Next Chief Operating Officer appointed

A key appointment has been announced within the senior leadership team at Leeds.

Rachel Brealey, who will become the next Chief Operating Officer at Leeds

Next Chief Operating Officer appointed. May 2022

Rachel Brealey will be joining the University on Monday 15 August as our next Chief Operating Officer (COO).

Currently Director of Faculty Operations in Biology, Medicine and Health at the University of Manchester, and joint Portfolio Director of a pan-University transformational change programme for Professional Services, Rachel will take over the reins from Dennis Hopper, who has held the post on an interim basis for the past 14 months.

Dennis will stand down when Rachel takes up her new role, but will remain to support a smooth transition.

The COO is a key member of the University Executive Group (UEG), supporting the Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor in the leadership, management and effective operation of the University.

Delivering our goals

Vice-Chancellor, Professor Simone Buitendijk, said: “I’m very much looking forward to welcoming Rachel to the University of Leeds. 

“She joins us at an exciting time following the launch of our new strategy, and will play a significant role in delivering our goals across the themes of community, culture and impact. Rachel will oversee the effective operation of the University, drive transformational change and build productive partnerships, both internally and externally.

“I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank Dennis for his outstanding efforts as Interim Chief Operating Officer during one of the most challenging periods in the University’s history, as we emerged from a global pandemic and applied the lessons we had learned. His operational insight and understanding, as well as his knowledge of the University, have proved invaluable.

“I’m delighted Dennis has agreed to remain with us to support a smooth transition as Rachel takes up her role.”

Leading strategic change

As COO, Rachel will contribute significantly to the implementation of our new University strategy, manage and lead strategic change, and ensure the efficient use of resources and the quality of service provision. 

The COO is primarily responsible for University-wide operations and the direct service delivery of key corporate functions, including human resources, information services, marketing, student education services, research and innovation services, alumni and development, campus innovation and development, and transformational programmes.

Working in partnership

Rachel has more than 25 years’ experience in the higher education sector, and has worked across a diverse range of functions at Manchester, including student recruitment and admissions, planning, external relations, corporate services and faculty operations.

Having started her career as President of the Students’ Union at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST), Rachel has been involved in a wide range of large-scale change programmes, including the 2004 merger of UMIST and the University of Manchester, a restructure of the Faculty of Science and Engineering and the £425m capital project to develop a new engineering campus. She led the development of an award-winning Technical Apprenticeship Programme and is a mentor on the University’s Inclusive Advocacy and Aurora programmes, supporting colleagues in their career and personal development.

She said: “I’m delighted to be joining the University of Leeds as Chief Operating Officer at such an exciting point in the implementation of the new 10-year strategy. 

“The specific focus on people at the heart of the strategy and the ambition to be a truly values-led organisation provide an ideal basis from which to work in partnership with academic and professional services colleagues and our students to successfully deliver this vision and make a difference in the world.”

Related information

Rachel is one of several new arrivals at Leeds this year. She’s joining:

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