Board of Trustees

The Edward James Foundation which runs West Dean was established in 1964. It is a charitable company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales. Company no. 6689362 and Charity registration no. 1126084.

The members of the Board of Trustees are:

Professor Paul O'Prey CBE, Chairman

Professor O'Prey is former Vice-Chancellor of Roehampton University, which went from strength to strength under his leadership. In his previous role as Director of Academic Affairs at the University of Bristol, he played a major part in the development and implementation of academic strategy in both research and education.

Professor O'Prey read English Language and Literature at Keble College, Oxford and gained his PhD from Bristol. His publications include several books and articles on writers of the nineteenth and twentieth century, notably Graham Greene and Robert Graves and his circle, as well as translations of Spanish literature. Professor O'Prey joined the Board of Trustees in 2015.

Caroline Griffith

Caroline moved to the UK from Australia when she married, and read for the Bar at the Inner Temple as a mature student. For many years she sat as a magistrate working in the adult and family courts. She has been a Governor for both secondary and tertiary education boards and has a lifelong interest in art and the creative crafts. Caroline Griffith became a Trustee in 2014.

Professor Nigel Llewellyn PhD FSA

Nigel Llewellyn is an expert in Art History and taught at the University of Sussex for 25 years, during which time he also served as Dean and Pro-Vice-Chancellor. This was followed by time at the Tate as Head of Research, leading on research projects across all four Tate sites.

Nigel is involved with several other organisations including the National Heritage Science Forum, the National Museum of Wales, the Harbour House Trust and the Arts and Humanities Research Council and is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries.

Francis Plowden FCA

Francis Plowden is a chartered accountant and was a partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers until 2000. Since then he has been a Board member in the private, public and voluntary sectors, including eight years as Chairman of the Greenwich Foundation for the Old Royal Naval College. He is a Trustee of the Anna Plowden Trust, which promotes skills in and awareness of conservation of the moveable heritage. He has also been Chairman of the National Council for Palliative Care, a Commissioner of the Judicial Appointments Commission and a Board member of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, as well Boards in the private sector. Francis Plowden became a Trustee in 2014.

Mike McCart

Director of Development and Policy at Southbank Centre, whose cultural offering exemplifies London's global relationships, attracting world-class artists and 10 million visitors to its summer festivals programme alone.

Martin Ashley MVO RIBA

Martin is an architect in private practice specialising in historic building conservation. Based in Twickenham, Martin's Practice of architects and surveyors assists clients and occupiers in the conservation and management of significant historic building estates, advising and enabling the repair, adaption, and development of historic properties to serve the ongoing needs of client organisations in the 21st century. Martin and his Practice are privileged to have worked over many years with The Royal Household, The Crown Estate, Royal Parks Agency, Historic Royal Palaces, The English Heritage Trust, and City of London Corporation amongst other government and local government agencies and charitable trusts.

Martin Ashley is Surveyor of the Fabric to the Queen's Free Chapel of St George in Windsor Castle, to the Old Royal Naval College Greenwich, and to St Bartholomew the Great in the City of London. Martin is a member of Historic England Conservation Committee, and an active Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Masons.

Naomi Davenport

Naomi Davenport is Head of Programme and Content at London Craft Week, a city-wide festival celebrating creativity and exceptional craftsmanship from around the world.

With 12 years of experience in the cultural sector spanning craft, design and contemporary art, Naomi is interested in the dialogue between these sectors, particularly the manner in which craft practices and design thinking together can drive radical solutions.

Prior to joining London Craft Week, Naomi worked across India, Sri Lanka and Singapore, where she celebrated the depth of craft heritage in South Asia and Southeast Asia through a diverse range of international programming across an array of design disciplines.

Naomi is a graduate of the Courtauld Institute of Art.

Dr Ghazwa Alwani-Starr

Ghazwa’s 37 year career has spanned senior roles in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Ghazwa has a PhD in Architectural Engineering, and is a Chartered Civil and Structural Engineer. She has extensive experience in the Higher Education sector and is currently Chief Operating Officer at the University of Bath. Before that she was first, Director of Property and Facilities Management, and then Pro Vice-Chancellor Strategy, Planning and Partnerships for the University of London, and Chief Operating Officer at Queen Mary University of London.

Ghazwa has acted as custodian to listed historic estates and listed grounds both in the HE sector and in the NHS and brings a passion for conservation and knowledge of estate master planning, facilities management and major capital projects developments.

