research focuses on marketised higher education systems and student activism. Carlos also co-curates with Dr Ronald Hartz, a scholar based in German academia, a webinar series on the theme of Academic Freedom Under Attack. Carlos’ monograph on students’ discourses and practices in marketised higher education systems will be published by Routledge in 2025. 

Professor Ronald Barnett is Emeritus Professor of Higher Education, University College London Institute of Education, where he was Pro-Director and Dean. For some decades, he has been a leader in the development of the new field of the philosophy of higher education, is the inaugural President of the Philosophy of Higher Education Society and acts as a consultant.

Becca Bashford (Press Officer) is a Philosophy PhD candidate at Royal Holloway, University of London researching recognition and identity-formation. She also works for Prison Reading Groups researching the benefits of reading for pleasure in prisons. 

Professor Susan Bruce is Professor of English at Keele.  She has written on a range of topics, including utopias, photography, literature and memory, TV medical drama and the NHS, and Brexit. She was former Co-Chair of the Arts and Humanities Alliance and a former Chair of University English.

Christopher Cunningham is a PhD candidate at the University of Essex. His research investigates the relationship between the policy and practice of widening participation and political narratives of social mobility. Having joined Essex in 2007 as a member of staff working in the security department, he began his BA Sociology with Social Anthropology in 2013 and is due to submit his Sociology PhD thesis in December. 

Professor Aneez Esmail is Emeritus Professor of General Practice at the University of Manchester where he has served on its Governing Body and Senate. He led the Campaign for Better Governance at the University with the aim of improving the accountability of its governing body and senate. He has held several senior roles in the NHS including as medical advisor to the Shipman Inquiry. He continues to work as an NHS GP.

Professor John Holmwood is professor emeritus at the University of Nottingham. He was president of the British Sociological Association in 2012-14. He was co-founder of the Campaign for the Public University in 2010 and has written widely on higher education, as well as on the Trojan Horse affair and the alleged plot to Islamise schools in Birmingham. 

Professor James Ladyman is a professor of philosophy at the University of Bristol and works primarily in philosophy of science. 

Professor Benedikt Löwe is a researcher connecting mathematics, computer science, philosophy and the social sciences. He is the Professor of mathematical logic and interdisciplinary applications of logic at the Universität Hamburg and is the chair-holder of the CIPSH chair ‘Diversity of Mathematical Research Cultures and Practices’. He is a member of several academies, a Fellow of the International Science Council, and the Vice President of the International Humanities Council (CIPSH).

Dr Kelli Rudolph is a senior lecturer in Classics and Philosophy at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on Presocratic and Stoic philosophy, and her interests in higher education policy centre on issues related to academic freedom, self-governance, and equal access. 

Professor Anne Sheppard  is professor emerita of ancient philosophy at Royal Holloway, University of London. She has twice served as head of classics at Royal Holloway and has also been an academic staff member of the college’s council and in that capacity participated in a review of the college’s statutes.


We also have a board of trustees responsible for the governance of the CDBU. They are:

Dr Rowan Williams (Chair)

Professor Karin Barber

Lord Bew

Sir David Edward

Simon Head

Dr Tim Horder

Professor Howard Hotson

Lord Morgan

Sir Peter Scott

Sir Keith Thomas 

David Wolton