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Chief Operating Officer University College of Estate Management (UCEM)

UCEM – the leading provider of supported online education for the built environment – is seeking an experienced senior leader who will drive excellence across key operational functions and help steer them towards ambitious institutional goals as their next Chief Operating Officer.

  • Location: Reading (3 days/week) / Hybrid
  • Salary: In the region of £110,000 per year, dependent on experience

Who we are

UCEM is the leading provider of supported online education for the built environment, with 4,000 students studying across a wide range of undergraduate, postgraduate, and degree apprenticeship programmes.

Having recently secured independent university status and indefinite taught degree award powers, UCEM’s long-term vision is to become the Centre of Excellence for Built Environment Education and offer a greater range of programmes that meet the needs of students and employers across the built environment sector.

To ensure sustainable organisational and financial growth and support student outcomes, UCEM is seeking to appoint an experienced senior leader and qualified finance professional as our next Chief Operating Officer.

About the role

The Chief Operating Officer will report directly to the Vice Chancellor and is responsible for leading all four core functions of UCEM’s institutional operations to ensure exceptional and high standards of impact, productivity, workplace effectiveness and culture. This is in support of the institutional objectives set out within the UCEM Vision and Strategy – to be the Centre of Excellence for Built Environment Education.

As a key member of the Executive, the COO will take collective responsibility for achieving UCEM’s institutional goals by leading and managing four departments:

  • Finance
  • Human Resources
  • Facilities
  • Information Technology

You will also lead on UCEM’s emerging partnership activities, supported by the appointment of a new Director of Strategic Collaboration.

Working with your Executive team colleagues, you will be responsible for the leadership and operational management of UCEM’s approach to long-term financial resilience, workplace productivity, culture, estates, talent management and technology automation. You will develop a strategic vision for the development and evolution of your departments, aligning these plans to UCEM’s strategic priorities for the next five-year phase.

You will take the lead on improving organisational efficiency and competitiveness through the effective management of our physical and digital resources and the development of people and talent strategies. This will include evaluating the current digital and physical estate portfolio and assessing the best way to meet the needs of students and staff across the regions.

In line with our growth strategy and together with a new strategic approach to collaboration, the COO will lead on developing strategic partnerships and collaborating with education, employer and industry partners on a range of commercially focused activities. This will require robust financial analysis and oversight and strong internal collaboration with the academic and governance teams to evaluate a range of commercial opportunities.

The COO has five direct reports: Executive Director Finance, Director of Human Resources, Head of Facilities, Director of Information Technology and Director of Strategic Collaboration.

Who we are looking for

We are seeking a qualified finance professional and an experienced senior, strategic leader who can demonstrate their experience of leading effective and successful operational delivery and significant change management in a complex organisation.

Candidates must demonstrate strong leadership skills, with the ability to engage and collaborate with multi-skilled teams delivering a range of operational targets in line with a strategic vision.

You must lead by example, role-modelling behaviours that align with UCEM’s core values, supporting the core operational functions to act as enablers and business partners across the wider business.

You will be a proactive leader, with the ability to work autonomously, but always highly accountable for your areas of delivery, driving growth in a sustainable and rigorous way.

We are especially keen to engage candidates who demonstrate their experience of driving significant change management that led to measurable performance improvements.

As the most senior finance leader in the institution, you will have the ability to lead on financial analysis to meet organisational targets and use data to inform robust decision-making.

You will bring a strong commercial awareness, with a proven ability to spot, drive and evaluate business opportunities.

Ideally, candidates will bring experience of operating at a senior level in the higher education sector or a regulated environment, with a good understanding of the market in which UCEM operates and the business activities of an academic institution.

You must be committed to delivering positive outcomes for our students.

The appointed candidate will be expected to work 2-3 days a week on-site in Reading.


  • 26 days paid holiday (excluding bank holidays) and up to 5 paid closure days.
  • USS pension scheme
  • Employee Assistance Programme and access to Silvercloud (mental health support platform)
  • Cycle to Work and Electric Vehicle salary sacrifice schemes
  • Tax-free childcare
  • Employer-funded Health Cash Plan

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultant at Peridot Partners:

Dr Sophie Carney | sophie@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07399 528307


If you would like to know more about this role please contact Dr Sophie Carney

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Welcome from the Vice Chancellor

Dear candidate,

Thank you for your interest in applying for the position of Chief Operating Officer at UCEM. This is a hugely important and exciting role at a university that continues to evolve and develop into the university for the built environment. We are delighted that you are considering applying to join our Executive leadership team.

