Who We Represent

Universities Scotland is proud to represent all 19 of Scotland's higher education institutions
We work on behalf of the Principals and Directors of all 19 higher education institutions. Please click on a picture to view individual Principal profiles.

University of Aberdeen

Principal: Professor George Boyne

Route into university

George attended Aberdeen Grammar School before studying at the University of Aberdeen where he became a double graduate.  He was the first person in his immediate family to attend university.

Academic Specialism

Explanation and evaluation of organisational performance in the public sector.

Concise career profile

Professor George Boyne became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Aberdeen on 1 August 2018.  Professor Boyne has spent the majority of his academic career in Wales.  He was Pro Vice-Chancellor, Head of the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and a member of University Executive Board at Cardiff Universitysince 2012. He was previously Dean of Cardiff University’s Business School, and is a world-leading expert on the performance of public sector organisations.

Professor Boyne has been a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences since 2010.

Abertay University

Principal: Professor Liz Bacon

Route into university

Liz attended Purley High School for Girls in Coulsdon, Surrey, and studied at Thames Polytechnic. She was second in her family to study for a degree, her sister having beaten her by a year.

Liz Bacon

Academic Specialism

Computer Science specialising in Artificial Intelligence.

Concise career profile

Prior to her appointment as Abertay’s Principal in spring 2022, Professor Bacon was the University’s Deputy Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. Liz joined Abertay in September 2018 and led the University’s activities in the areas of partnerships, teaching and learning, and research and knowledge exchange, while also pioneering a new Digital Strategy.

An international researcher in computer science, Liz is a worldwide speaker on a range of topics, including preparing staff and students for the fourth industrial revolution’s impact on teaching, learning and work, and improving diversity and participation in STEM, particularly among women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Throughout her career, she has worked to improve quality and standards in higher education, including a focus on degree accreditation standards in computer science both in the UK and internationally.

Liz is a National Teaching Fellow, a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, a Chartered Engineer, Chartered Scientist and a Chartered IT Professional. She is also the current President of The European Quality Assurance Network for Informatics Education; a former President of BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT; a Past Chair of both the BCS Academy of Computing and the Council of Professors and Heads of Computing national committee; and a Trustee of Bletchley Park Trust.

University of Dundee

Principal: Professor Iain Gillespie

Route into university

Iain was born and raised in Edinburgh and obtained both a Bachelor’s degree and a Doctorate from the University of Edinburgh.

Academic Specialism


Concise career profile

Iain joined the University of Dundee in January 2021. Before that, he was Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, at the University of Leicester, a post he held since January 2016.

Before taking his role at Leicester, Iain was Director of Science and Innovation at the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s leading funder for environmental science, and was lead director across the seven UK research councils for international research, and was Visiting Professor in innovation in the life sciences at the University of Edinburgh.

Iain is a Founding Trustee of the UK’s Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and a member of Genome Canada’s Science and Industry Advisory Committee. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology.

University of Edinburgh

Principal: Professor Sir Peter Mathieson

Route into university

Peter was the first member of his family to go to university. He attended a state grammar school in Penzance, Cornwall, and went on to read Medicine at the London Hospital Medical College.

Academic Specialism

Clinical Medicine and Nephrology

Concise career profile

Peter Mathieson assumed the office of Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Edinburgh in February 2018.

He was awarded a First Class Honours from the University of London in 1983 and after junior medical posts, obtained a research training fellowship from the Medical Research Council (MRC) to study at the University of Cambridge. He was awarded a PhD in 1992 and went on to become Director of Studies for Clinical Medicine at Christ’s College, Cambridge. After a further MRC fellowship he moved to Bristol in 1995 as the foundation Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Bristol and Honorary Consultant Nephrologist, North Bristol NHS Trust.

In April 2014, Peter assumed office as the 15th President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, a post he held until January 2018.

Of the various prizes and academic awards that he has received, he is most proud of being voted “Teacher of the Year” by Cambridge medical students in 1992; the Milne-Muehrcke award from the Renal Association and the National Kidney Foundation of USA for “most promising young researcher” from UK in 1997; the UK Renal Association Lockwood Award (for contribution to academic renal medicine) in 2004; and being voted “top teacher 2011-12” by Foundation doctors at University Hospitals Bristol.

Edinburgh Napier University

Principal: Professor Andrea Nolan

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

Concise 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 including Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (1999 – 2004), Vice Principal for Learning & Teaching (2004 – 2009) and Senior Vice-Principal & Deputy Vice Chancellor (2009 – 2013).

