Claire McPherson to be the next Director of Universities Scotland

Universities Scotland is delighted to appoint Claire McPherson to the role of Director. Ms McPherson will take up the role on 25 March 2024; succeeding Alastair Sim, who has been Director of the body which represents Scotland’s 19 universities and higher education institutions, since 2009.

Claire brings a wealth of experience shaping and influencing public policy at senior levels within the Scottish Government. Her career in the Scottish Government includes strategic and policy roles in the First Ministers’ Policy and Delivery Unit, leading cross government work on Public Service Reform and most recently as Deputy Director for Population and Migration. This gives her a deep insight into the critical role universities play across a broad range of government policy priorities. Claire was also Deputy Director Policy at the Scottish Funding Council for two years at a key time during the COVID-19 pandemic and was instrumental in the Council’s policy response, including the Council’s strategic review of the coherence and sustainability of higher education.

Claire becomes Director of Universities Scotland at a strategically important time for the higher education sector. Universities face a volatile financial landscape and several policy challenges ahead. Universities Scotland’s policy and advocacy role, providing a strong, united voice for the sector, will be vital to ensuring the continued international success of our universities and the significant contribution they make to economic growth and social justice within Scotland.

Commenting on her appointment, Claire McPherson said:

“It is a huge privilege to join Universities Scotland to represent and advocate for a sector that is the source of so much pride in Scotland. Universities provide life changing opportunities for students, produce essential research, stimulate innovation, encourage entrepreneurship, and act as beacons for international talent and inward investment. Our universities are uniquely placed to provide the insight, expertise and creativity required to address the challenges we face here in Scotland and around the world. I look forward to working closely with the sector and our many important partners as we face the exciting challenges ahead.”

Universities Scotland’s’ Convener, Professor Iain Gillespie said:

Claire brings a wealth of experience and insight to the role of Director. This is a strong appointment for Universities Scotland. Her leadership, in this demanding position, will be of vital importance to the continued success of Scotland’s universities as we navigate an ever-changing landscape. I’m very much looking forward to working with her in this new capacity.”

Vivienne Stern, Chief Executive of Universities UK said:

“I am delighted that Claire will be joining us to lead the next phase of Universities Scotland’s work. Her experience working within the Scottish Government, combined with her understanding of the huge potential of Scotland’s universities, will be a powerful advantage to her as a leading force in Scottish higher education and research.”

Claire lives in Edinburgh with her husband and two children. She is a law graduate from the University of Glasgow.  She spent the early part of her civil service career in London, before returning to Scotland in 2013 to join the Scottish Government.