I am a researcher in the area of diversity and digital leadership. This is one of the emerging challenges for higher education leadership and management: that of ensuring that their digital leadership is diverse and inclusive. Digital leadership is an area of leadership studies which is gaining popularity as organisations seek to ensure that their businesses are best positioned to thrive in an increasingly digital world. The experiences and attitudes of leaders to issues of equality, diversity and inclusion is key to institutions’ organizational culture and the context in which institutional vision, policy and strategy for digital education is developed and delivered.

Digital leaders in higher education are a group of professional staff who lead specifically in areas of the organisation where the use of technology is key to the strategic delivery of higher education such as IT, AV, learning technology, student systems, business systems data and IT infrastructure. With increased professionalisation amongst these staff, more now occupy senior level positions within universities such as vice principals, pro-vice chancellors etc; roles that were previously held only by senior academics. In the light of a huge shift to home working and online delivery as a result of the recent and ongoing pandemic, the importance of digital leadership in higher education has never been more vital.

Conference presentations

The experiences of professional staff in universities is a growing area of interest to researchers as evidenced by several recent publications, but there are still few studies looking at the IT  professional groups and even fewer looking at diversity in universities’ digital leadership.  The adequacy and usefulness of research will be seen by the ways in which the findings  can be directly applied and used in practice.  I aim to influence ongoing development of practice in  organisations and ongoing discussion of diversity within digital leadership in the sector.

Early findings of this research were presented in the UK at Equality Challenge Unit events in 2018 and at the national conference of practitioners in Universities HR in 2019.  In 2021 findings and recommendations will be published on relevant blogs and presented at the Advance HE Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Conference, the Association of Learning Technologists’ annual conference and the UCISA leadership conference. These opportunities for knowledge dissemination and industry engagement offer routes to transfer and integrate critical analysis with practical, meaningful links of the findings to the profession.


I’m writing a chapter on ‘The Importance of Diversity and Digital Leadership in Education‘ for an upcoming Handbook for Digital Higher Education.

In 2020 we published the second edition of ‘Designing Learning’.
Butcher, C., Davies, C., & Highton, M. (2019). Designing learning: from module outline to effective teaching. Routledge.

I hope in 2021 to see publication of this book ‘Dangerous Women ‘ in which I have a chapter https://www.iash.ed.ac.uk/news/dangerous-women-book

You can download an open access version of the book EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education https://library.oapen.org/handle/20.500.12657/37807 Robertson, J., Williams, A., Jones, D., Isbel, L., & Loads, D. (2017). EqualBITE: Gender equality in higher education (p. 364). Brill.



My work in practice has won a number of industry awards including:

The Scottish HR Network Magazine  Attraction & Resourcing Award of the Year 2019
Universities HR  Excellence Award for Equality and Diversity 2018

Board, Committee and Advisory

An invited member of advisory committees including the 2019 Centenary Commission on Adult Education and the judging panel international Digital Education Awards 2020. Contributing to peer review of CPD quality and standards as an assessor for certified and senior certified membership of the Association of Learning Technologists. Member of  University of Edinburgh  Equality, Diversity and Inclusion and Senate Education Committees and University Court committee on Knowledge Strategy. Previously a member of the governing body of Kellogg College, Oxford  (2010-14) and board trustee of Edinburgh University Students Association (2011-14).

Blog posts


with the living voice

Diversity and digital leadership

To gather data from University IT departments

Learning from demographic difference of lockdown