StellarHE: Kafui Osuteye’s Journey as a Confident and Driven Financial Leader

Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders have so much to bring to the higher education sector, from knowledge and expertise to emotional intelligence, unique perspectives, and inclusive leadership skills.

Yet, the higher education sector as a whole is suffering from a lack of diversity at more senior levels. Racially diverse academic and professional staff report having to navigate daily microaggressions, glass ceilings, and even blatant discrimination.

We created the StellarHE programme to help tackle these issues by supporting and developing Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders across higher education institutions.

The programme equips leaders from all backgrounds with the unique leadership competencies and strategies they need to respond to the challenges and opportunities they face within the world of HE.

In this blog series, we introduce some of the recent StellarHE alumni and ask them about their experiences on the programme.

Introducing Kafui Osuteye, Finance Business Partner at the University of Kent

Kafui has recently been appointed to the role of Finance Business Partner at the University of Kent. Prior to this, she was the Finance and Resources Manager for the Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice at the University, a role she held for two years. She aspires to reach the highest level of financial management and ultimately drive financial strategy at the University.

We sat down with Kafui to find out why she joined the StellarHE programme, how the experience impacted her leadership style, and what key learnings she took away.

Why did you decide to take part in a programme that targeted Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders?

The University recently adopted a new anti-racism strategy, and as part of this, they committed to supporting staff from ethnically diverse backgrounds to take part in the StellarHE programme.

Having been recommended by my manager, I realised that the programme aligned with my own aspirations of becoming a more impactful, diverse leader within the University. After a competitive selection process, I was awarded one of seven University of Kent funded places on StellarHE.

What were your initial expectations, and what did you hope to gain from the programme?

I am one of few black women in senior management at the University so I hoped that the programme would provide me with the opportunity to enhance my management skills and develop my strategic thinking, as well as give me the confidence to step up and make a more significant contribution at the University. I also hoped to have the opportunity to network with Black, Asian and ethnically diverse colleagues from other institutions.

How did the programme live up to those expectations?

I had expected the usual training programme where a facilitator stands at the front and gives you the ‘seven keys to management success’ – that kind of thing! The StellarHE programme was completely different, and much more involved. Even the prep work before the actual training was deeply reflective.

During the programme itself, there was a lot of input from the participants – we were very much involved in bringing the learning together. This meant that we could bring and adapt our own leadership styles and find our own answers. The programme surpassed my expectations, it was excellent!

Which aspects of the programme had the greatest impact on you?

I valued having the time and space to reflect on my own leadership style and look back at my achievements, as that’s not something we often have the time to do.

Sharing my reflections with my peers and receiving feedback from them was really eye opening and impactful. With the support of my amazing coach Jackee Holder, it meant a lot to me just to reflect and see my own leadership journey, from where I started, to where I am now, with all I have achieved along the way.

As part of our StellarHE journey, we also focused on the different ‘rules of the game’ for Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders in Higher Education, and I came away with new strategies and approaches to help me navigate my way through the university as a minority in a majority culture. I found this to be incredibly empowering.

Were you able to open up about your experiences with the rest of the cohort? Did you find that you were able to take part in difficult conversations?

Absolutely! It really did feel like a safe space, because obviously, all the participants were from a similar background to me so we had many shared experiences. I often found myself nodding as people were sharing, because I could relate to them so strongly. I also felt that I could open up and share my own experiences, without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.

StellarHE brought to life the connection between my identity and lived experience as a Black woman and my approach to leadership.

As part of the course, each participant was asked to identify a key leadership challenge that they wanted to tackle within their organisation. Are you able to share how you’re progressing with that?

For me, the programme highlighted the need for more Black, Asian and ethnically diverse staff at the University. The student population is incredibly diverse, but that’s not reflected in the makeup of the teaching staff or professional services staff. My challenge was therefore to grow more diverse talent at the University.

I did some research and discovered that it’s already one of the areas that the University has decided to strategically focus on. For me, the fact that the university had also identified this as a pressing need, is a big win!

After the programme, the cohort from our University had the opportunity to present our leadership challenges to the Executive Group (EG). As part of my presentation, I shared my action plan, which involves conducting a survey to identify the factors that prohibit people from diverse backgrounds from applying for roles at the University as well as what prevents the few that are shortlisted from being appointed into roles. I also intend to do a peer review to learn best practices from other Universities. Finally, I will work alongside our Human Resources team in order to review and improve our processes to ensure that we are doing all we can to grow a diverse talent at the University. The EG was extremely supportive of this.

What makes StellarHE different from other leadership programmes? What’s uniquely Black about it, and how important is that lived experience?

Any training programme is only as good as the people facilitating it. The StellarHE facilitators, coaches and guest speakers knew what they were talking about, and they all came from that place of lived experience. They were able to speak to the key issues that we were discussing.

I also appreciated the fact that the other participants were from the same demographic and working in the same sector, so we could all share relatable experiences and learn from each other. For most of my HE career, I have felt like the ‘only one’, but the power of StellarHE is in becoming part of a powerful network and community of racially diverse leaders across Higher Education, that I can now turn to for advice and support.

There were also varied learning approaches on the course, from facilitated conversations and reflective practice to leadership diagnostics and coaching sessions. All of that came together to make the programme truly unique.

Following StellarHE, have you been able to define your leadership style?

As part of the programme, we were asked to summarise how we see our signature leadership style. Mine said:

“I’m a confident, driven and diverse leader, who through equipping and mentoring, empowers my team to work in a family-like environment in order to provide our key stakeholders with exceptional quality service, and solutions that are timely and effective.”

I’m all about mentoring, equipping and empowering people. I believe that if we all work together and everyone is happy within our work environment, it leads to a team that provides an excellent and efficient service. So yes, that statement encapsulates my leadership style.

Why is this programme necessary for the higher education sector? And do you think it’s relevant to other sectors outside higher education?

I think this programme is vital for the higher education sector, as well as being extremely relevant in other sectors. In fact, I’d say it’s relevant across the whole of society because racism is systemic and ingrained hence the time for a paradigm shift is now! We need to change how we think about race and diversity. Each person brings their own unique strengths, and we’re all better together.

Would you recommend the StellarHE programme to other Black, Asian and ethnically diverse leaders who might be wondering if the programme is for them?

I would unreservedly recommend this programme to other diverse leaders. It will take you on a journey of self-discovery and help you to understand who you are as a leader. And in doing that, it will empower you to believe in yourself, see your value, and bring your full, authentic self to your workplace and beyond!

Join our next StellarHE cohort!

The StellarHE programme builds on modern leadership models and thinking to help diverse leaders progress in senior management roles.

We use a variety of learning approaches including leadership diagnostics, facilitated dialogue, experiential activities and reflective coaching to equip participants with the tools and strategies to drive sustained change in the organisations they work for.

If you would like to register for the next cohort in 2024, please visit:

We’ll be sharing more of our team’s insights over the coming months, keep checking back to see our latest thinking…