Executive Group

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

Convener: Professor Gerry McCormac

Our Convener, Professor Gerry McCormac, determines our priorities for the term of his two-year office, chairs the Main Committee meeting of all Principals and identifies and builds consensus within the sector.

Gerry was elected to the role of Convener by his peers and took up the position from 1 August 2020. He previously held the role of US Vice Convener for two terms (2016-2020).

Gerry takes on the role at a critical point for the higher education sector in Scotland. The COVID-19 crisis has left universities in Scotland exposed to potential losses in excess of £500m in the current academic year and the long-term impact of the pandemic is likely to be even worse. Gerry is passionate about positioning universities at the centre of Scotland’s successful recovery from the pandemic and firmly believes that education and research will play a vital role in rebuilding, reskilling and restoring the fabric of society.

There’s also still uncertainty over the UK’s long-term relationship with the European Union and Gerry is determined for members to maintain close and mutually beneficial links with universities across Europe which has been, and always will be, important to the quality of our teaching and research.

Key Facts

  • Principal of: University of Stirling
  • Route into university: Gerry was the first in his family to attend university.
  • Academic specialism: Space Physics, Carbon Dating and Climate Change.
  • Career profile: Gerry became Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Stirling in May 2010. His early career was spent at the University of Michigan, where he worked on the NASA Dynamics Explorer satellite programme. He subsequently headed up the high-precision carbon dating facility at Queen’s University Belfast and became Pro-Vice Chancellor at Queen’s in 2001 until 2010. Gerry is an active member of the employers’ association for universities and colleges, UCEA, acting as chair of its Scottish Committee and sitting on its UK board. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (FRSE), the Royal Society of Antiquaries (FSA) and the Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturers (FRSA).

Read more about Gerry’s academic career here.

Vice Convener: Professor Sally Mapstone

Professor Sally Mapstone was elected to serve as Vice Convener from August 2020.

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

Key Facts

  • Principal of: University of St Andrews
  • Route into university: Sally attended her local grammar school in West London, and from there went up to Wadham College, Oxford.
  • Academic specialism: Older Scots Literature
  • Career profile: Sally 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 access and diversity within the HE sector.

Read more about Sally’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)