Endorsements

A selection of endorsements for Neil Blakeman’s work in Asia, Education & Business

Education

I had the pleasure of working with Neil during my time at both the Open University and FutureLearn.
With the OU from 2010-14, Neil helped to plan and drive our strategic expansion into China, and the evaluation of other key Asian markets.
For FutureLearn from 2013-17, an initial focus on China & Asia, government relations and the British Council, was followed by a full-time role as Chief Business Officer, during which FutureLearn achieved remarkable growth; in partners, courses, markets and revenue. Neil played a crucial role in the company’s success.
I would not hesitate to recommend Neil highly: his ability to think strategically, whilst planning and executing with energy and focus, achieves very impressive results. I found his approach, deep understanding and insights invaluable.

Martin Bean CBE

Vice-Chancellor and President, RMIT University
Former Vice-Chancellor Open University & Founding Chairman, FutureLearn

Education

Good Growth helps businesses grow revenue and margin by putting the customer first; working with clients to improve website performance, optimisation and digital marketing with very significant results. Neil has worked closely with us to  expand our offer to Universities and Professional Bodies, adapting our expertise from the world of e-commerce to higher education and professional training. His broad understanding of the sector, its commercial challenges, online engagement and digital learning has proved vital in ensuring our successful growth in these areas. Neil is diligent, thoughtful and applies a structured and disciplined approach to business development. He has added significant value to our business development team.

Neil is an outstanding performer and a valuable colleague - having worked alongside him in several roles over the years I can attest to the quality of his work and his integrity and values.

Professor Chris Bones

Chairman & Co-Founder, Good Growth

Education

Neil worked at FutureLearn for 4 years. He oversaw the rapid growth of partners, courses, learners and revenues that the company has enjoyed over that period. He built and led an excellent team who development partnerships with over a quarter of the world’s top 200 universities, across the USA, Asia-Pacific, Africa and Europe. The number of registered learners grew from 0.5 million to 6.5 million during this period. He built revenue streams, including the delivery of full online degrees for partners, won our first major government and corporate contracts, and managed the delivery of a world-class portfolio of online courses.

Neil is very strong strategically and in delivering business growth. He has developed a deep knowledge of the education sector and its digital development. He led a large team and was able to stay on top of a wide range of complex issues and opportunities. He was comfortable in a start-up environment with aggressive targets and growth strategies and brought a considered and mature approach to an often hectic environment.

He shares the credit for growing the company to become one of the leading online learning companies in the world.

Simon Nelson

CEO, Futurelearn

Education

HEP UK is one of the global leaders in online programme management; it successfully supports universities to build and accelerate their online degree courses. Neil has worked with us in strengthening business development, from our early start-up period. His determined approach and valuable input has yielded exciting results, with our proposition being very positively received by university partners. I have appreciated Neil’s measured style, supported by a strong understanding of the dynamics of online education. This is the third occasion for Neil and I to work together, building on previous experience at the Open University and at FutureLearn.

Steve Hill

CEO & President, Higher Ed Partners UK
Former CEO, Open University Worldwide & Chairman FutureLearn

Business

Neil and I worked together on a challenging, international assignment for a world-leading UK Government healthcare agency.
I was struck by Neil’s unusual combination of strategic insight, allied with practical implementation and strong empathy for the client.
We worked well as team, providing a strong blend of skills and experience, on a complex and challenging project.
The results were highly impressive; our findings were very positively taken on board and our recommendations largely implemented, with considerable success.

Patrick Glydon

CFO Clifford Chance

China

I had the great pleasure of working closely with Neil Blakeman over several years, while he served as Director of UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) at the British Embassy in Beijing. Neil's consistently positive and proactive attitude was highly effective in dealing with the complex challenges his role presented.  His blend of private and public sector experience enabled him to bring real depth of understanding to business issues, and to address those issues within a government context. Furthermore, his clear thinking, strategic vision and managerial expertise were much in evidence as he successfully restructured and expanded the UKTI team in China.

Patrick Horgan OBE

Chairman, British Chamber of Commerce, Beijing, 2004-2006

Regional Director, North East Asia, Rolls Royce

China

We have built an excellent working relationship with Neil and his team in China. He has invaluable insights and unrivalled experience of the inter-relationship between business and government here in China, not to mention his own personal background pre-UKTI as Commercial Director with a variety of top FMCG branded corporations in developing markets such as Central & Eastern Europe.

Guy Dru-Drury OBE

Chief Representative – China, NE, SE Asia Confederation of British Industry

China

Our work together covered commercial interests specific to BP but also broader issues concerning British business in China and the work of the British Chamber during my Chairmanship.

I always found our collaboration fruitful. Neil has an in-depth grasp of international business, particularly trade and investment. This includes good insights into the varying operating environments in China, as well as a number of other emerging markets. Personally he is engaging and able to be both a good team player and strong leader. Most important for me he was always results oriented.

In our work together I have observed that he has good experience in many areas, including market assessment, entry strategy, problem solving, and working with other cultures. Additionally he has demonstrated a very clear understanding of the needs of both large and small companies.

GARY DIRKS PhD CMG

Group Vice President, BP p.l.c.
President, BP China
Chairman,British Chamber of Commerce, Beijing, 2002-4. Member, UK Government’s China Task Force

China

Neil has strong experience of advising a range of British companies on China. He and his team brought a clear commercial focus to UK Government policy developments. In addition, Neil played the lead role in progressing joint working by Government and Industry in priority sectors, together with extensive lobbying, managing many Ministerial visits and challenging key trade barriers.

PETER BATEY CMG, OBE

Chairman, Great Britain China Centre (2004 – 14)
Vice Chairman, China Britain Business Council
Beijing Representative of the City of London (2006-8)
Chairman, Vermillion Partners, Beijing