Andrea graduated as a veterinary surgeon from Trinity College Dublin and after a short time in veterinary practice, embarked on an academic career which took her to the Universities of CambridgeBristol 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. Andrea is a board member of the following: QAA Scotland CommitteeHigher Education Statistics AgencyUniversities and Colleges Employers AssociationRoyal Zoological Society Scotland BoardInterface Advisory Board and the Moredun Foundation. Andrea is also a Trustee for Medical Research Scotland and is a member of the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce Council.  She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, a Fellow of the Royal Agricultural Societies and an honorary life member of the Association for Veterinary Teachers & Research Workers. Andrea was awarded an honorary OBE in 2013.


University of Glasgow

Principal: Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli

Route into university

Anton was the first in his family to go to university, having been born in Italy and having moved to the UK during his high school days. He originally studied physics and then moved to economics.

Academic Specialism


Concise career profile

Anton Muscatelli is a graduate of the University of Glasgowwho began his post as Principal there on 1 October 2009.

Anton began work as temporary lecturer in the University of Glasgow in 1984. He became a Professor of Economics in 1992, and was Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, 2000 to 2004, and Vice-Principal (Strategy, Budgeting and Advancement) from 2004 until 2007. He then moved to Heriot-Watt University where he was Principal and Vice-Chancellor from 2007 to 2009.

As Principal, Anton has led the University of Glasgow through two major strategic plans, and the University has improved its standing in major international league tables. He has championed widening access and internationalisation at the University. The University has also gained its best position in terms of research assessment outcomes in REF 2014 and research income. Glasgow continues to excel in its student experience.

Anton is currently President of the David Hume Institute, and a member of the Council of Economic Advisers of the Scottish Government, and of the Board of the Scottish Funding Council. He has served as a special adviser to the House of Commons Treasury Select Committee, and has been a consultant to the European Commission and the World Bank.

Anton was awarded a knighthood in 2017.


Glasgow Caledonian University

Principal: Professor Stephen Decent

Route into university

Professor Decent is dedicated to widening access to higher education for people from diverse backgrounds, having been the first member of his own family to go to university.

Professor Stephen Decent, Principal of Glasgow Caledonian University.

Academic Specialism


Concise career profile

Originally from Norwich, Professor Decent is no stranger to Scotland or Glasgow and loves the buzz of the city, with its growing inward investment and ambition for the future. An applied mathematician, Professor Decent studied at St Andrews University and was Vice-Principal and Head of the College of Art, Science and Engineering at the University of Dundee. He has also held senior posts at Lancaster and Birmingham universities.

Professor Decent brings substantial senior leadership experience and a strong affinity with the University’s values to the role. He joined Glasgow Caledonian from his position of Provost and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at Manchester Metropolitan University, where he led on strategic planning, academic delivery, and regional and business engagement, with a proven track record in widening access and growth of degree apprenticeships.

Formerly Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) and later Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic Development) at Lancaster University, and Vice-Principal and Head of College of the College of Art, Science and Engineering at the University of Dundee, Professor Decent chairs the UUK-Jisc national strategy group that governs negotiations with publishers on behalf of the UK’s Higher Education sector.

Having graduated with a BSc in Mathematics at Brunel University and a PhD at the University of St Andrews, Professor Decent moved to the University of Birmingham as a Research Fellow, followed by being a Lecturer, before becoming Professor of Applied Mathematics and later the Head of School of Mathematics. He then took on the additional role of Director of Research and Knowledge Transfer in the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences.

Professor Decent is a Fellow of the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications, and specialises in research on free-surface flows, including liquid jets and water waves. He also has a keen interest in hydrogen fuel cells.

The Glasgow Caledonian Principal and Vice-Chancellor position is the University’s most senior officer, responsible for the strategic direction and leadership of the University supporting more than 21,000 students in Scotland and around the world.

Glasgow School of Art

Director: Professor Penny Macbeth

Route into university

Penny joined The Glasgow School of Art in May 2020 as its new Director and CEO. Before that, Penny was Dean of Manchester School of Art and Deputy Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Arts and Humanities focusing on external engagement and partnerships.

Academic Specialism


Concise career profile

During her time at Manchester Metropolitan, Penny acted as academic lead for the University’s ground-breaking School of Digital Arts: SODA, which is due to open in 2021. Penny continues as board trustee of Castlefield Gallery and as board trustee of CHEAD (Council for Higher Education in Art and Design). On behalf of CHEAD she represents the sector on the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Crafts.

