How We Work

We create & shape policy that supports our higher education institutions to be successful

We develop our funding and policy positions by working very closely with Principals and other senior staff in our higher education institutions.

Our policy committees cover three broad areas and meet regularly four or five times a year. They are led by two Principals in the role of chair and vice-chair and all of our 19 members are represented. The conveners are nominated by their peers for two years with the possibility of one re-election.

Our committees make recommendations on policy which pass to the Main Committee of all Principals to be discussed and decided upon.

We also have a number of smaller policy groups to focus on other issues. The membership of these groups can include Finance Directors, Head of Planning, Secretaries, Heads of External Affairs and others, depending on the group’s focus. They are always led by a Principal. Policy groups will always be representative of the sector’s diversity but not every university is necessarily a member.

Learning and Teaching Committee

Convener: Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal of the University of the West of Scotland

Vice Convener: Professor Tom Inns, Principal of Glasgow School of Art

Current priorities:

  • Widening Access to university including overseeing the work to develop a basket of measures to better capture under-representation in higher education and track progress.
  • Policy development to increase the number of Scottish-domiciled postgraduate taught student students.
  • The review of quality assessment in higher education across the UK, the Green Paper on Teaching Excellence and the Scottish review of the Quality Enhancement Framework.
  • Developing the sector’s narrative on employability and Scotland’s universities’ role in entrepreneurship.
Craig Mahoney

Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee

Convener: Professor Ferdinand von Prondzynski, Principal of Robert Gordon University

Vice Convener:  Professor Wayne Powell, Principal of Scotland’s Rural College – SRUC

Current priorities:

  • Representing Scottish HEIs interests as the UK Government Higher Education and Research Bill is implemented, particularly in the set up of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).
  • Supporting the sector to maximise the opportunities arising from the UK Industrial Strategy.
  • Supporting the sector to perform well with Official Development Assistance-related research funding.
  • Promoting the sector’s position for research and innovation following the UK referendum decision to leave the EU.
  • Inputting to the continued development of the Scottish Funding Council’s Universities Innovation Fund.
  • Influencing the development of the next Research Excellence Framework.
  • Supporting the sector in promoting the importance of researcher development and to create opportunities for researchers at Scottish HEIs.
  • Contributing to ongoing work on productivity, including efficient use of research equipment.
  • Working as a partner in the Innovation Scotland Forum (ISF) and to deliver the ISF Action Plan, as well as  developing and implementing Universities Scotland’s Five-Point Plan for Innovation.
  • Delivery of Universities Scotland ‘Making it Happen’ commitments on entrepreneurship and enterprise.
Ferdinand-von-Prondzynski-Robert-Gordon- RGU

International Committee

Convener: Professor Richard A Williams, Principal of Heriot-Watt University

Vice Convener: Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands

Current Priorities:

  • Working to progress the work of Connected Scotland which promotes Scottish HE internationally.
  • Campaigning for the reintroduction of a post study work route for Scotland following the Smith Commission recommendation. Work with the Scottish Government and UK Government to develop a workable policy for Scotland.
  • Influencing policy on the promotion, funding and management of student mobility.
  • Undertaking activities to position Scottish higher education internationally and promote study in Scotland.
  • Developing policy to support people who are fleeing violence and persecution and looking to enter higher education in Scotland.

Funding Policy Group

Convener:  Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal of the University of Aberdeen

Vice Convener: Professor Nigel Seaton, Principal of Abertay University


  • HE funding and the spending review.
  • University Outcome Agreements.
  • Capital funding.
  • The Scottish Government’s Enterprise and Skills Review.
  • Implications of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Sir-Ian-Diamond Aberdeen

Universities Scotland Efficiencies Taskforce

Convener:  Professor Sir Ian Diamond, Principal of the University of Aberdeen

Vice Convener: Professor Craig Mahoney, Principal of the University of the West of Scotland


  • The group is responsible for taking forward the sector’s efficiency strategy across the areas of procurement, shared services, ICT, business process management and estates and carbon reduction.
  • USET’s work is part of the sector’s developing productivity strategy, which will include efficiency and productivity in research and teaching provision.
Sir-Ian-Diamond Aberdeen

Secretaries Group

The Secretaries Group is not one of Universities Scotland’s Committees however Universities Scotland and the Secretaries Group have worked closely together for a number of years. The Secretaries Group is a professional network of staff with responsibility for effective governance and for management of professional services.

Convener:  Sheena Stewart, University Secretary, Abertay University


  • Issues of Higher Education governance including compliance with good practice.
  • Delivery of efficient and effective professional services.
  • Statutory responsibilities and the impact of new legislation.
Sheena Stewart photo