Kevin Edgeley CFA

Kevin Edgeley is a 40-year veteran of the financial sector with broad experience in investment research, portfolio management, hedge funds and family office wealth.

Kevin gained a Masters in Finance from the London Business School, is a CFA charterholder and a Chartered Fellow of the Institute for Securities and Investments. He is a lay member of the Chichester Diocesan Synod and sits on their Asset Committee.

Ray Shostak CBE

Ray Shostak is a US/UK Citizen and an international adviser in government performance, public service reform and education. He was Head of the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit, Director General Performance, and member of the Board of Her Majesty’s Treasury from 2007 - 2011.

Previously, Ray served as Director of Public Services at HM Treasury and has held senior roles in local government. Additionally, Ray is the Chair of the Rees Centre at Oxford University and a Visiting Professor at Queen Mary University of London.

He has been Member of the Board of the National Audit Office; a member of the British Academy Public Policy Committee; a Founding Trustee of the UK governments ‘What Works’ Early Intervention Foundation; the Chair of Trustees of the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies; and an Affiliate of the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at Cambridge University. Ray was awarded an Honorary CBE for services to education by HM Queen in 2005.

Yen-Yen Teh RIBA

Yen-Yen is the founder of Emulsion, a London-based practice designing architecture and interiors for commercial and private residential, retail, hospitality and workplace clients over the last three decades. Their sibling studio Immiscible specialises in museum, temporary exhibition and installation design.

They trained in architecture at the University of Cambridge and UCL, and have been a tutor, examiner, critic, speaker and judge for institutions and organisations including UCL, Regent’s University, Interior Educators, Greenwich Peninsula and LDF. 

Yen-Yen is also an interdisciplinary artist with a lifelong interest in craft and making, from welding to textiles, and employs techniques including hand embroidery, field recordings and performance. They are a champion of diversity and inclusivity especially in the creative sector and are part of the arts organisation Kakilang and the community group ESEA Sisters. Yen-Yen is a member of the Twentieth Century Society and the Crafts Council and became a Trustee of West Dean in 2023.

Executive Leadership

West Dean is run by an Executive Leadership Team led by the Chief Executive. Together they take responsibility for every aspect of the smooth day-to-day running of the organisation. This includes teaching and research, student and staff recruitment and welfare, financial management, campus services, estate management and fundraising.

Alexander Barron ACA, FRSA, Chief Executive

Alex was appointed Chief Executive in July 2015. He is a Chartered Accountant and worked previously as West Dean’s Director of Finance & Enterprise. Before joining West Dean, he was a partner in a professional firm, where he specialised in not-for-profit sectors, including charities, schools and colleges, credit unions and registered social landlords. He is also currently a Trustee of The Edward James Foundation’s Final Salary Pension Scheme and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.

Alex’s creative interests have mainly focused around music, and he received a national songwriting award in his late teens.

Francine Norris  BA (Hons) MA FRSA, Principal and Deputy Chief Executive

Francine is a designer and academic with extensive experience in higher education, both as a teacher and at senior management level. She is responsible for the College, including all three Schools – Arts, Conservation and Design and their respective programmes of study, short courses, research, library and collections, student support and academic services.

Formerly Francine was Dean and Head of School of Crafts and Design at the University of the Creative Arts. She studied architecture at Manchester University and worked in architectural practice in London before completing an MA in Interior Design and moving into design education. In recent years Francine has developed her own practice as a painter alongside her ongoing research into the impact of architectural space on creative arts practices.

Ian Graham, Director of Estates

Ian’s experience lies in creating opportunities and developing ideas to viability in land, buildings and complex operations, alongside delivering quality visitor experiences in high volume venues, facilities and outlets.

He has over 10 years’ experience of strategic leadership in land, estate management, sustainability, facilities & services including oversight of projects in Estates, Education and charity sectors.  A further 15 years management experience in high-calibre and fast paced hospitality in the commercial private sector.

At West Dean, Ian leads the campus buildings, facilities, services and facilities alongside the wider 6,400 acre Estate including Gardens and West Dean’s sustainability activities.


Our mission is to provide the highest quality education in arts, design, craft and conservation. Our vision is to be internationally recognised as a centre of excellence.