Penny is an active researcher and her work explores cloth’s potential as a carrier of narrative and catalyst for community empathy and cohesion. In March 2018 she co-convened the International Conference Textile and Place with colleagues from Manchester School of Art and The Whitworth Art Gallery. She presented a paper entitled ‘A Matter of Life and Death’ exploring what we might understand by socially engaged or socially enacted textiles. This paper has subsequently been published in a special edition of Textile: The journal of cloth and culture and a companion piece ‘Transcendental Beings: Clothing the Soul’ was commissioned by the Whitworth Art Gallery, for the exhibition catalogue to accompany the exhibition Ancient Textiles of the Andes.

Heriot-Watt University

Principal: Professor Richard A Williams

Route into university

Richard was a first in his family generation to enter higher education on a sandwich-style industrial degree in the mining sector in Scandinavia and South Africa. He undertook a PhD working with De Beers Diamonds.  Alongside his later career in HE he has worked in his own company start-ups in four locations in UK and USA.

Academic Specialism

Minerals and energy engineering

Concise career profile

Professor Richard A. Williams was appointed Principal and Vice Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in September 2015. The University operates from five locations in Edinburgh, Galashiels, Orkney, Dubai and Putrajaya in Malaysia.

Professor Williams is an engineer and entrepreneur with a background in minerals and energy engineering. He has extensive interests in the funding and deployment of radical environmental innovations. He is an Academician of The Royal Academy of Engineering, The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and is an Honorary Professor of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. He was appointed an OBE for services to science and engineering in 2008. He serves as Vice President of The Royal Academy of Engineering and is an elected Trustee of the Academy. He has worked on inter-governmental bodies relating to energy storage technology and policy and STEM education.

He is a graduate of Imperial College London (BSc(Eng), PhD) and has held academic posts as a chemical engineer at Manchester (UMIST), and the Universities of  ExeterLeedsand Birmingham. As Pro Vice Chancellor at Leeds and Birmingham he held major responsibilities for work in Asia, Middle East, South America and Malaysia. He was a founding operational director of the Manufacturing Technology Centre Catapult (2011-2015) in Coventry and, formerly, as an active elected member of the CBI Council.

University of the Highlands and Islands

Principal: Vicki Nairn

Route into university

Vicki grew up in Lancashire and was the first in her family to attend university.  Vicki attended the local comprehensive school where she was inspired by great teachers, and soon developed a passion for learning. She went on to read Classics and English Literature at Swansea University.  Vicki is passionate about promoting access to education and using philanthropy to support students on their learner journeys.

Academic Specialism

Vicki has held several roles across further, higher and clinical education, including Vice Principal Corporate Operations, at Robert Gordon University and Chief Executive of the RGU Foundation focused on engagement and philanthropy. Vicki has also been independently appointed to the boards of the Glasgow School of Art, UHI and most recently a ministerial appointment to NHS Education for Scotland which leads on clinical education across Scotland. Vicki specialises in engagement, strategy, partnerships, leadership, transformation, and innovation.

Concise career profile

In addition to her higher education experience, Vicki has also worked extensively across the private and public sectors including working with global multinationals BP and BAE Systems on joint ventures, major commercial developments, research and partnership programmes across the UK, US and Asia.  Vicki was also a founding member of an innovation start-up which grew to £50m over a five-year period, together with holding senior executive leadership roles in local, central government and the NHS.  During her employment with local government, Vicki acted as an advisor to the Scottish Government, supporting cross-party working groups and providing expert advice on public sector transformation, remote and rural strategic issues and education policy.

Vicki is a chartered fellow of the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply, specialising in strategic partnerships and clinical commissioning, and is a member of The Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy.

UHI logo

Open University in Scotland

Director: Susan Stewart

Route into university

Susan was the first in her family to go to university. She is a graduate of St Andrews University and Smith College, Massachusetts and became Director of the Open University in Scotland in December 2015.

Academic Specialism

Susan began her career in political journalism before moving into strategic communications and government relations.

Concise career profile

Susan was Depute Head of the Scottish Government Communications Office before being appointed as Scotland’s first Diplomat to the USA, setting up the Scottish Affairs Office in the UK Embassy in Washington DC.  Susan spent seven years at the University of Glasgow as Director of Corporate Communications and she is a passionate advocate of widening access.

Queen Margaret University Edinburgh

Principal: Sir Paul Grice

Route into university

Paul grew up in York. He has a deep-felt personal commitment to widening participation in higher education having come to university through further education college.

