generic speaker image
Julie Cafley - Public Policy Forum. Ottawa, ON, CA

Julie Cafley

Senior Vice President | Public Policy Forum

Ottawa, ON, CANADA

Julie Cafley is a frequent speaker and commentator on issues relating to higher education leadership and governance.





loading image loading image





Julie Cafley is Senior Vice-President of Policy and Partnerships at the Public Policy Forum. She holds a PhD in educational leadership. Her thesis focussed on the unfinished mandates of university presidents in Canada.

Julie leads the partnership strategy for the Public Policy Forum and manages projects in the areas of public sector governance and ​innovation, with a particular focus on education and indigenous relations.

Previously, as the senior staff member to two presidents of the University of Ottawa, Julie Cafley played a key role in enhancing the profile and visibility of the University. As Chief of Staff in the Office of the President at the University of Ottawa, Julie worked closely with the President to develop and implement strategic initiatives. Julie led the student recruitment and liaison office before her time in the President’s office.

In 2012, Julie was chosen as one of the delegates for the Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference. And, in 2010, she was honoured as one of the Ottawa Business Journal's top 40 under forty for her business achievement, expertise, and community involvement.

Julie is passionate about the advancement of women in the workplace and has championed initiatives such as the University's Women and Leadership Series. She sits on the Advisory Board of Informed Opinions and was the inspiration behind the Cafley Committee website, a website designed to encourage the nomination of female leaders for external prizes and recognition.

Deeply committed to the well-being of the community around her, she played a key role in implementing Ottawa's first-ever Project Homeless Connect, a special one-day event that assists the homeless on the road to permanent housing and self-sufficiency and for 20 years, she organized an annual holiday stocking drive for children and families in need. Julie has served on the boards of her sons' school in Chelsea, QC and is an active Board member with the Parkinson’s Canada.

Industry Expertise (3)

Public Policy



Areas of Expertise (10)

Governance and Public Policy

Higher Education Administration

Women & Leadership

Community Development


Aboriginal Justice

Community Outreach

Program Development

Program Evaluation

Volunteer Management

Accomplishments (2)

Top 40 Under Forty (personal)


Selected by the Ottawa Business Journal

Gold Medal, Best Educational Fundraising campaign (professional)


Council for the Advancement and Support of Education

Education (4)

University of Ottawa: Ph.D., Educational leadership 2015

University of Ottawa: M.Ed., Educational Administration 2003

University of Ottawa: B.Ed., Education 1996

University of Ottawa: B.A., Second Language Teaching 1995

Affiliations (10)

  • Parkinson Society Canada : Board member Chair of the membership Committee
  • Essential Skills Ontario : Board member
  • Informed Opinions : Advisory Board
  • Famous Five Ottawa Committee : Advisory Board
  • Canadian Council for the Advancement in Education : Member
  • Council for the Advancement and Support in Education : Member
  • Women’s Executive Network and Women’s Business Network : Member
  • Regroupement des gens d’affaires francophones : Member
  • Ontario College of Teachers : Member
  • Canadian Society for the Study of Higher Education : Member

Languages (2)

  • English
  • French

Media Appearances (6)

Leadership in turbulent times

University World News  online


The shifting landscape at universities around the world is creating some unfortunate casualties. In the Canadian context, the presidents at the University of British Columbia, the University of Saskatchewan and L’Université du Québec à Trois-Rivières are some of its latest victims. In fact, we have seen at least 18 abrupt departures in Canada over the past decade – university presidents with an unfinished first term.

view more

Lack of access to capital holding First Nations communities back

Regina Leader-Post  


PPF vice-president Julie Cafley said the report emerged from the Ottawa-based think-tank’s roundtable discussion on Enhancing First Nation’s Access to Capital, which was attended by Assembly of First Nations Chief Perry Bellegarde and former prime minister Paul Martin ...

view more

UBC’s next president needs to have it all

Vancouver Sun  


Julie Cafley, vice-president at Canada’s Public Policy Forum, researched failed university presidencies for her PhD ...

view more

Why have so many Canadian university presidencies failed?

University Affairs  print


“Turfed,” “let go abruptly,” “resigned” or “quit” – the language may change but the scenario itself is discouragingly frequent. In the past decade alone, at least 18 Canadian university presidents have had their first mandates cut short. This is costly and unfortunate for all concerned. And my research suggests it’s largely avoidable.

view more

UBC president's resignation latest in trend of failed university leaders, says expert

CBC News  online


In Canada alone, 18 presidents either resigned or were fired before the end of their contract during the last 10 years, according to Julie Cafley, vice-president at the Public Policy Forum ...

view more

Universities need a new model of governance

The Globe and Mail  


When former University of British Columbia president Martha Piper was asked in 2011 about the impact a university president has, her swift response, after nearly 10 years at the helm before her retirement in 2006 was, “not much.” As Ms. Piper returns to the university as interim president after Arvind Gupta’s hasty departure this month, would she say the same thing today?

view more

Articles (2)

Building Authentic Partnerships: Aboriginal Participation in Major Resource Development Opportunities

Canada's Public Policy Forum


This report details the outcomes of a pan-Canadian roundtable series convened by the Public Policy Forum, in partnership with Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada and in collaboration with Natural Resources Canada, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada and the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency.

view more

Leadership In Higher Education: Case Study Research of Canadian University Presidents with Unfinished Mandates

Ph.D. Thesis - University of Ottawa


The trend of an increasing number of unfinished mandates of university presidents in Canada leads to some important questions that require further exploration. Through an in-depth series of interviews with six of the 16 Canadian university presidents with unfinished mandates, this research dives deeply into leadership experiences and highlights patterns and trends within the individual trajectories leading to their shortened mandate.

view more