Stan Oliver

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

Leadership, Leadership development, Employee engagement, Organisational culture, Employee behaviour, Human resource development

  • Source: Scopus
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Personal profile

Research interests


I hold professorial standing internationally. I was conferred as a professor at Sunderland, Bolton and Karunya Universities; I am recognised as a visiting Professor at Tongji (China), Colombo (Sri Lanka), East London (UK) Universities and I am Emeritus Professor at Bolton University. This recognition within academia is predicated on my experience and capabilities outlined below.


At Northumbria

My leadership contribution to the Faculty of Business and Law at Northumbria University in my current role includes the vision and agreed strategic changes to distance learning (DL). This comprised a ‘Transformational Change’ in the DL team by re-placing the ‘DL Didactic Teaching Model’ with a ‘Research Rich Student Centred Digital Blended Learning Model’. As well as this development I supervise two PhD and two DBA doctorate students, all of whom are members of staff. I also line manage three senior lecturers, two graduate tutors; one technology enhanced learning technician and twenty associate lecturers. I have taken a very proactive approach to team leadership; training and developing staff understanding and capability with academic quality/standards processes and ability to use technology enhance learning tools effectively. Throughout the last two years at Northumbria, I have been building the international footprint for Faculty of Business and Law activities in India, Sri Lanka and China.

Previous experience

From 2013 to 2016, my leadership and management capability developed through my roles in India where I was faced with leading teams with very different cultural influences to the UK and very inflexible organisational structures. However, even with these diverse challenges I was pleased to lead and mentor staff in their roles and career development. Evidence of this is with one of my team, whom I mentored for two years. He is now CEO of the aerospace and aviation skills council of India in Bangalore. When at the University of Bolton from 2002 to 2012, my leadership and management capability developed considerably. I started as Head of Department of Business and became Dean and then acting Pro Vice Chancellor and this involved me in many activities around the university. This included leading initiatives that directly contributed or improved Bolton’s Corporate Strategic Outcomes. For example being very active with university wide projects and committees and appropriate involvement with Society of Automotive Engineers and the Chartered Management Institute, this contributed to the accreditations of our programmes and assisted in building our reputation. However at the University of Sunderland from 1996 to 2002, my academic leadership involved successfully forming and developing the AMAP Institute. Throughout this period, I was involved in many activities around the university. This included leading initiatives that directly contributed or improved Sunderland’s Corporate Strategic Outcomes. For example being very active with university wide projects and committees and appropriate involvement with Nissan Motor Manufacturing, One North East, EPSRC, DTI and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, which all assisted in building our reputation. I have held a number of senior leadership roles in the Higher Education sector, including Dean and acting PVC at Bolton University. I have a record of accomplishment of developing colleagues and supporting their career trajectory. Two specific examples of taking responsibility to support staff include (1) mentoring and supporting staff with their Post Graduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) and/or with their application to be fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) (at Bolton). Plus (2) Team leadership meetings to encourage early careers staff to engage in research in either learning & teaching research or subject specialism research (at Sunderland).


Leadership in curriculum development

When I took up my current role in November 2016, I began transforming the subject area of business and management for our international DL programmes. This led to me developing a vision to internationalise our DL programmes further while at the same time integrating research and enterprise. Knowing and understanding the strategic plan of Northumbria and the Faculty of Business and Law I worked on the development of a long term strategy for DL. Drawing on expertise from my various professorial roles (from 1996 to 2016 at Sunderland, Bolton and Karunya University) I was able to develop a strategy that reflects an understanding of the operation of DL/Blended learning activities especially from an international perspective. This involved me in exploring the DL team rationale and activities within NBS. The DL team rationale had been until 2016-17 focused around a low-level service provider business-teaching model, but with the new proposal I had the opportunity to be innovative and I therefore created a strategy to establish the team as a high quality research focused academic partnership model. The DL team activities at that time involved the delivery of distance learning third year top-up degree programmes to international students in Asia. The DL team’s teaching style and delivery method was a business model, which created a poor student learning experience, unhealthy staff working environment, unhappy collaborative partners and a low-level of academic quality. This stimulated me to create a new strategy that proposed introducing a new research rich learning model with the addition of a research focused academic enterprise partnership model. The benefits of adding a high quality research focused academic enterprise partnership model was to change the emphasis to working with high ranking international universities with a collaborative research focus. The thinking was this should include developing dual qualifications with these university partners, enabling staff and students to engage with employers/industry on projects, placements and career development and supporting the facilitation of working with UK Trade Missions to assist with the development of enterprise activities with employers/industry near our international university partners.

