A former 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Tank Regiment, between 1982 and 1994, Holland held the posts of Director, Manpower Services Commission; Permanent Secretary at the Department of Employment and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education.
Some of his involvement with education during this period include the Youth Training Scheme, the Restart Programme, the National Curriculum and the initiative that saw polytechnics become independent new universities. From 1998 to 2002 he was President of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development and was Chair of the Government’s Sustainable Development Education Panel from 1998 to 2003.
Sir Geoffrey, when Vice-Chancellor of Exeter University, denounced odd-ball cults. When the 'London Church of Christ' (not a think tank) hired Exeter University facilities for a conference, the media backlash propelled Holland to disassociate himself and his university from the "methods of recruitment and activities of the London Church of Christ... such activities are not welcome here now, during the conference, or in the future".
Holland is a Governor (along with Baroness Butler-Sloss) and Chairman of the Merchant Taylors' Company Educational Trust (MTET) which acts as steward of the affairs of both Merchant Taylors’ & St John’s Schools. The Merchant Taylors' School website tells us: "The Governing Body consists of: representatives of the Worshipful Company of Merchant Taylors' of the Fraternity of St John Baptist in the City of London." This provides some background on Holland adding: "He wrote the Government report Young People at Work (1977) - widely regarded as a turning-point in the battle against youth unemployment." The website praises Holland on the grounds that:
- "Above all, he has challenged the divide between 'Academe' and 'Mammon', understanding that a post-industrial economy would increasingly prize 'soft skills' and breadth rather than a narrower subject-specific expertise."
Mammon, the Biblical god of money, would seem to be omnipresent in Holland's world. Holland's major achievements include overseeing the establishment of the University of Exeter School of Business and Economics. He is also a non-executive Director of Limia Investment Group PLC. He was a member of the Government’s Committee on the Future of Higher Education (the “Dearing” Committee) from 1996 to 1997. This brought together representatives of Sainsbury’s, the Weir Group, Psion plc, Ulster Bank, Glaxo Wellcome plc and Brenda Dean (now Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde) to challenge the divide between “Academe” and “Mammon”.
Holland is an appointee at the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) and chairs the Government’s Quality Improvement Agency for Lifelong Learning.
Holland calls "for a big expansion of programmes in which higher education leaders sit alongside leaders in business..."
- Simon Midgley and Donald MacLeod, "Vice squad: What sort of people make successful vice-chancellors, and what exactly is their business?", WorkThing.com, 1 April 2003