Keele alumnus plays pivotal role in New Zealand’s fight against Covid-19

Having graduated from Keele University in 1984 with a First Class Honours Degree in International Relations, Mark Evans OBE is now Deputy Chief Executive of Service Delivery at New Zealand Police and has been playing an important role in managing the country’s response to Covid-19.

I studied International Relations at Keele between 1980-1984 and graduated with First Class Honours. The first year consisted of a Foundation Year which was really valuable and a great basis to build upon in the subsequent years of my course. The subject of International Relations was really interesting to me as my father worked in Libya when I was young so I spent a lot of my school holidays there. The department at Keele had a really good reputation and I recall the University as being a really fantastic place to study.

I particularly enjoyed the campus feel and visited quite a lot before I started my course. When I was at university, I remember we travelled quite a lot, such as to North Wales, to Anfield to watch football, and various other places. I am a keen Swansea City and Welsh Rugby fan so it was not surprising that I played quite a bit of sport too. I lived in Lindsay Block C overlooking the fields and I am still in touch with some of the people I shared a corridor with - it really is true that some of the friendships you make at university can last a lifetime.

When I first left Keele I applied to work for a firm of accountants which was not right for me and was quite short-lived. I then went on to get some part time jobs before I applied for and was successful for a job in defence intelligence at the Ministry of Defence in London. This was where I started my career in intelligence and I have had that as a professional anchor for quite a long time. For the last 10 years I have taught intelligence at University College London where I am a Visiting Professor.

I later moved to Belfast where I was the Director of Analytical Services in the Northern Ireland Police Service. I joined around the time of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and established the Police Service of Northern Ireland Analysis Centre which was helping the police and partner agencies to provide a better community service whilst also tackling crime, supporting national security events, homicide, and serious and organised crime. It was quite successful and over a period of several years made quite a big difference. In 2006 I was awarded an OBE at Buckingham Palace for services to policing which recognised the team I worked with in Northern Ireland and, I would say, off the back of some of the things I learned at Keele.

 Mark being awarded his OBE at Buckingham Palace in 2006 

I have worked for New Zealand Police since my family first moved to the country in 2008 and I have been fortunate to have various roles from starting out as Director of Intelligence to now being Deputy Chief Executive of Service Delivery.

In my current role I have been supporting the New Zealand Government in the Covid-19 operational response. We have a National Crisis Management Centre and as part of that we needed to create an all-of-government operational capability including a joint insights group which has provided data, analytics and intelligence support to our response. I have also been helping to enable a number of all-of-government workstreams to manage the operational response to the pandemic and to ensure that agencies work effectively together to deliver services to the New Zealand public. It has been really interesting and quite challenging but I think it has helped the government manage the crisis so it has been very professionally rewarding.

Keele definitely helped me to get where I am today. Back in 1980, moving away from home to go to university was a big thing as there weren’t any computers, the internet or smartphones, so it really did help me to become self-sufficient. I remember the opportunity to be around teachers and other students with whom I had a shared interest was really enriching too. Being awarded a First Class Honours degree has been incredibly helpful in applying for jobs and I still use some of the information I Iearnt in the eighties today. Keele was a great start for me and helped me enormously to do what I wanted to do in my career.

My advice to students now would be to be ambitious about what you can achieve and don’t be afraid to make decisions. I know it can seem quite daunting and I made the mistake of applying for the wrong job when I first left university. Ultimately this was beneficial as it taught me what I didn’t want to do and I made the choice to pursue a career that was better suited for me.

Keele helped me and gave me a career which has literally taken me all over the world. I wouldn’t swap that for anything.