Central to the UCEM vision, both now and in the future, is its core purpose; to provide accessible, relevant and cost-effective education, enabling students to enhance careers, increase professionalism and contribute to a sustainable built environment. Our vision is to be the centre of excellence for built environment education. As the centre of excellence for built environment education, UCEM will focus on maximising its impact and influence on both education and industry. This means a focus on delivering greater impact through student outcomes, widening participation, student satisfaction and reach, whilst increasing influence by offering a greater depth and breadth of education, engaging more with education and industry partners and actively collaborating. It is an exciting time to be part of this journey with us and the new COO will be instrumental in supporting our core services to achieve this ambition.

UCEM is a wholly online provider, teaching through our state-of-the-art online learning environment and the vast majority of our

students earn whilst they learn. We have a head office base in central Reading, Berkshire, and our staff work flexibly from here and remotely. Whilst predominantly a UK provider, we serve students based all over the world and have a small staff team based in Hong Kong. We also have strong relationships with industry and employers in the built environment sectors and are seeking to substantially grow our product portfolio over the coming years to meet their growing needs and skills shortages.

UCEM has four core values – passion, excellence, integrity and support – and we pride ourselves on living these values as a team every day. The people are what makes UCEM a great place to work, and we want to appoint a COO of the highest calibre, who is student focused, shares our values and can help us achieve our ambitions. The successful candidate will be able to drive forward our productivity agenda across the Human Resources, Information Technology, Estates and Finance functions. Working as part of a high-performing, committed and ambitious Executive Team, our new COO will be integral to delivering long-term financial resilience and workplace productivity.

I look forward to meeting you through the selection process.

Yours faithfully,

Ashley Wheaton
Vice Chancellor

About the University College of Estate Management

UCEM is the leading provider of supported online education for the built environment, with over 100 years’ experience of providing the highest quality learning opportunities. Founded in 1919 and incorporated by Royal Charter in 1922, UCEM became a registered charity in 1963 and is a registered higher education provider with the Office for Students.

At any one time, we have more than 4,000 students from more than 100 countries benefiting from our qualifications taught by tutors with extensive industry experience. We provide flexible and accessible postgraduate and undergraduate degree and apprenticeship programmes. Our suite of modular, flexible courses is designed to work for each and every individual at each and every stage of their career.

Our undergraduate offer includes programmes in Building Control, Real Estate Management, Quantity and Building Surveying and Construction Management.

Our postgraduate offer includes MSc programmes in Building Surveying, Real Estate, Construction Management and Quantity Surveying, as well as an MBA in Construction and Real Estate and MSc Innovation in Sustainable Built Environments.

We also offer 11 pathways to higher and degree apprenticeships via 4 programmes, which provide an alternative route to gaining a qualification. This includes studying towards the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) to become a Chartered Surveyor. UCEM’s apprenticeship provision is rated ‘Good’ by Ofsted and 98% of employers who work with UCEM would recommend the University to others.

The UCEM Online Academy offers a wide range of flexible, online CPD and training courses, developed by leading academics and practitioners for the real estate and construction sectors.

Our vision is to be the Centre of Excellence for Built Environment Education, maximising our impact and influence on both education and industry. Our focus will be on delivering student outcomes, widening participation, student satisfaction and reach, offering greater depth and breadth of education, and actively engaging and collaborating with education and industry partners.

We live by our values of passion, integrity, excellence and support. Equality is embedded in all that we do and we celebrate diversity and the strengths that it brings to our staff body, our student community and our board of trustees.

Learn more about the University College of Estate Management

Northern College, FE recruitment, Head of Estates

Accessibility information

We understand that different members of the community have different access needs and have made some modifications to the way we do business to accommodate people from diverse communities and abilities. We offer the following amenities:

  • Step free access to the building, all key meeting rooms and bathrooms, and an accessible workstation
  • Interviews can be held in meeting rooms that support hearing loops
  • Papers and materials can be presented in different formats
  • A sign language interpreter can be accessed for interview
  • Working patterns and locations can be adjusted

Applicants with a disability are invited to contact us in confidence at any point during the recruitment process to discuss steps that could be taken to overcome operational difficulties presented by the role, or if any adjustments or support are required regarding the recruitment process.

For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultant at Peridot Partners:

Dr Sophie Carney | sophie@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07399 528307

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    For further information about the role, or to arrange a confidential discussion, please contact our advising consultant at Peridot Partners:

    Dr Sophie Carney | sophie@peridotpartners.co.uk | 07399 528307

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    Closing date: 9 a.m. Monday 3rd June 2024
    Candidates informed of outcome: Tuesday 11th June 2024
    First Stage Interviews (remote): Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th June 2024
    Second Stage Interviews (in person): Monday 24th June 2024

    Equal Opportunities Monitoring

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