Our Staff

Karel Thomas, Executive Director

Karel has worked in higher education since 1993, when she made a career change from banking, and financial systems. Since joining BUFDG in 2003, Karel has built a great team of colleagues, and gathered a lot of information and contacts that she uses for the benefit of BUFDG members, the HE sector, and Financial Services. In 2012 she was the founding Executive Director of Professional HE Services Ltd but left the company in more capable administrative hands as it expanded, and since 2018 has concentrated on BUFDG. She has a degree in Banking & Finance from Loughborough University, is a member of the London Institute of Banking & Finance (ACIB), and was awarded an MBE in the 2023 King’s Birthday Honours for services to Higher Education.  Karel always has time for a chat and is interested in all things Finance and Education. If you want to get involved, have an idea, or are a new Director of Finance, then be sure to get in touch.

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Amanda Darley, Head of Operations and Engagement

Amanda became Head of Operations and Engagement in 2021 but originally joined BUFDG as our Tax Specialist in 2014. She has worked in the HE sector since 2006, having previously been VAT Manager for the University of Oxford. Her other experience includes the First-tier tax tribunal, small and Big-4 VAT consultancies, and HMRC. She has a degree in English from Lancaster University, and while working in tax became ATT and CIOT qualified. She now deals with internal BUFDG management and our engagement with members, so send her any feedback or suggestions on what BUFDG delivers to members or how we deliver it.

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Matt Sisson, Projects and Membership Manager

Matt has been part of the BUFDG furniture since 2007 and has worked on many aspects of our member services over the years. He has a degree in Politics from Loughborough University and is a published author. His wide-ranging remit sees him organising our big annual conference, undertaking sector surveys and analysis, and working closely with our sector supporters. He is also BUFDG’s environment and sustainability lead and helps publish the BUFDG Digest. If you'd like to get in touch with him then drop him an email.

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Joni Rhodes, Project Manager

Joni joined the BUFDG team as our External Projects Manager in 2022 from the University of Portsmouth, where she spent five years supporting the Faculty of Creative and Cultural Industries as a research and innovation officer. Prior to her HE experience, Joni acquired a wide range of skills including event planning, media production and involvement in sustainability projects. Joni helps deliver projects, courses, and content, particularly in conjunction with other HE bodies and external partners, that further increase value for our members. If you’d like to get involved in one of our projects, get in touch with Joni.

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Andrea Marshall, Tax Specialist

BUFDG’s Tax Specialist, Andrea, joined BUFDG in 2020. Andrea has worked in tax for over 30 years including time as a VAT Officer at HM Customs & Excise, and with a couple of Big-4 firms, before several years as the Tax & Insurance Manager at the University of Worcester. She has specialised in the not-for-profit sector for over 15 years, and in Higher Education since 2013. For anything tax related, contact Andrea.

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Julia Ascott - Employment Taxes Specialist

Julia joined BUFDG in 2019 and has worked in employment tax for over 20 years, having previously worked for Deloitte and Grant Thornton, as well as running her own company providing technical, yet practical, advice to her clients. If you have any questions that on employment taxes, employment status, payroll or global mobility, drop Julia an email.

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Ashley Shelbrooke - HEPA and Project Specialist

Ashley joined BUFDG/HEPA in 2019 with a wealth of procurement experience from the H E sector, having worked at the University of Kent; Government, where he worked for Crown Commercial Services; and the private sector. He is our guru for all things procurement and counter-fraud, as well as working on various other projects as and when they arise, so, if you have any questions, do drop him an email.

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Rachel Ward, Learning and Development Manager

Rachel is our Learning and Development evangelist. She has a wealth of experience in communications, marketing and joined BUFDG in 2016 from a well known supermarket chain where she led the learning and development for their clothing business. Rachel is always keen to talk to members about their L&D needs, so if you have any questions or ideas, please get in touch.

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Gill Birch, Events Manager

Gill has worked in the admin side of the HE sector for over 30 years, firstly at the University of Wolverhampton and then as PA to the Director of Finance at the University of Wales, Lampeter (now part of UWTSD). She has been working for BUFDG since 2001 helping to arrange training and events across the sector. On leaving school Gill trained and qualified as a Registered General Nurse. She also holds a Certificate in Accounting from The Open University. If you need any information about schedules or venues, or have any suggestions for suitable training, then please let her know.

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BUFDG is a special interest organisation of Professional HE Services Ltd. PHES is an umbrella company for membership organisations in higher education. Being part of PHES means that we can call on the skills and expertise of the following members of the central services team: 

Dominic Fryer, Managing Director

Dominic joined PHES in 2014 and since then has worked closely with several new associations, their executive committees, and staff to welcome them to the Company. As Managing Director his priorities are to develop PHES to support the SIOs in the best way possible, to motivate and develop our people and ensure we operate first-class company governance.

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Karen Newcombe, Financial Operations Manager

Karen joined the PHES team towards the end of 2017 and is doing a great job of keeping our finances in order. Karen worked in the finance team at Loughborough University for 13 years, so has a great understanding of how the sector works. She manages the finances for BUFDG alongside the other associations in PHES and as well as processing the day to day transactions, she also works with the respective treasurers to plan for the future.

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Alexander David, ICT Manager

Alex joined the PHES team in August 2019 as our first dedicated IT post. His role of ICT Manager is partly to deliver the IT strategy within PHES, to provide day to day support for staff, but also to help each association with their digital plans – such as new website developments, making the most out of the database and data analytics.

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Jemma Ladkin, Membership Officer

Jemma joined Professional H E Services (PHES) as Membership Officer in February 2018. She had previously worked for ten years as Events Organiser for Loughborough University. In this role she planned and organised events of various kinds, from industry exhibitions and academic conferences to business seminars. Her role as Membership Officer for PHES includes events support, database management, approving new members, web content updates, advertising sector jobs and a host of other things, all for each of the PHES Special Interest Organisations (SIOs): AUDE, BUFDG, HESPA, HEPA and UHR

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Ruth Turner, Membership Officer

Ruth joined Professional H E Services (PHES) as Membership Officer in November 2018. She previously worked for four years as Finance Assistant at Imago Venues, part of Loughborough University. She has also worked in customer service and finance roles. Her role as Membership Officer for PHES includes events support, database management, approving new members, web content updates, advertising sector jobs and a host of other things, all for each of the PHES Special Interest Organisations (SIOs): AUDE, BUFDG, HESPA, HEPA and UHR.

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Scott Murdoch, ICT Support Officer

Scott joined PHES in 2023 to support all our associations with the delivery of online conferences and events. His primary focus will be virtual events, but he will also provide website and technical support to our staff when the conferences and events are not happening.

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Andrea Clargo, Finance Officer

Andrea joined the PHES team in September 2023, having spent the best part of the last 14 years working in the Sporting Sector, having been the Finance Manager at British Triathlon and then subsequently at England Netball, both based on the Loughborough University Campus. She has also spent time working in the Finance Department at Loughborough University and Warwick University so has some sector knowledge. Andrea’s role is to support Karen Newcombe, the wider team and SIO’s in ensuring that the day-to-day finance transactions are processed in a timely efficient manner.

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