Professor Atkins studied law and history at the University of Cambridge before qualifying as a secondary school teacher. She taught for four years in a comprehensive school in Huntingdon before returning to higher education to complete her doctorate at the University of Nottingham.
Following various post-doctoral research positions, she became a lecturer in education management at Newcastle University. She developed an interest in the use of new technologies to support effective learning, and held a number of senior academic and management roles. Professor Atkins became Vice-Chancellor of Coventry University in September 2004.
Professor Atkins has a longstanding commitment to the contribution of higher education to the economy and society. She is a trustee of the National Centre for Universities and Business, a trustee of Nesta, an Associate of the Engineering Council, and a member of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Board. She is Deputy Chairman and Council Member of the Association of Commonwealth Universities.
Professor Atkins has been a member of the HEFCE Board since 2009.
She succeeds Sir Alan Langlands, who takes up the post of Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds in the autumn.
Professor Atkins said:
‘I am very pleased to accept the post of Chief Executive of HEFCE – a world-class organisation in its own right. I look forward to working with universities and colleges, students, Government and other partners to build upon the success of higher education in England. Our shared aim is an internationally renowned sector which advances research and promotes economic and social prosperity for the benefit of students and the wider community.’
The Chair of HEFCE, Tim Melville-Ross, said:
‘I am delighted that Madeleine Atkins has agreed to accept the role of HEFCE Chief Executive. She does so with the unanimous support of the HEFCE Board.
‘Professor Atkins is an experienced Vice-Chancellor with an impressive track record of achievement. She has wide experience of the higher education sector and is a champion of the needs and aspirations of students. She holds a number of national and international leadership positions and is widely respected across the academic community.
‘She is committed to excellence in education, research and knowledge exchange, and she is a strong advocate of the role of universities and colleges as key contributors to economic, social and cultural life.
‘HEFCE, the higher education sector and students will benefit enormously from Madeleine’s expertise, wisdom and understanding, and I look forward to working with her.’
David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, said:
‘I am delighted to welcome Madeleine Atkins as the new Chief Executive of HEFCE. Madeleine has significant experience and standing in the sector and is well respected for the transformational work she has undertaken at Coventry University. She will be able to provide the leadership the funding council needs to continue to drive forward the Government’s reforms to the higher education sector.’