The Interview UK
The University of Bedfordshire
Director of Human Resources

Sue Shutter

Understanding people, retaining that human touch, and finding ways to motivate individuals are all crucial skills when it comes to leadership. Sue Shutter, Director of Human Resources at the University of Bedfordshire, is an expert in engaging staff and students and finding meaningful ways to engage people. 

Sue sat down with Chris Mansfield, Co-founder of GoodCourse, to discuss her career, fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging, and the achievements she is proudest of to date. 

Sue's Journey

Chris: Can you please give me an introduction to yourself, your role, and your institution?

I’m the Director of People and Culture for the University of Bedfordshire. This university is a great environment for our students. It’s very cosmopolitan, with a population of 20,000 students representing over 100 countries. We have a community of students where about 40% of our students are first generation. 

Chris: What brought you to people leadership? 

I have the desire to make an impact on others. As a people leader, you have a great opportunity to positively influence careers and the people you work with. I have a strong belief that organisations can only succeed because of their people. Processes and systems are irrelevant without people. Leadership is not easy, but it is critical to the success of any organisation. 

Chris: What achievements are you most proud of? 

When I was nominated for HR Director of the Year by HR Magazine, I was working for a different institution that had dispersed colleges, all operating in siloed ways. We unified their structure and brought everyone’s terms and conditions together. The pinnacle of that success was becoming a university. Seeing those five years of work through to completion was a great moment. 

Chris: You are a fellow of the CIPD as well as a coach and a mentor. How have these broader skills influenced your work?

I am particularly proud of my CIPD fellowship. It gives great credibility to my professional practice. I often think: you wouldn’t go to an accountant who wasn’t qualified. CIPD gives recognition and shows that you have a strategic understanding of the profession. 

Alongside that, I have done a lot of formal training in coaching and mentoring, which has been significantly rewarding. Finding ways to create innovative solutions or enabling others to come up with their own ideas and results are really crucial skills that I bring to my professional work. 

Chris: Can you tell me what you have been doing to foster a sense of inclusion and belonging?

A big part of my work here has been looking at our culture. We set out with an objective to develop inclusive behaviours, ensuring we have a positive culture where everyone feels they can achieve the best they possibly can in their role. 

I have set out an initiative alongside our executive teams. We work with network groups, have seconded academic champions to lead initiatives, and have committed to support the Race Equality Charter, as well as promoting and running inclusivity behaviour training. We also challenge behaviours and address issues we don’t want to see. 

One of our values is compassion, so we have been linking our inclusive agenda with our university values and building it into everything we do on a day-to-day basis. 

One of our values is compassion, so we have been linking our inclusive agenda with our university values and building it into everything we do on a day-to-day basis. 

Chris: We often hear that staff and students are time-poor, so engagement on these topics can be quite difficult. How do you approach this challenge?

It is about making it relevant to the individual and getting them to understand why it’s important for the success of our university. For example, why does it matter to research or procedure? 

We have built our EDI initiatives into people’s individual performance expectations. Part of everyone’s objectives this year has been to show how they are contributing to progress in our EDI agenda. 

Chris: Given the challenges of Covid, can you tell me about your experience supporting staff through the pandemic and since?

I was recruited into this role during the pandemic. Coming into a leadership position in a new university during that time was challenging because connecting to people was such a difficult thing to do at that time. 

It stayed with me. It has become even more important when I onboard new staff to ensure they don't feel isolated. Coming out of the pandemic, that learning is still very much relevant. I am doing a lot on compassionate leadership and being kind. We mustn't forget the human touch in a people job. 

3 Quick-fire Questions

What is your top tip for fostering a culture of learning and growth?

Lead by example. Make time in your team for learning. Recognise and reward learning. Most of all, encourage teamwork and collaboration to share and exchange knowledge. 

What is the best career advice you have ever received?

It was from a chief exec of an industry outside of HE. He once said to me, “Believe in yourself. If you have that, you can achieve the impossible.” This is good to draw on. 

What is the most important book you have read?

There are so many books. One that I use in coaching and mentoring currently is The Strengths-Focused Guide to Leadership by Mike Roarty and Kathy Toogood. It gives practical tips and tricks on advising people and teams, focusing on strengths, and allowing people to grow. 

Curious to see what the future of training looks like?
Chris Mansfield
Client Services
Chris is one of the Client Service leads at GoodCourse, dedicated to helping institutions better engage their audience to create a more inclusive, safer, and more successful environment. To request to be featured on the series, get in touch at

The future of training is here, are you ready for it?

Tired of chasing your learners to complete dull training? Let's speak today👇
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.