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National Children's University Trust

Children's University is a network of centres that manage their activities locally. These local centres are run by existing structures and partners such as colleges and universities, Local Authorities and groups of schools. CU Trust is the charity that sits at the heart of this network, providing support, strategic guidance, and organising fundraising and communications activities.

Meet the CU Trust team


Helen O'Donnell - Chief Executive and Director of Partnerships

Helen joined Children's University in November 2015, having previously served as Chief Executive for the Cheshire Community Foundation (CCF). It was at CCF that Helen first encountered Children's University by funding one of our local centres.

Helen has extensive experience in the third sector with a particular focus on education and helping young people from more disadvantaged backgrounds access educational opportunities. Most recently this involved acting as Head of Development at the University of Liverpool where she was responsible for securing charitable investments.

Contact Helen for enquiries about national partnerships and strategic issues.


Liam Nolan - Head of Communications and Stakeholder Engagement

Liam joined Children's University in 2016 with a focus on working with the Children's University network and shouting about its many successes. As a former teacher of English as a foreign language, he is passionate about education and the possibilities Children's University opens up for young learners.

Liam has over ten years' experience in the charity sector in a mixture of fundraising and communications roles. Most recently he has been self-employed fundraiser and worked on high-profile digital projects for charity and government organisations.

Contact Liam for enquiries relating to communications, PR and media. 



Cristina Muñoz - Marketing and Digital Communications Officer

Cristina joined the team in March 2016 after finishing her master's degree in Marketing Communications. She has worked in the marketing and administration departments of various organisations and is enthusiastic about social media and its potential to do good.

Before moving to Manchester two years ago, Cristina studied Advertising and PR in Spain, and she also lived in Romania for six months.

Contact Cristina for enquiries about social media and all things digital.


Meet the CU Trust Trustees


Richard Annandale

Richard studied Law at Manchester University. He trained as a solicitor in Manchester and initially worked with individuals caught up in stressful situations needing legal advice. He spent most of his legal career advising the NHS about governance, regulation, ethics and dispute resolution and, during that time, developed a wide range of business skills.

 He featured as a top-ranked lawyer in Chambers, an independent legal directory, which awarded him the special status of Senior Statesman in the category "Best of the UK Health and Social Care: Health advice".

Richard is the Chair of Trustees of CU Trust as well as being a member of the charity's Finance, Audit and Risk Committee. He is also on the Management Group of the West of England Children's University, one of the regional network members of CU Trust.

Outside CU Trust he is Chair of an annual national Patient Safety Conference; a committee member of the William Kadleigh Foundation, which supports doctors developing their knowledge of integrative medicine; and also a lead member of a grass-roots group advocating for legal and humanitarian rights for refugees, especially refugee children.



Anita Bhalla

Anita trained as a teacher and worked as a Community Relations Officer in Leicester, a Community Worker with the Asian Resource Centre in Birmingham and a lecturer teaching language and employment skills to Industrial workers.

In broadcasting Anita presented a local radio programme for the Asian Community in Birmingham and Channel 4's Eastern Eye. Anita developed the Radio Asian Network in the West Midlands for the BBC and became the bi-media Community Affairs Correspondent for Midlands, then Head of Political and Community Affairs for the BBC English Regions.

Anita's awards include the CRE's Race in the Media Award, the national Television News Award and Impact Magazine's Windrush Award as the Broadcaster of the Year. Currently she is Chair of mac, a Trustee Director of Performances Birmingham, Chair of the Birmingham Creative Partnership Board and a Governor of the University of Central England. Anita was awarded an OBE in the New Year's Honours 2009; Anita, currently Editor Public Space Broadcasting for the BBC, has been recognised for her services to broadcasting.


Jock Brown

Jock Brown graduated from Cambridge University in English Law but returned to qualify as a Solicitor in Scotland more than 30 years ago.

He has a wide breadth of experience in many areas of the law, from litigation to property, commercial and employment work, before moving latterly into the corporate field, where he has been involved in many acquisitions and disposals. He is viewed by colleagues and clients as a man of business capable of finding solutions in complex situations.

During a spell as General Manager, at Celtic Football Club in the late nineties, one of his principal tasks was to avoid contractual difficulties which had troubled the club in the past. This added further to his general business experience.

He is also widely known for his work as a sports broadcaster, having commentated on major football and golf events over the past three decades, and has regularly been called upon to give seminars on sports law topics.

Jock is also the Chair of the CU Trust Scotland.



Alec McGivan

Until his retirement in March 2013 Alec was the Head of BBC Outreach, Corporate Responsibility & Partnerships.

Alec organised the BBC's Beyond Broadcast Outreach activities across the BBC's six public purposes - citizenship, education, international, creativity, UK communities, and emerging communications. Outreach concentrates on face-to-face interaction with audiences, usually those harder to reach, and producing user-led content for broadcast. He was responsible for reporting on and communicating the BBC's Corporate Responsibility (CR) performance via the annual CR report and a range of other publications and events.

He is a trustee of the BBC Performing Arts Fund and the Children's University.

Previously he was Events Director to the City of London and Chief Executive of the Shakespeare Globe Trust as well as being in charge of media relations at Euro 96. Alec has also had experience of working with many of Britain's leading charities. Before taking on BBC Outreach, Alec had a lead role in the Charter Renewal team.



Jim Muir

Jim graduated as a Bachelor of Accountancy in the Faculty of Law at The University of Glasgow. He trained as a Chartered Accountant in Glasgow with Peat Marwick (now KPMG) and initially worked in audits and acquisitions. He left KPMG to become the Finance Director of a construction group and served as a director in an architectural practice and a football agency as well as serving as acting finance director in a premier league football club. He has subsequently spent most of his career in Financial Services, firstly with Barclays Stockbrokers and then a national IFA and wealth manager before resuming a career in consulting with, among others, KPMG and RSM.

Jim is Chair of CU Trust's Finance, Audit and Risk Committee as well as being a Director of CU Trading, a subsidiary company of the charity. He is also a Trustee of Children's University Scotland, one of the network members of CU Trust.

Outside of CU Trust, Jim sits on the board of The Dudley Building Society and holds several non-executive roles. In addition, Jim is a governor of the Warrington Primary Academy Trust.



Lynne Upton 

Lynne first joined Children's University as Director of Learning in 2011 to manage the development of the Children's University's curriculum for learning. After retiring in 2016 she became a Trustee of CU Trust.

Prior to working for Children's University, Lynne was employed as a Senior Curriculum Advisor with the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority (QCDA). She started her career as a Modern Foreign Languages teacher, and has worked with children, undergraduates and adults in a range of institutions in Leicestershire and Nottingham.