March 14, 2024

ENOHE Awards Honorary Memberships to Longtime Advocates

The European Network of Ombuds in Higher Education bestowed lifetime memberships to five long-standing activists for ENOHE – two from the UK, one from Spain, one from Mexico, and one from Austria. ENOHE statutes allow the General Assembly to award the honor "whose services to the Association have been of outstanding merit and who have contributed to the development of the Association." The following five individuals were awarded:

Jose Manuel Bayod y Bayod, a professor of mathematics at the Universidad de Cantabria in Santander, Spain, served as the Defensor (Ombudsman) from 2001 to 2011. In this role, he engaged in the very early years with ENOHE and contributed essentially to its development through manifold supportive activities over more than a decade. He was part of ENOHE ever since its founding conference in Amsterdam in 2003. He eagerly assisted in making the network become a reality. He contributed to several ENOHE conferences as a speaker and with articles to follow-up and stand-alone publications within the network. Through numerous special activities and his good contacts and networking skills, Manuel connected ENOHE with CEDU, the Spanish National Ombudspersons Network, and REDDU, the Mexican Ombudspersons Network, on the other. Ever since the ENOHE statutes were first discussed in Hamburg 2009 Manuel played an important role in sharing his experiences from the Spanish situation for the process. What should not be forgotten at all is the now-consecrated Bayod Formula: “As much talking as possible, as little writing as necessary.” Which is how Manuel once described the main principles for the work of Ombudspersons at an ENOHE conference.

Felicity Mitchell, from 2018 until 2023 the head of the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education in England and Wales (OIAHE), and before that the Deputy Adjudicator for nine years, brought over 20 years’ experience in Ombuds schemes as a barrister to her position at OIA. She had been working for this organization serving as an independent body for student complaints ever since 2004. Her main interests in working with ENOHE were the values of coming together with colleagues from different organizations and different jurisdictions and sharing good practice and learning from each other. When she stood for office as an ENOHE board member in 2019, she stressed in her election statement the importance of National Ombudsmen to be on that body. She was involved in the association’s governance development by offering her insight, good judgement, analytical and problem-solving skills, political intelligence, as well as her considerable experiences in conflict handling. Felicity had been active within ENOHE ever since the ENOHE London Annual Conference in 2008. She contributed essentially to conferences and bilateral events, giving legal advice, designing necessary changes of our statutes over the years, and supporting to get ENOHE's “Values and Principles” document prepared and finalized in 2023.

Leoncio Lara Sáenz, the long-time Defensor Universitario (University Ombudsman) of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (from 2003 to 2011) and Secretary General of the Mexican National Network of University Ombuds Offices REDDU, whose main promotor he was, as well as the Vice President of the Instituto Latinoamericano del Ombudsman. He holds a law degree from the Autonomous University of Chihuahua in Mexico and a Doctorate in Law from the University of Napoli in Italy, a full member of the Illustrious and National Bar Association of Mexico and has been a member of the Executive Council of the Mexican Centre of the Institute of Latin American Studies at the University of Texas. Ever since 2007, at ENOHE’s 5th annual conference in Antwerp, Belgium, Leoncio stood out as a vivid contributor to their meetings. His special merit was his support to connect with REDDU and jointly extend the idea and concept of University Ombuds offices also to our Latin American colleagues. With his contributions to events on both sides of the Atlantic he supported ENOHE's and other networks' professional development with his rich experiences from daily work. On the benefits of the existence of University Ombudsmen's offices, Leoncio once clearly stated: "The Ombudsman's office will act in good faith and with equity to preserve and enforce the legal order of and within the University, with the aim of to eradicate unreasonableness, arbitrariness, injustice and abuse of authority. The Ombudsman's Office has been established as a participatory and democratic mechanism.”

Robert “Rob” Fredrick Behrens has been Chief Executive and Independent Adjudicator for the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education (OIA) for England and Wales from 2008 to 2017 and a very dedicated ally for ENOHE. Behrens joined the British Civil Service in 1988. In 1992, he became the Director of the Southern African Development Unit then preparing a Post-Apartheid Public Service. He was promoted to the Senior Civil Service in 1997 and became the Director of the International Public Service Group, assisting 25 European countries in transition, also those seeking membership to the European Union. He then became the Secretary to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, focusing on ethics and conduct of public office holders. Working for the Bar Standards Board he published a strategic review of complaints and disciplinary processes. In 2008, Rob became the Head of the OIAHE and immediately started his cooperation with ENOHE during the London Conference. He since then interacted with his European colleagues on “Ombudsing” issues, e.g. when writing the three Pathway Reports (2008-2011) stressing the importance of students at the heart of the higher education system. With and for ENOHE, Rob accounted for many policy areas, edited the “Behrens Bible” Being an Ombudsman in Higher Education, co-formulated conference titles and thematic streams and was often sought as a keynoter and speaker. He helped to keep the informal network alive with the ENOHE Oxford Conference 2013 making it more formal and going online. Rob Behrens was appointed Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman in spring 2017 and still holds this position.

Josef Alfred Karl Leidenfrost is the ENOHE Immediate Past President and former Austrian Student Ombudsman (2001-2022). He served as ENOHE’s first elected president from 2019 until 2023 and is now holding the position of a presidential adviser. Leidenfrost started his professional career as a television journalist in the early 1980s. He holds a PhD in contemporary history and an MA in mediation. He joined the Austrian Ministry of Higher Education in 1988 and served as adviser to three ministers in the 1990s and early 2000s on such issues as academic internationalization, higher education, national and European scholarship programs, and students’ rights and duties. In 2001 he was appointed as Head of the Office of the Austrian Student Ombudsman at the Ministry of Higher Education, enshrined by law 2011. Beginning in 2001 he played a pivotal role in setting up a complaint and acceptance management system for Austrian higher education institutions and a central agency for students’ complaints at the Ministry. He is the co-founder (together with Kristl Holtrop) of the European Network of Ombudsmen in Higher Education (ENOHE) in 2002 and co-organized all annual conferences since 2003. There he also gave a lot of speeches on different aspects of the Ombuds profession. He was the creator and editor of ENOHE’s occasional papers and of conference and webinar publications. He is currently devoted to creating ENOHEpedia (expected to be on-line by mid-2024), an electronic thesaurus compiling documents and video files from the first 20 years of ENOHE (and beyond).

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