Executive Group

Our Convener, Vice-Convener and Director play key roles in the strategic direction of the organisation

Convener: Professor Andrea Nolan OBE

Our Convener, Professor Andrea Nolan OBE determines our priorities for the term of her two-year office, she chairs the Main Committee meeting of all Principals and identifies and builds consensus within the sector.

Andrea was elected to the role of Convener by her peers and took up the position from 1 August 2016. She was re-elected for a second term in 2018.

Andrea is passionate about widening participation and will lead the sector’s response to the Commission for Widening Access in her capacity as US Convener. Andrea has been deeply involved in quality enhancement and enhancement themes in university teaching through membership and Convenership of the Scottish Higher Education Enhancement Committee. She has played a key role in Universities Scotland in driving forward policy on research excellence and impactful research and innovation. This is an area she remains invested in as Convener and as a member of the Scottish Government’s Ministerial Review Group. Andrea will oversee the sector’s role in Brexit and energetically pursue the sector’s objectives of continued collaboration and free movement of talent and ideas across Europe.

Andrea previously convened Universities Scotland’s Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee.

Key Facts

  • Principal of: Edinburgh Napier University
  • Route into university: With the support of her parents and highly motivated and inspiring school teachers, Andrea was among the first generation in her family to go to university.
  • Academic specialism:  Veterinary Pharmacology
  • Career profile: Andrea became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University in July 2013 following a range of leadership roles in the University of Glasgow. After a short time in veterinary practice, Andrea embarked on an academic career which took her to the Universities of Cambridge, Bristol and the Technical University of Munich. She was appointed Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology in 1998 and is an established research leader in the field of animal pain.

Read more about Andrea’s academic career here.

Vice Convener: Professor Gerry McCormac

Professor Gerry McCormac was re-elected to serve a second term as Vice Convener to serve from August 2018.

The Vice Convener is elected every two years by his fellow Principals. Together the two roles help to achieve broad representation across a diverse sector.

Gerry is currently Vice-Convener of Universities Scotland Main Committee, a board member of UCEA, chairman of the UCEA Scottish Committee, and a Trustee of the Carnegie Trust.  He is a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries (FSA), the Higher Education Academy (FHEA) and the Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturers (FRSA). He chaired a review of teacher employment in Scotland for the Scottish Government in 2011.

Key Facts

  • Principal of: the University of Stirling
  • Route into university: Gerry is one of the first generation in his family to attend university.
  • Academic specialism: Space Physics, Carbon Dating, Climate Change.
  • Career profile: Professor McCormac became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling in May 2010. He is a scientist with research interests in both space physics and carbon dating.

Read more about Gerry’s academic career here.

Director: Alastair Sim

Alastair Sim has been our Director since July 2009, joining from the Scottish Civil Service. The Director has chief executive responsibility for the management of the organisation.

Since 2009 he has built the Universities Scotland team and supported members through two Scottish election, three general elections, two referendums, several spending reviews, the student support review,  the Scottish Government’s project on the learner journey and preparation for Brexit. He has represented Universities Scotland in Parliament and in the media, and has served on many committees and working groups developing policy affecting higher education.

As a senior civil servant, Alastair developed new Scottish legislation on protection of the natural environment and on constitutional reform and was most latterly Director of Policy and Strategy at the Scottish Courts before joining Universities Scotland. Among other roles he served as Private Secretary to Ministers in the Commons and the Lords.

Alastair holds degrees from OxfordDelaware and Glasgow universities (where he was a student and an executive director at the same time) and studied for the CIPR Diploma in Public Affairs at Queen Margaret University. He has had two thrillers published: Rosslyn Blood (2004) and The Unbelievers (2009)