Senior Observatory Lead

The British Academy

Location Central London, with hybrid-working available
Salary £42,300 plus excellent benefits (including 34 days' annual leave, defined benefit pension)
Team Higher Education & Skills Policy
  • Closing: 6:13pm, 29th Sep 2022 BST

Job Description

The British Academy – the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences - is seeking a Senior Observatory Lead to join a growing and high-performing policy team, focussed on higher education, skills and research policy.

You can find out more about the British Academy here, including our Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Statement.


The Senior Observatory Lead is a new post established as part of a planned expansion to the established Higher Education and Skills Policy Team (currently six people). The Higher Education Team is a collaborative, productive and high-performing team, part of the Academy’s Policy Directorate alongside the Public Policy Team. We work to position the Academy as a thought leader on Higher Education and research policy, engaging in evidence-based policy to influence the health and vibrancy of our disciplines throughout the pipeline. This involves a combination of reactive responses to policy developments as they occur, and proactive planned projects designed to strengthen our evidence base, support the SHAPE discipline community and stimulate debate.

The core duty of the Senior Observatory Lead is to oversee the strategic development and implementation of an exciting new endeavour for the Academy: The SHAPE Observatory. The Observatory will investigate the health of SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Arts) disciplines across teaching and research to assist our wider research and higher education community by providing analysis, insights and interventions. 

The Senior Observatory Lead will use, produce and evaluate different forms of evidence to effectively evaluate teaching and research health, give us early warning of emerging trends, and tailor our higher education and skills policy work to the most pressing issues. This role will involve overseeing a Policy Analyst  while working with the wider policy, communications, and research teams to ensure the continuous collection and deep scrutiny of data through the Observatory.  

OFFICE LOCATION - 10-11 Carlton House Terrace, St James Park, London, SW1Y 5AH


Evidence gathering and analysis

  • Working collaboratively with the Head of Policy and wider Higher Education and Skills team to develop a strong quantitative and qualitative evidence base, including conducting ‘deep-dives’ into distinct disciplines, bespoke analysis on EDI, specialist subject mapping, and uptake trend analysis.

  • Becoming the Academy’s acknowledged expert in evidence gathering and analysis, including primary and secondary analysis, and use of this evidence, particularly as pertains to higher education, skills and research policy.

  • Oversee major programmes of work in these critical areas as well as producing ad hoc, agile analysis as needed. This may include commissioning, overseeing and managing project-based consultants/researchers as necessary. 

2 – Producing policy outputs and outcomes

  • Proactively identifying, managing, overseeing and delivering outputs such as briefings and reports, against specific policy themes. To motivate, collaborate with and develop a Policy Analyst to deliver outputs which have policy impact. Ensure that these outputs are coordinated with effective communication and related activities for dissemination, including engagement with the Academy’s governance processes as appropriate.

  • Work closely with the Communications and Public Affairs team on identifying, reviewing and presenting evidence of SHAPE in higher education, and with our Research Funding team to do the same with evidence of our funded work. This includes deriving new and innovative insights from data and effectively conveying them.

  • Working with the wider Academy and the other UK national academies on specific projects and initiatives, supporting  and leading  as necessary, to ensure a joined-up approach.

3 – Stakeholder engagement

  • Engaging effectively with the interests, strategies and policies of stakeholders, using evidence to advance the development, visibility and impact of the HE and skills programme, including working with committees, steering and advisory groups and the Academy’s Fellowship as appropriate.

  • Developing and maintaining partnerships with external bodies, and data holders where appropriate and represent the Academy at appropriate meetings and events, presenting the Academy’s views and positions.

4 – Strategy and planning

  • Working closely with the Head of Policy (HE and Skills) to plan and deliver the team’s annual programme of work, including managing and developing members of the HE and Skills Policy Team. Working closely with the Directors of Policy, Research, and Communications to complement this.

  • Contributing to the ongoing development, implementation and monitoring of the Policy Directorate Strategic Plan, and of the higher education and skills work strands within it, including the development of monitoring and evaluation tools to benchmark and assess impact, and the identification and development of synergies across the Academy’s policy activity.



  • Director of Policy; Director of Research, Head of Research Funding, and Head of International; Director of Communication, and Head of News and Public Affairs.


  • Includes but not limited to, higher education data holders such as Jisc, HESA, Department for Education, Research Councils and UKRI; other National Academies and Higher Education or research representative bodies.


Working Relationships

  • Thoughtful engagement with high level stakeholders and experts who influence and shape policy.

  • Is proactive and consistent in working with committees and working groups, and with academics, to increase engagement in policy work.

  • Can strategically build and maintain effective relationships with, and work in partnership with, other organisations in the higher education or SHAPE community.

Knowledge and Skills

  • Can demonstrate working knowledge of the data landscape of UK higher education, skills and research policy. Comprehension of the context for SHAPE disciplines is desirable.

  • Is proficient in the use of statistical analysis in policy work, including knowledge of third-party data sources and platforms to conduct research and analysis, such as Tableau and Heidi Plus.

  • Has a high level of proficiency in both quantitative and qualitative research and data analysis.

  • Adopts a communication style appropriate to the situation and the audience, in both written and oral communications, including giving presentations, data analysis and report production.

Proactivity and Planning

  • Can demonstrate a track record of planning, managing and delivering successful policy projects.

  • Is able to meet deadlines under pressure, accurately and with attention to detail, often balancing conflicting priorities.

Problem Solving and Decision Making

  • A creative and strategic thinker, with the capacity to deal with complex issues and ambiguity.

  • Ability to use tact and diplomacy and to handle confidential information.


  • A motivating, respectful and collaborative line manager, including in a matrix structure, is desirable.

  • An assured, open-minded, and positive outlook with a constructive attitude towards challenges and sharing knowledge and skills with others.

  • Takes a professional and assured approach when dealing with a variety of people and has the ability to work as an individual, and as part of a team.

Other Requirements

  • Is able to be flexible about working hours on occasions.

  • Is willing to travel on British Academy business.


The Academy’s workplace values and supporting text are set out below. We share these core values with each other. They guide how we work together and with others. We demonstrate them through our behaviours.

COLLABORATION- We consistently work together to a common purpose, supporting each other, communicating openly and sharing knowledge. We are flexible and adaptable, receiving feedback constructively

CREATIVITY - We bring imagination and curiosity to our work, valuing learning, diverse thinking, and innovation. We are open-minded, receptive, and responsive, taking account of alternative perspectives

EMPATHY-We are understanding, sensitive, compassionate, and considerate, mindful of our own wellbeing alongside that of others

EXCELLENCE - We always do our best, without striving to be perfect, applying our expertise and experience to develop and grow

INTEGRITY - We are open and honest with each other, accepting personal responsibility and demonstrating loyalty. We are reliable and dependable, having belief that we will be transparent and clear

RESILIENCE - We are confident, bold, and tenacious, knowing when to listen as well as when to speak up. We respond positively to challenges and overcome problems

RESPECT - We are inclusive in our regard for each other, showing courtesy and appreciation. We treat people fairly and equally, welcoming everyone’s contribution and difference

Removing bias from the hiring process

Applications closed Thu 29th Sep 2022


Removing bias from the hiring process

  • Your application will be anonymously reviewed by our hiring team to ensure fairness
  • You won't need a CV to apply to this job

Applications closed Thu 29th Sep 2022