Peter Williams was born and went to school in Oxford; he graduated in English from the University of Exeter. From March 2002 until his retirement in September 2009 he was Chief Executive of the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA), having spent the previous 12 years creating and working in QAA and its two predecessor organisations. Between 1984 and 1990 he was the Deputy Secretary of the British Academy. His earlier career was in the printing industry and the administrations of the Universities of Surrey and Leicester; in the latter of these he served as Secretary to the Medical School. During his time at QAA, he worked to make quality assurance a vital tool for professional academics and a means of underpinning and promoting the strengths and reputation of higher education in the UK.
In addition to his work in the UK, Peter has made presentations and participated in many international quality assurance projects in Europe, South America, the USA, Canada, China, India, the Middle East, Japan, Korea, Australia and New Zealand. Between 2005 and 2008 he was President of the European Association for Quality Assurance in Higher Education (ENQA) and was one of the principal authors of the original European Standards and Guidelines for Quality Assurance in Higher Education.
Since his retirement in 2009, Peter has taken on a number of voluntary roles, including Vice-Chair of the Board of Governors and Chair of the Audit Committee of Cardiff Metropolitan University, Chair of the Board of Academic Advisers and Trustee at Richmond, the American University in London, and Chair of the British Accreditation Council for Independent Further and Higher Education. He is also a member of the Education Honours Committee and the Treasurer of Little Malvern Priory.
Peter was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen's Birthday honours list in 2009 in recognition of his services to higher education. He holds honorary Doctorates of Laws from the University of Leicester and the former Higher Education Training and Awards Council of Ireland (HETAC), an honorary PhD from the University of Gloucestershire, is a Fellow of the University of Worcester as well as an honorary Fellow of the College of Teachers. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. He now works, when time permits, as an independent higher education consultant.
Peter is married to Fiona, a graduate in earth science and they have two sons, Edmund and Hugo. They live in Norfolk, surrounded by books.