Group of staff pose in front of screen showing new ACU strategy

Our team

ACU Leadership Team

Joanna Newman MBE Headshot

Dr Joanna Newman MBE FRSA is Chief Executive and Secretary General. She is the first female Secretary General of the ACU, a role that also sees her direct the administration of the UK government’s three main international scholarship programmes – Chevening, Commonwealth, and Marshall Scholarships – as well as the multilateral Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships.

Joanna’s career has been in the service of British and international higher education. Before joining the ACU in 2017, she was Vice-Principal (International) at King’s College London, where she was instrumental in forging new international research and teaching collaborations. Her previous roles include Director of the UK Higher Education International Unit (now known as Universities UK International), where she led the development of a UK-wide international education strategy; and Head of Higher Education at the British Library, where she commissioned the Google Generation report, the first study of Generation Y researchers.

Joanna serves on a number of boards, including the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network’s Leadership Council, the High-level Advisory Group for Mission 4.7, and as a lay member of the Council of Cardiff University. She is a Senior Research Fellow in History at King’s College London. Her most recent publication is Nearly the New World: The British West Indies and the Flight from Nazism, 1933-1945. In 2014, Joanna was awarded an MBE in recognition of her work promoting British higher education internationally.

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Caroline Harrison Cropped

Caroline Harrison is Chief Finance Officer at the ACU. Before joining the ACU, Caroline worked as Director of Finance and Planning at Richmond, The American International University in London where her remit included facilities and estates, as well as finance. Prior to that, Caroline worked at Middlesex University, holding a number of senior positions before being appointed Director of Finance. She is a member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (ACMA).

Sharon Memis (1)

Sharon Memis is the Chief Operating Officer at the ACU. Prior to joining the ACU, Sharon held a variety of senior posts with the British Council including in India, the United States, Brussels and London, contributing to the internationalisation of education and culture for the UK. Sharon has also worked as a consultant in international cultural relations and both presents and writes on a range of topics related to international engagement including strategy and impact evaluation.  As a qualified teacher, Sharon has taught at schools and universities in the UK and overseas. A linguist by background, Sharon speaks six languages.

Miranda Thomas (1)

Miranda Thomas is Director of Scholarships and International Mobility. Miranda joined the ACU in 2019 as Director of the Chevening Secretariat. She now has responsibility for the teams delivering the Chevening programme, Commonwealth Scholarships and Fellowships, Marshall Scholarships, Queen Elizabeth Commonwealth Scholarships and the ACU’s work on the Department for Education’s Turing scheme, which funds international opportunities in education and training across the world for UK-based students.

Before this Miranda was an Assistant Director at Universities UK International, leading the External Affairs team. Other higher education sector roles have included leading the Business Education and Skills Practice at PR consultancy Communications Management, and teams at Cass Business School (now Bayes Business School), City University of London, and Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance. She started out in consumer PR, promoting everything from Girlguiding UK and the Economist to Clarins and Captain Birds Eye. Miranda studied Drama at the University of Exeter. 


Khairul Bashar is Director of Finance at the ACU. Khairul is responsible for financial planning, reporting and statutory accounts, ensuring the ACU complies with best practice in audit and risk and continues to meet our financial obligations. Khairul and his team also ensure our financial and audit integrity, helping the ACU make the right decisions today and for the future. Before joining the ACU, Khairul worked at the Education Development Trust, helping them improve their financial processes. Prior to that, he worked at the Lawn Tennis Association, where he gained experience managing all financial functions. 

Beth Button

Beth Button is Director of Strategic Communications at the ACU. She is responsible for an integrated internal and external strategic communications strategy to maximise the value and impact of the work of the ACU and its members and influence impactful policy change. Beth provides strategic leadership to the Marketing, Communications and Events, and Strategic Partnerships and Policy teams, and works to build effective external engagement and position the ACU as a high impact partner. Before joining the ACU, Beth worked at University Alliance where she was Head of Communications and Public Affairs. A skilled campaigner and strategic communicator, Beth has a wealth of experience gained in positions at Universities UK and the European Students Union, where she led the organisation’s work on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Tarrance Ryder Downs

Tarrance Ryder-Downes is Director of People at the ACU. He is responsible for setting the overall people strategy for the ACU and delivering excellent People and Office and Facilities services across the organisation. The ACU is a great place to work and has a range of benefits that support people to do their best. Tarrance and his team are responsible for creating a high-performing and inclusive culture and encouraging talent, passion, and success across the ACU. Tarrance has over 14 years’ experience in HR, including extensive experience across the not-for-profit sector. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development.