External engagement and internal activities

My external examiner roles recently include: External examiner for PhD at University of Bolton (2017), external programme reviewer (MBA Distance Learning) at University of Highlands and Islands (2017) and external examiner (Logistics and Ops Management Subjects) at University of Northampton (2015 to 2017). A major element of my academic career has involved me with academic quality and standards and this is evidenced in my CV from 1996 to 2016 with examples of when I was a QQA reviewer with UK Universities, a QCA/Ofqual verifier for Higher National Certificates and Diplomas. I am also an AACSB moderator and I have had many roles as External Examiner. These wide variety of experiences have been a great enabler for me to see how learning and teaching is managed in other Higher Education institutions both nationally and internationally.

During my academic career I have regularly been involved with partnership development. An example of this is at University of Sunderland. This was predominantly to focus on large academic research projects with partner universities and industry on research council funded projects. The success and impact of these activities is evidenced through international publications, doctoral qualifications and follow on projects awarded by the research council. Another good example of this is the partnership development at University of Bolton which was much wider. Similar projects were taken on but the main difference is these were also developments with international collaborative ventures where I was involved with developing partnerships with Malawian government and the Malawian Institute of Management where I introduced our MSc in Supply Chain Management for government procurement staff and then developed a doctoral school. The success and impact of these activities are 15 years on the collaboration is still running successfully and many of the graduates hold senior roles within various organisations worldwide.

Throughout my various roles I have been involved in many internal validation procedures, periodic reviews and accreditation activities most of which have been highly successful but on some occasions they have had our limitations critically analysed and reviewed. Experiencing success was always nice as it reflected and rewarded the hard work of the teams involved. However the less successful events were also beneficial as they regularly brought greater focus and a wide variety of learning in the teams. This is where I have gained great benefit as it has enabled me to understand the focus and time needed to be successful with internal activities.

Learning and teaching research

To be at the forefront of my subject area I need to continuously build, develop, refine and challenge my knowledge. My area of research interest is ‘Andragogy, Heutagogy and Digital-learning (AHDL)’. This includes challenging my understanding of learning theories, teaching practices, academic leadership, virtual learning environments and research rich learning through research into practice. For example: Knowles (1980) argues that andragogy refers to methods and principles used in adult education; Kenyon & Hase (2001) discuss heutagogy as an approach where learning is flexible and designed by the learners in negotiation with their teacher; and  Petz (2012) states that digital-learning is another approach involving the study of technology to enhance the experience of learner-determined learning. As a research-active academic, I am able to discuss the very latest ideas in seminars and tutorials and, in appropriate degree programmes and this enables me to become an active member of a research team and contribute to the discourse of AHDL.

My career has seen me involved in the leadership of curriculum development, experiential learning and work-based practice; however, the work for which I now enjoy an international reputation involves the innovative development of the learning experience and the teaching philosophy to establish active, independent and high performing students. This includes knowledge sharing and co-creation with international colleagues in higher education, industry and government in India, Sri Lanka and China. The originality of my contributions is evidenced through the wide range and level of my publications and presentations and awards received.  These include my paper in 2009 that won a prize and my research fellowship award in 1999. The impact of my contribution is evident with my publications, roles as external examiner, reviewer, verifier and referee for journals in my disciplines. Additional evidence is with being external examiner for eleven doctorates in UK and German Universities. Added to all this I have also reviewed many grant proposals for example with HEA during 2014.


Contribution to knowledge, doctoral supervision and research income

My contribution to knowledge at Northumbria has been with my research and development of the research rich learning model for DL, the empowerment model for team growth and the international knowledge exchange framework that I have developed. In addition, I am currently progressing new research and development in the areas of AHDL. My research outputs at Northumbria include nine journal papers in development, two journal papers published and two peer reviewed conference publications/ presentations; two roles refereeing for peer review journals that include Emerald Journal Reviewer (2018) and BLIS Journal Editorial Review Committee (2017).  My contribution to knowledge (1996 to 2016) has been with my research and development of the knowledge management and supply chain management curriculum using digital technologies as applied in practice as exemplars for teaching. My research outputs (1996 to 2016) include ten Journal Publications that consists of one prize winning journal paper with Emerald (2009); Sixty six peer reviewed conference publications/ presentations; Twelve Books / Chapters; Twenty two speaker invitations which is a total of 110 outputs. Added to this I have been a grants reviewer for theHigher Education Academy.

I am currently supervising four doctoral students that include two DBA supervisions and two PhD supervisions, two as first supervisor and two as second supervisor. 

In my roles at the Universities of Sunderland and Bolton I successfully supervised twenty-two PhD doctoral students, many have gone on to hold senior academic roles, for example Dr Kondal Reddy Kandadi who is now Pro Vice Chancellor at the University of Bolton and Professor Dr Qin Liu who is Executive Dean at Tongji University in China.

