Appointment of new CEO
27 Nov 2018
The Scottish Funding Council has today announced the appointment of Karen Watt as its new Chief Executive.
The appointment follows a robust selection process supported by our recruitment partner, Aspen People.
Karen, who takes up the role on 14 January 2019, joins SFC from the Scottish Government where, as Director
of External Affairs, she has had a leading role in developing the Scottish Government’s response to the EU
She brings with her a wealth of experience and a track record of improving public services while aligning
the interests of a wide range of public and private stakeholders.
A skilled negotiator, with strong political acuity, Karen’s position as Director of External Affairs has
provided her with invaluable international experience. Recognising the importance of positioning Scotland on
the global stage, she has established a network of overseas investment and innovation hubs in key locations
outside Scotland and delivering them with pace. Aligned to this work, she has also played a key role in
developing Scotland’s new international communication and marketing campaign, Scotland is Now.
Karen has also brought her international experience to bear in wider policy contexts, including the
internationalisation strand of Scotland’s Economic Strategy, touching specifically on the place of education
and research, and communicating the potential impact of Brexit on universities and colleges.
She set up and became the first CEO of the Scottish Housing Regulator, and brought those leadership skills
into her role as Head of Enterprise and Tourism where she had responsibility for sponsoring Scottish
Enterprise, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and tourism agency, VisitScotland. During this time she developed
Enterprise Areas across Scotland and established the Cities Alliance, building strong relationships with senior
leaders across the portfolio and with the wider business community on the economic challenges Scotland faces.
She also subsequently led the Scottish Government’s culture policy and the establishment of Historic
Having held the position of Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister and Head of Ministerial
Offices, Karen also brings with her a broad understanding of the wider policy context that impacts on the
further and higher education sectors, not to mention an insight second to none into the workings of central
government both at a Scottish and an international level.
Welcoming the appointment, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, Richard Lochhead
“Karen Watt is an outstanding public servant and my congratulations to her on this appointment. Karen brings
a wealth of valuable skills and experience and I look forward to working closely with her and the SFC Board to
deliver excellence, wider access and high attainment in our colleges and universities.”
SFC Chair, Mike Cantlay OBE, added:
“We are delighted to welcome Karen to the organisation. Karen joins the SFC at an exciting time as we work
with our colleagues on the Strategic Board to position the further and higher education sectors at the heart of
Scotland’s economic future. Her breadth of experience both within Scotland but also on the international stage
will be pivotal to sustaining and developing a coherent and connected system of world-class further and higher
education for Scotland.”
Commenting on her appointment, Karen said:
“I am delighted to have the opportunity to be part of the mission and ambition to shape the future of
learning, skills, research and innovation in Scotland. I firmly believe that the SFC can help deliver
transformational change and invest to secure sustainable, inclusive economic prosperity. I am looking forward
to taking on this new challenge.”