Academic Specialism

Before joining Queen Margaret University (QMU), Paul had a number of roles in higher education governance. Beginning with a role on the Court of the University of Stirling, his higher education roles have included membership of the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), board membership of Policy Scotland at the University of Glasgow, and fellowships of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and of the Centre for Science and Policy at the University of Cambridge.

Concise career profile

Paul joined the Civil Service through the “Fast Stream” in 1985.  He worked for the Department of Transport and then the Department of the Environment on bus deregulation, railways policy and local government finance. Paul joined the Scottish Office in 1992 working on housing and urban regeneration policy, then management of change. In May 1997 he joined the Constitution Group with responsibility for the Referendum on establishing the Scottish Parliament, and subsequently managed the Scotland Act which laid the new constitutional framework.

He then held the position of Clerk and Chief Executive of the Scottish Parliament from its inception in 1999 until he joined QMU, leading the delivery of all services to the Parliament alongside acting as its principal adviser on procedural and constitutional matters.

He was knighted in the New Year Honours List 2016 for services to the Scottish Parliament and voluntary services to higher education and the community in Scotland.

Robert Gordon University

Principal: Professor Steve Olivier

Route into university

Steve was the first of his family to go to university. He didn’t initially qualify for university entrance, primarily due to concentrating on rugby at school, and spent some time in the army before receiving exemption to attend university. He studied at Rhodes University in South Africa, focusing on Philosophy, History, and Sports Science. His PhD was on research ethics.

Academic Specialism

Applied Ethics

Concise career profile

Steve became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Robert Gordon University on 1 September 2020. In his early career in his native South Africa, Steve worked at Rhodes University, the University of Cape Town, and the University of Zululand. He then worked as a Head of Department at Edge Hill and Northumbria universities in England before moving through the ranks at Abertay University in Scotland as Head of School, Pro Vice-Chancellor and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. He then moved to the position of Provost and DVC at the University of the West of Scotland.

He serves on several Scottish and UK national educational bodies. A passionate advocate of what he labels the ‘curiosity imperative’, he believes that the primary function of universities is to inculcate a spirit of curiosity in students. This leads to him still being engaged in research in a variety of areas of interest, most notably in ethics.

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Principal: Professor Jeffrey Sharkey

Route into university

Jeff left High School early to enroll at University of Delaware. Then attended Manhattan School of MusicYale and Cambridge Universities.

Academic Specialism

Piano, Composition, Performing Arts and Academic Administration.

Concise career profile

RCS Principal since September 2014, pianist and composer Jeffrey Sharkey was previously Director of Johns Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute and Dean of the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Jeff spent the first 13 years of his career in the UK, as Head of Academic Music and Composition at Wells Cathedral Schooland then as Director of Music at the Purcell School.  He has also performed, recorded and toured extensively in Europe and the USA with the Pirasti Piano Trio, and is in demand as a chamber music coach, regularly giving masterclasses.

Scotland's Rural College

Principal: Professor Wayne Powell

Route into university

Wayne was born in a small mining village, Abercraf, in the Swansea Valley and was the first member of his family to attend University.

Academic Specialism

Plant genetics and breeding

Concise career profile

World leading plant scientist Professor Wayne Powell became Principal and Chief Executive of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in 2016. A land-based HEI SRUC delivers a diverse portfolio of services including research, education, training, disease surveillance and consultancy from its six campuses, labs and farms, veterinary investigation centres and local consultancy offices.

Prior to SRUC Professor Powell was Chief Science Officer at the CGIAR Consortium, an international partnership organisation focussing on agricultural research for development in areas such as cereals, agroforestry, livestock and climate change. He developed a research programme addressing the sustainable development agenda of healthy diets from sustainable food systems. This $1 billion programme involved 10,000 staff based in over 100 countries.

Professor Powell had previously spent six years as the Director of the Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS) at Aberystwyth University. He was also Director of the National Institute of Agricultural Botany(NIAB) in Cambridge, as well as Deputy Director of the Scottish Crop Research Institute (now the James Hutton Institute).

University of St Andrews

Principal: Professor Dame Sally Mapstone

Route into university

Sally attended her local grammar school in West London, and from there went up to Wadham College, Oxford – Wadham was one of the first Oxford colleges to become co-educational.

Professor Sally Mapstone, Principal of the University of St Andrews

Academic Specialism

Older Scots Literature

Concise career profile

Professor Sally Mapstone joined the University of St Andrews as Principal and Vice-Chancellor in September 2016. She had previously served as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education and as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Personnel and Equality at the University of Oxford.  She maintains a strong interest in issues both of access and of diversity within the HE sector.

