Melissa Highton. Photo credit: Lesley Martin

Dr Highton (SCMALT, FCLIP, PFHEA, FRSA) is Assistant Principal and Director of Learning, Teaching and Web Services (LTW)  at the University of Edinburgh.

Follow her on Twitter @HoneybHighton

Read her blog:

Melissa leads services and projects in support of the University’s strategic priorities for digital and distance learning on global platforms, blended learning, virtual learning environments, technology enhanced learning spaces, the digital student experience and use of the web for outreach and engagement. She has particular interests in digital skills, 21st century curricula, open educational resources, research led teaching and online media. She leads the continuing expansion and diversification of the University website and provision of digital AV technology services in over 400 teaching rooms across the campus.

Melissa is strategic lead in the University for a wide range of technologies and support for innovative learning and teaching, including blended learning tools, bespoke  web development, online video, lecture recording, VLEs, open education resources,  partnerships with platforms such as Coursera, Edx, FutureLearn and Wikimedia. Her teams support a range of online provision including taught online Masters programmes, Micromasters programmes, CPD and Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

Under her leadership the Learning, Teaching and Web Directorate has become one of the most successful and comprehensive learning technology groups in the UK, with diverse teams of muti-professional staff, student interns and expert consultants.

Melissa is an invited speaker at conferences about learning technology leadership, distance learning strategies, library and learning technology futures, learning innovation, equality,  diversity and inclusion( EDI) and digital skills. You can read about her research in to Diversity and Digital Leadership.

She sits on the boards of several Scottish charity sector organisations and is appointed as an Honorary Member of Wikimedia UK  in recognition of the significant contribution that she has made to the charity over a number of years.  Melissa is a graduate of the universites of Manchester and Edinburgh and has returned to Edinburgh from the University of Oxford where she was Director of Academic IT and Fellow of Kellogg College. Before Oxford, Melissa worked in technology leadership roles at University of Leeds, Royal Holloway University of London and Edinburgh Napier University.

Speaking and workshops

Melissa delivers leadership workshops for continuing professional development networks.  These opportunities for knowledge dissemination and industry engagement offer routes to integrate critical analysis with practical, meaningful links of her research findings to information professionals.

In 2021 she has delivered CPD webinars for UCISA membership on ‘Diversity and Digital Leadership’, ‘The challenges of attracting staff to skills training’ and ‘Who is getting hurt online?

She has been featured in the DDI Women in Data project and she was personally awarded the 2019 EduFuturists Award for an ‘individual who embodies a vision of where education could be 20 years from now’.

Melissa has experience of building reputation and collaboration in the UK and internationally. She is an engaging speaker and contributes to community events and conferences on a regular basis. Recent conference presentations and talks include:

  • Keynote at CONUL Research Libraries Conference 2022 ‘Imagining the future and how we get there’, May 2022
  • Keynote speaker ‘The Future of Learning and Teaching in HE in the Post Pandemic World’ University of Durham Learning and Teaching Conference, Sept 2021
  • Panel Chair for ‘Hindsight 2020’ at LILAC July 2021
  • Keynote speaker at Open Apereo international conference 2021 ‘Open education on a post-pandemic planet’ June 2021
  • ‘Sharing and collaborating our way out of the storm’ for the European Distance and E-learning Network (EDEN) May 2021
  • ‘The future of work, in a post-pandemic world’ for Universities and Colleges Information Services Association (UCISA). May 2021
  • WonkHE micro-commission on the future of learning resources, April 2021
  • ‘Tempered Radicals as Agents of Change’ – Advance HE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion conference March 2021
  • Values-led Digital Leadership’, Sheffield Hallam University, December 2020
  • The Value of Wikipedia Editing’ keynote at the conference “Wikipedia’s Women Problem” – Università degli studi di Padova, November 2020
  • Keynote ‘Design for Life’ at Association for the Advancement of Computing in Education (AACE) Innovate Learning Summit, November 2020

She has a particular interest in equality, diversity and inclusion and has recently achieved a professional doctorate based on the work she has done leading organisational development projects exploring the balance digital leaders must achieve when they champion change on multiple fronts.  This work has won several awards.

  • 2021 Organisational Leadership award, Open Education Global Consortium.
  • 2021 ‘Best Place to Work in Digital’ finalist, Digital Leaders Awards Computing Magazine.
  • Price Waterhouse Coopers Leadership Exchange on ‘New World. New Skills’ 2020 for jobs in the digital sector and across the wider economy.
  • Scottish HR Network Magazine ‘Attraction & Resourcing Award of the Year’ 2019 (for employing students in digital roles).
  • 2018 ‘HR Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity,’ Universities Human Resources (UHR).
  • 2019 David Dick Research Excellence Award, Edinburgh Napier Business School.
  • 2018 ‘Employer of the Year’ finalist, Scotland Women in Technology Awards.
  • 2018 ‘Diversity Project of The Year’ finalist, Women in IT Excellence Awards Computing Magazine.

Email: melissa.highton (at)