My research income as appropriate to the discipline and subject includes income withKarunya University; Tongj University and University of Sunderland and these comprised Research Council Grants, Professional Body Awards and Government Grants. While at Sunderland University, I founded and established the AMAP Research Institute that became recognised nationally as a centre of excellence in automotive and manufacturing advanced practice and internationally for its contribution to industry. This recognition is evidenced through the large government research council and DTI funded projects (£3 million plus) received in collaboration with Nissan, IEDA Hoover, Warwick University, Transport Research Laboratory.

Research leadership and international esteem

As well as being academic lead for a number of large research projects I have been involved as academic lead for REF, RAE and NAAC activities, for example with NAAC in my role at Karunya (2014), with REF in my roles at Bolton (2011) and with RAE in my roles at both Bolton and Sunderland (2008 and 2001).

My international academic profile is evidenced by my conference paper and presentation on creating independent learners in India (2014) and my keynote addresses to the Chinese Automotive Sector Conferences in 2004 and 2005 plus the Leadership conclave, in India in 2013. Added to this, I was heavily involved with OSTEMS (Scheme of the Department of Trade and Industry [DTI]) that involved technology missions to Japan (2000), India (2000) and USA (2000) investigating automotive technologies for UK Government. These were high profile initiatives funded by DTI involving the Chief Scientist from the Transport Research laboratory, the Engineering Research Director of Jaguar Motor Manufacturers, the Technical Director of RAC, the Head of Foresight Vehicle (DTI and EPSRC) and myself as the lead academic. In Japan we visited the Japanese Ministry for Transport and were involved with Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Mitsubishi and Suzuki automotive manufacturers. In India we met with the Indian Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Maruti, Tata and India Pistons. In USA we visited ‘Oakridge National Laboratories’, SAE International Headquarters, Ford and General Motors. All three missions resulted in government initiatives for the UK automotive sector.My academic engagement since 2002, has seen me participating with the institution of chartered engineers (IMechE) and since 2013 I have been involved with the chartered management institute (CMI). This has concerned me with reviewing university academic programmes for professional body accreditations and reviewing member applications for changes from member to fellow. My external examiner roles for undergraduate and postgraduate programmes are with Northampton University (2015/17), University of Wales (2006/09) and Hull University (2003/06).My public engagement from 2003 to 2005 as President of the Society of Automotive Engineers, I was participating worldwide in regular public lectures with non-academic audiences on a wide variety of topics.


Since joining Northumbria my application of knowledge to improve the performance of business, commerce or industry includes identifying that NBS has little to no activity with International Research and Enterprise and therefore has concerns over the way to value international enterprise and research. I therefore prompted a deeper understanding of the international market for DL. My enterprise activities over the last two years has also seen me exploring internationalising our academic activities and investigating how blended learning may improve the student experience and contribute to an overall improvement in quality. Since February 2016 my record of income generation illustrates effective leadership in growing enterprise income with DL from 2015/16 when it was £600,000, to 2016/17 when it was £1,100,000 and continuing the growth in 2017/18 when it was £1,600,000. In 2018/19 the planned growth income is £2,000,000 plus.

My application of knowledge to improve the performance of business, commerce or industry when at Sunderland and Bolton Universities includes: improving lean manufacturing, just-in-time, knowledge management, supply chain management and eBusiness activities in Nissan’s supply chains while at Sunderland and with the British Aerospace supply chains while at Bolton.My active engagement with new external partnerships previous to my role at Northumbria for example while at Karunya University (India) was with Aerospace and aviation skills council; University of Bolton was with British Aerospace, Aerospace Alliance and North West Development Agency and University of Sunderland was with Nissan Motor Manufacturers, Johnson Controls, One North East, DTI and EPSRC. My record of income generation with University of Bolton, involved for example two large ERDF grants (Magnet and COPSE Projects) and two Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (Bentley Designs and British Turntable). However with University of Sunderland, this was with DTI and the International Technology Transfer Project. The impact and the success of the first KTP with Bentley Designs are evidenced in the growth and profitability of the company that is illustrated in the publically available company accounts.


