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Success on the board: unlocking the power of underrepresented voices in research

Wellcome is funding ‘Success on the board’ for three more years, a development programme open to researchers and professional research services staff from underrepresented groups in UK universities and research institutes, who are interested in exploring joining a board.

Success on the Board is a development programme open to researchers and professional research services staff from underrepresented groups in UK universities and research institutes, who are interested in exploring joining a board.

After the successful running of two cohorts of the pilot programme, Wellcome is funding a further three cohorts of 'Success on the board' from September 2023 to October 2026.

This fully-funded development programme is designed exclusively for those in research that belong to groups currently underrepresented on higher education (HE) and research boards and governing bodies. 


Analysis of the diversity of UK university and research institute governing body membership, as well as data on governance from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, indicates that there is an underrepresentation of certain minoritised groups, compared with the sector and society at large.

Wellcome has put diversity, equity and inclusion at the heart of its new strategy and will work with the research sector on change. Advance HE's experience and ongoing strategic commitments to support inclusive governance and leadership mean we are well placed to deliver the programme. With increased gender, ethnicity and disability representation on UK HE and research boards, the diversity amongst key decision makers will be improved. Such changes in leadership will be essential to help build a better research culture – one that is creative, inclusive and honest. 

The programme aims to support participants to explore the membership of committees and boards of research institutions, universities, and other organisations relevant to the sector, such as charities, hospitals, funders and research organisations. 

The application portal for the 2024/25 cohort is due to open on 1 July 2024. Please follow the link below to register your interest so you can be notified once the portal is available.

We require each participant to be supported by an institutional champion. In preparation of your application, we would recommend our participants to firstly seek support from their institutional champion and make the champion aware that they will be required to submit a champion's application form to demonstrate their commitment to improve board diversity and inclusion at their institution.

Please read the FAQs for further information on the programme, the application process and the selection criteria.

Register your interest for the next cohort
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An introduction to the programme from the Chair of Wellcome, Julia Gillard

We spoke with the Chair of Wellcome and Former Prime Minister of Australia about her experiences.

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The programme

‘Success on the board’ is a comprehensive development programme running over 12 months. The programme aims to equip participants with skills and guidance on how to access opportunities to join a board. Programme participants will be UK-based researchers from any discipline or research professional service staff that belong to one or more of the following under-represented groups in governance roles in higher education sector:

  • Women
  • Trans people
  • Ethnic minorities
  • Disabled people (including those with long term health conditions)

The programme includes:

  • virtual workshops
  • 1-2-1 coaching
  • opportunities to shadow external boards
  • reflective learning
  • bi-monthly webinars
  • an in-person concluding event and networking opportunity
  • an online community across a year-long programme
  • an online community for programme alumni
  • alumni engagement activities

Participants are required to commit to a total of three full days of scheduled activity and to commit to an additional four days in total over the course of the year to engage fully in the suite of activities and the community.

To ensure participants can get the most out of the programme, each applicant will need to find an institutional champion who will submit a supporting application. We will not be able to accept applications without the necessary institutional support. Advance HE can provide support to help applicants find an institutional champion.

Key programme dates for cohort 2024/25

  • Introductory webinar: 23 October 2024
  • 4 half day virtual workshops: 13, 14, 27 & 28 November 2024
  • 4 bi-monthly touchpoint webinars: 10 December 2024; 17 February 2025; 16 April 2025, 19 June 2025
  • In-person concluding event in London: 9 October 2025
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Dr Shewly Choudhury discusses her experiences of joining a board

We spoke with Dr Shewly Choudhury, Trustee at the MS Society, to discuss her experiences of joining a board, and her top tips for those thinking about applying for the programme.

How will places be allocated?

There are 10 places available in each cohort. Applications will be assessed against an eligibility threshold and the places will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. More information on the eligibility threshold and selection process is available on the FAQs.

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About Wellcome

Wellcome supports science to solve the urgent health challenges facing everyone. We support discovery research into life, health and wellbeing, and we’re taking on three worldwide health challenges: mental health, global heating and infectious diseases.

Find out more
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