Sally gained her BA and D.Phil. at Oxford. After completing her BA she worked for three years in London for the publisher Weidenfeld and Nicolson, and then went back to Oxford to do her Master’s and D.Phil, at Wadham and then atSt Cross College. She first joined St Hilda’s College as a Junior Research Fellow, later a Professor of Older Scots Literature in the Faculty of English Language and Literature, and then stayed for a further 30 years at the college as Official Fellow. St Hilda’s was the last women’s college at Oxford to admit men.

She is an expert on the literature of Scotland before 1707, and has published widely on literature both in Scots and in Latin, on political literature, and on book history. Earlier in her career she worked as an editor in the book publishing industry.  She is Honorary President of the Scottish Text Society, an Honorary Fellow of the Association for Scottish Literary Studies, and a Fellow of the English Association.

Professor Mapstone also has a long-standing engagement in European issues and has served on the steering group for the League of European Research Universities community of Vice-Rectors for Teaching and Learning; she is a member of the international advisory board for the University of Helsinki.

University of Stirling

Principal: Professor Sir Gerry McCormac

Route into university

First in his family to attend university.

Academic Specialism

Space Physics, Carbon Dating, Climate Change.

Concise career profile

Professor Sir Gerry 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.

His early career was spent at the University of Michigan, where he worked on the NASA Dynamics Explorer satellite program.  He subsequently headed up the high-precision carbon dating facility at Queen’s University Belfast. He became Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s in 2001 to 2010, with responsibility for Academic and Financial Planning, Economic Development and External Affairs.

He is a former Vice-Convenor of Universities Scotland Funding Policy Group (FPG), 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 (HEA) 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. In 2015/16 he served as an advisor to the NI Government during the merger of departments that created the Department for the Economy (DfE).

University of Strathclyde

Principal: Professor Sir Jim McDonald

Route into university

Jim was the first in his family to attend University – with his father and brothers having worked in ship building and engineering trades.  His interest in engineering grew as a pupil in St Gerard’s School in Govan through inspiring Physics and Maths teachers. He joined Strathclyde as an EEE student in 1974 and took his first job in the utility industry in 1978.

Academic Specialism

Electrical Power and Energy Systems

Concise career profile

Professor Sir Jim McDonald became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Strathclyde in 2009. He became an academic in 1984 as a “New Blood Lecturer“and was appointed as Rolls-Royce Professor in 1993.

He co-chairs, with the First Minister, the Scottish Government’s Energy Advisory Board. He is Chairman of the Independent Glasgow Economic Leadership Board and the Board of the Glasgow Science Centre. He currently holds several senior business appointments: Independent Director of Scottish Power Energy Networks Holdings; Non-executive Director of the Weir Group; Non-executive Director of the UK Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult Board; and, Non-executive Director of the UK National Physical Laboratory.  In 2012 he was awarded a Knighthood for services to education, engineering and the economy.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Institution of Engineering and Technology, the Institute of Physics and the Institute for Energy.

University of the West of Scotland

Principal: Professor James Miller

Route into university

Professor James Miller was appointed as Principal and Vice-Chancellor of University of the West of Scotland (UWS) in November 2022.

Professor James Miller

Academic Specialism


Concise career profile

Beginning his career as a clinical nurse in Edinburgh, Professor Miller is the first nurse to be appointed as a University Principal and Vice-Chancellor in Scotland – bringing a wealth of experience, values and vision closely aligned with that of UWS.

With a substantial leadership track record, Professor Miller was most recently Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University from August 2015 to November 2022 and previously held a range of other senior roles, including Director of the Open University in Scotland and Chief Executive of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Glasgow. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine, a member of the Institute of Directors, a member of the International Advisory Board for the Amity University Group in India, and was a founder member of the British Council’s Digital Advisory Board.

Professor Miller has also held a series of roles in healthcare, including Deputy Director of Nursing for West Lothian Healthcare Trust and Divisional General Manager in South Glasgow University Hospital NHS Trust.

After completing his registration at North Lothian College of Nursing and Midwifery in 1986, Professor Miller undertook a post registration degree at what is now Abertay University. He also has an MBA from Edinburgh Napier University, a PhD from the University of Edinburgh and is an alumnus of Harvard University’s Institute of Education Management.

Professor Miller has been a visiting lecturer at four Scottish universities, teaching on undergraduate and Masters programmes in nursing, healthcare management and clinical leadership. He has published in peer-reviewed national and international journals on a range of clinical and management issues in healthcare and is a regular reviewer for a number of journals.