Developing brand and international presence

I believe Northumbria’s vision to improve our international standing and move up the ranking tables will benefit from the Faculty of Business and law taking a long term focus on innovation and continuous improvement in quality and standards. This should be with an integrated approach to excellence in students learning experience, staff working environment and relationships with high ranking international university partners. I would like to contribute to this as we seek to build our brand. The main aim for the Faculty of Business and Law is with building onto the current accreditations with AACSB and EPAS. The next step is to move forward with a strategy to gain “triple crown” accreditations. This will involve building onto our AACSB accreditation, strengthening our EPAS accreditation to EQUIS standing and focusing in on AMBA accreditation as the final piece in the jigsaw. Building international presence is also something that I would like to contribute to and I see me doing this by continuing with the following initiatives already in place. These developments are collaborations with high ranking international universities and working with them and their regional industries and national governments to establish innovative research outputs between industry, government and higher education. This includes working with the Department of International Trade (UK International Trade Office plus the three initiatives involving (1) Bhararthiar University in India with: CSI Coimbatore Diocese Colleges, IBM Training India and the Indian Federation of Entrepreneurs, (2) Colombo University in Sri Lanka with: University Grants Commission Sri Lanka, MAS Textiles, Fashion and Clothing and the Chamber of Commerce in Sri Lanka, and (3) Tongji University in China with: Apple inc. in China, Shanghai Automotive and China Grants Commission.

Developing leadership capability and future research

I studied and became qualified as a teacher with my PGCE and I have worked continuously with academic colleagues mentoring and coaching them in their career development. I have recently applied for SFHEA status (February 2018), through the Northumbria University Professional Recognition Scheme. I plan to continue being involved in supporting early career academics with their HEA applications via our mentor scheme. In the future I plan to build on this and successfully gain Principal status (PFHEA) through the Higher Education Academy.

I was co-author on two journal papers and lead author on two peer reviewed conference publications/ presentations (2016/2018). I have nine journal papers in development, four of them as lead author and the other five as one of the co-authors that I plan to work on during 2018. All nine have involved sending abstracts to the journals and getting feedback for the next step. My deep interest in learning and teaching research integrates the use of technology to create improvements in the learner experience. My research also considers learner career development and employability in the student learning journey. I plan on continuing to research in the areas of ‘Andragogy, Heutagogy and Digital-learning’. This will continue to include deepening my understanding of learning theories, teaching practices, academic leadership, virtual learning environments and research rich learning through research into practice

As well as my learning and teaching research an important area of significant research subject discipline interest for me is ‘International Knowledge Exchange’. Knowledge management is the process of creating, sharing, using and managing knowledge and information. It refers to a multidisciplinary approach to achieving objectives by making the best use of knowledge. Knowledge management strengths typically focus on objectives such as improved performance, competitive advantage, innovation, the sharing of lessons learned, integration and continuous improvement. These efforts overlap with learning and may be distinguished from that by a greater focus on the management of knowledge as a strategic asset and on encouraging the sharing of knowledge. Knowledge management is an enabler of learning. When I took up my current role in November 2016 I began transforming the knowledge and content in the subject area of business and management for knowledge transfer with our international distance learning programmes. Looking forward at international knowledge exchange it is well documented that knowledge transfer concerns the sharing and/or exchanging of knowledge and that in theory, knowledge transfer is the applied process of conveying knowledge from one person to another. I would suggest that knowledge transfer and exchange is a shared procedure connecting the iterative transaction of knowledge between research users and researcher producers. This thinking led to me developing our strategy to internationalise our DL programmes while at the same time integrating research and enterprise into my future research plans. The benefits of adding a high quality research focused academic enterprise partnership model into my future research developments was to ensure I concentrated on working with High Ranking International Universities with a collaborative research focus. The thinking was that this should include various developments with these University Partners, enabling staff and students to engage with employers/industry on projects, placements and career development and supporting the facilitation of working with UK Trade Missions to assist with the development of enterprise activities with Employers/industry near our International University partners. Although my research activities do have a multi focus, they position my current research-rich learning developments strongly and help to underpin all the new innovate outcomes planned to improve future learning and teaching in our programmes. My future contribution to research leadership in the Faculty and University will include ongoing management at First and Second supervisor levels for doctoral students. I have co-developed the DBA Virtual Learning Environment for DBA and started recruiting a new DBA cohort of executives in India and Sri Lanka and China.

I have developed and will continue to develop a range of relevant research outputs that can be considered for REF submission in 2020, for example a combination of contributions from both a subject/discipline-base and learning and teaching perspective. Another area of my ongoing commitment to the Faculty of Business and Law is being an effective team leader with supporting academic colleagues, especially early career researchers i.e. Graduate Tutors with little or no experience of writing for publication and presenting at conferences.

Education/Academic qualification

Business and Administration, MBA, Northumbria University

2 Jan 2017Jul 2018

Award Date: 2 Jul 2018

Philosophy, PhD

30 Jun 200431 Dec 2099

Award Date: 30 Jun 2004

Education, PGCert, Northumbria University

Sep 1980Jul 1981

Award Date: 1 Jul 1981

Engineering, MSc, Northumbria University

Sep 1976Jul 1979

Award Date: 2 Jul 1979

Engineering, BSc, Northumbria University

Sep 1972Jul 1976

Award Date: 5 Jul 1976


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