Phil Wilkinson

Phil Wilkinson


Phil Wilkinson is the group CEO at Ascentis, one of the UK’s leading educational charities. He is also Vice Chair of the governing board at Nelson & Colne College Group.

Career Overview

Ascentis began life as the former Open College of the North West [OCNW], an unincorporated association of colleges and universities. Wilkinson joined as CEO in 2001, shortly after a three-year spell as assistant principal at Burnley College.

Upon joining, Wilkinson set about transforming OCNW from an unregulated regional accreditation body into one of the UK’s leading regulated awarding organisations, also known as an exam board. Within a year OCNW was operating across the UK, providing a range of educational qualifications regulated by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority [now known as Ofqual] and the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education.

Following a period of steady growth, Wilkinson took the decision in 2009 to break OCNW away from the university that was hosting it, in order to form an independent legal entity. He incorporated the organisation into a company limited by guarantee and secured formal charity status from the Charity Commission. The new entity was rebranded as Ascentis, and has given rise to significant growth including relocation to new facilities in Lancaster and increasing turnover to £5 million per year. It has also become one of the UK’s leading exam boards.

Wilkinson has also established a subsidiary company, International Dyslexia Learning Solutions, to provide specialist Literacy and Numeracy to schools in the UK and overseas.

Since 2016, Wilkinson has sat on the board of the Nelson & Colne College Group, advising the board on all matters relating to Adult Community Learning provision.


Wilkinson holds two science degrees, having completed a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences at Nottingham University and a Master of Science in Human Biology at Loughborough University. 

Wilkinson has also studied Education at degree level, completing a postgraduate certificate in Further Education Teaching at the University of Bolton, and a Master of Education degree at the University of Manchester. 

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