Executive Team

Dr. Peter O’Brien

Executive Director

Peter was appointed Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities in April 2018. Prior to joining YU, he was Deputy Local Growth Consultant at the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). He is a Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies (CURDS), Newcastle University and a lay trustee on the Board of the University of Sunderland Students’ Union. Peter has worked in local and regional development in the north of England for over 20 years, including holding senior roles with a local enterprise partnership, city-region partnership and regional assembly. In March 2021, he was appointed as a Commissioner on the Yorkshire and Humber Climate Commission – the largest regional commission of its type in the UK.

Monika Antal

Assistant Director

Monika first joined YU in February 2014, as Project Coordinator of the ERDF funded Technical Assistance (YUTA). After YUTA finished she worked for the EU Policy Lab at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission in Brussels for three years before making her way back to Yorkshire in 2018 as YU’s Executive Manager. In December 2022, she was promoted to Assistant Director.

Marina Tapley

Policy and Research Officer

Marina joined YU as Policy and Research Officer in November 2021. She is a recent graduate of International Relations and French from the University of Leeds. Marina’s dissertation research focused on UK climate policy and she was a founding volunteer of the Leeds Student-Staff Climate Coalition. Marina spent a year abroad in Brussels working for IBF International Consulting and for Election Observation and Democracy Support, where she managed a database of human rights case law. Since graduating, Marina has worked for a domestic violence charity on their Home Options pilot project with Birmingham City Council.

Mark Hill


Mark is YU’s long-standing in-house accountant. He provides financial administration and advice to YU management and committees. He runs an accounting practice with mainly commercial clients. He is a former City of York Councillor.

Dr Richard Whittle

Chief Policy Fellow, Yorkshire & Humber Policy Engagement & Research Network (Y-PERN)

Richard is an economist researching digital inclusion and the impacts of new technology on work, the economy and society. His latest book – Algorithms, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency: The Future of the Workplace –  explores the effect of AI and decentralisation on work and the worker. Richard has recently received funding from the ESRC Productivity Insights Network to study the effects of technology mitigating the effects of COVID-19 on the retail and hospitality sectors and his work on technology and COVID-19 has recently been published in Government Gazette, the publication for the European Parliament. He holds a PhD from Keele University and an MBA from Bangor. Previously, Richard ran a postgraduate policy professional programme for the Civil Service and led on the technical report of the retail economy for the Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review. Recently, Richard has published on Universal Credit, the implications of moving to online retail due to Covid and on the post pandemic future of towns and cities. His research combines economics, behavioural science and sociology, and he is particularly interested in the linking of academic research to policy need.