Read our Vision 2030

Our schools of arts, design and conservation offer a uniquely broad range of world-leading courses. At the heart of all we do, is our belief that 'making' makes our lives better. We celebrate the intrinsic value of work that has been hand-made by artists and artisans, and challenge the assumption that mass-produced must be the only way because, across the world, the maker movement is growing.

From online courses to postgraduate degrees, our student cohorts reflect the interests, backgrounds and aspirations of a global community. Guided by experts, who are often leaders in their field, our students are encouraged to develop their practice and reach their true potential.

Our London and Sussex campuses connect our students to the city and countryside, providing inspiring study environments and state-of-the-art studios across all our disciplines, helping to forge collaborations and discover their creative voice.

Whether you are conserving or crafting, discovering or designing, make your mark at West Dean.

KLC School of Design

We’re delighted to announce we have joined forces with KLC School of Design to mark a new era for specialist creative education. From August 2021 KLC’s interior and garden design courses now form a new School of Design, alongside our School of Arts and School of Conservation.

KLC Ltd joined The Edward James Foundation in July 2021, allowing West Dean College of Arts and Conservation and KLC School of Design to combine operations from August. The move brings together two of the most prestigious and well established providers of specialist creative education in the UK.

Read more

Under the management of West Dean College, the larger, combined institution aims to position itself as the UK’s pre-eminent College of Art, Design and Conservation, internationally recognised for excellence and creative innovation. KLC’s portfolio of interior and garden design courses will form a new School of Design as part of the larger West Dean College, which currently has a School of Conservation and a School of Arts. West Dean College’s courses include buildings, materials and objects conservation as well as fine art, creative writing and contemporary craft.

KLC’s London studios in the prestigious Chelsea Harbour Design Centre and West Dean College’s idyllic Grade II listed rural campus in the stunning South Downs will continue operations for the foreseeable future. The two campuses will offer staff and students unprecedented opportunities for exchange and crossover, allowing them to enjoy the best of both a vibrant city setting and an inspirational countryside retreat.

Students will also be offered greater choice in their studies going forward, with a wider range of courses in complementary subjects. The focus will remain firmly on fostering creative excellence and innovation, providing the ideal setting for students to acquire and apply the skills needed for successful careers in the arts, conservation and design industries.

The Principals and Chief Executives from West Dean College and KLC have worked closely together on the plans and both institutions are fully committed to ensuring a smooth transition for all students, faculty, and staff.

Alexander Barron, Chief Executive of West Dean College said:
“West Dean College is 50 years old this year and KLC is 40. Important milestones for two institutions that share a rich and successful history providing high quality, specialist education in arts, conservation and design.

“We have an incredible opportunity in bringing our two renowned and respected organisations together. Combining our strengths, we will become stronger and more successful than the sum of our parts, forging a truly exciting new era for specialist creative and craft education in the UK and internationally.”

Jenny Gibbs OBE, Principal of KLC School of Design said: “At KLC we have always believed in the benefits of collaboration. We share the values and ethos of West Dean College and are hugely excited about the opportunities our combined programmes in art, design and conservation will bring to current students and future students. As one institution we will be in a better position to meet the fast-changing needs of students, the industries we serve and the rapidly changing world beyond.”

"Bringing our two renowned institutions together is a win-win, not just for the students and staff of West Dean College and KLC School of Design but for the future of specialist creative practice-based education in the UK.” said Francine Norris, Principal of West Dean College. "The potential for future course development, collaborations and interdisciplinary working is really exciting.”

Digest of The Edward James Foundation Ltd Board Actions and Decisions


Across the School of Arts and School of Conservation, the role of research is essential in underpinning the College's academic ambitions, helping West Dean to be at the forefront of the specialisms it supports, positively impacting it as a teaching and learning environment. Research projects are key to establishing new and innovative practices, emphasising the importance of skills-based making and conservation, as well as demonstrating the value and scope of interdisciplinary collaboration. Research at West Dean College not only benefits students, staff and specialist audiences but also wider academic communities and the public.

The College is privileged to be on a site of historic significance, both in relation to the heritage of the West Dean Estate and its more recent associations with the life and work of its founder Edward James.

You can find out about the specific research groups here.

Help preserve our future

We are part of a registered charity and rely on the support of generous donors, members and legacies to help us deliver world-class education in conservation, design and the creative arts and maintain our award-winning gardens.

Find out how to support us