Professor Geoff Layer


Geoff Layer has been Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wolverhampton since August 2011. 

Geoff graduated from Newcastle Polytechnic with a LLB (Hons) and entered a teaching and research career, initially in Manchester and then in Luton.  He joined the Sheffield Business School in 1983 as a Lecturer in Law.  Whilst at Sheffield Hallam University, he established a suite of access and student support initiatives leading to the establishment of a national reputation for inclusive learning.  He was an adviser to a range of national quality assurance and educational development initiatives and became Professor of Lifelong Learning in 1996.  He joined the University of Bradford in 1999 and became Pro Vice-Chancellor and then Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic), until joining Wolverhampton in 2011.

Geoff has always been active regionally, nationally and internationally. On a national level, Geoff is the Chair of the Disabled Students’ Commission. Geoff is also currently Chair of the Student Loans Company Stakeholder Forum, a Trustee of the Universities Association for Lifelong Learning, a Trustee of the Worker's Educational Association (WEA), a Director of Advance HE and Chair of the Advance HE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Committee.

Previously he was a member of the QAA's Degree Awarding Powers Committee.

Regionally Geoff is a Director of the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership, Vice-President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Chair of Universities West Midlands (UWM), Director of the West Midlands Growth Company, a governor for the Telford College Corporation.

Between 2000 and 2006 he was the Director of Action on Access, an agency established to advise HEFCE on its Widening Participation Strategy.  He has been a consultant to Universities UK, Higher Education Quality Council and many universities in Widening Participation and Learning and Teaching Strategies.  He was also Director of the HEFCE Innovations Co-ordination Team from 2000-2002 and has researched and published widely on Inclusive Education.

 He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Fellow of Leeds College of Music and was awarded the OBE for services to Higher Education in 2003.

He was educated in the North East of England and in Soham, Cambridgeshire.  He is a Sunderland supporter and plays cricket for Sheffield Collegiate Cricket Club. 

Selected conference keynote addresses include:

  • December 2020: 'Priorities for Supporting Disabled Students in HE - Student Experience, Academic Attainment, Preparation for the Labour Market, and the Impact of COVID-19', Keynote Address at the Westminster Higher Education Forum Policy Conference.
  • March 2019: ‘Adopting a More Inclusive and Extensive Approach to Supporting Students’, Keynote Address for the Perspectives in Education lecture series, London.
  • November 2018: ‘Adopting a More Inclusive Approach to Supporting Disabled Students’, Keynote Address at the Advance HE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference, Liverpool.
  • June 2018: ‘How can dyslexia tutors work in partnership with the drive for Inclusion, without losing sight of their role and importance in the HE sector?’, Keynote Address at the Association of Dyslexia Specialists in Higher Education (ADSHE) Annual Conference, Birmingham.
  • April 2018: ‘What does inclusivity and a more strategic approach to inclusive practice look like in an organisation?’, Address at Liverpool John Moores University Disability and Mental Health conference, Liverpool.
  • March 2018: ‘Supporting Disabled Students over the Student Lifecycle’, Keynote Address at the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) Summit, Manchester.
  • December 2017: ‘Creating a Culture of Inclusivity for Disabled Students’, Keynote Address at the Policy-UK Forum on Inclusivity and Support for Disabled Students at University, London.

Selected publications are:

  • (2019) ‘From national policy to university practice: Developing an inclusive learning environment within and beyond the United Kingdom’, in S. Bracken and K. Novak (eds.) Transforming Higher Education Through Universal Design for Learning: An International Perspective. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 33-49.
  • (2017) ‘Enabling Academic Leadership: Changing Academic Practice’, in F. Su and M. Wood. (eds.) Cosmopolitan Perspectives on Academic Leadership in Higher Education. London: Bloomsbury, pp. 159-175.
  • (2016) ‘Influencing Change through a Strategic Approach to Student Attainment’, in G. Steventon, D. Cureton and L. Clouder. (eds.) Student Attainment in Higher Education: Issues, Controversies and Debates.  London: Routledge, pp. 5-20.
  • (2007) ‘Embedding ESD in the curriculum - a whole institutional approach’, with P.Hopkinson and P.Hughes, 2nd International Conference, Global Citizens and Education for Sustainable Development, Bournemouth. 
  • ‘Sustainable Graduates: linking formal, informal and campus curricula to embed education for sustainable development in the student learning experience’, with P.Hopkinson and P.Hughes, Environmental Education Research, Vol. 14 No.4, August 2008, pp. 435-454, London: Routledge.  
  • Education for sustainable development: Using the UNESCO framework to embed ESD in a student learning and living experience, with P.Hopkinson and P.Hughes, Policy and Practice A Development Education Review, Issue 6 Spring 2008, pp 17 – 30, Centre for Global Education, Belfast, ISSN 1748-135X. 
  • Joint Editor with C Duke, Widening Participation: Which way forward for English Higher Education, NIACE (Leicester) 2005, ISBN: 1862012717.