SFC news published since 2018. See SFC archived content for earlier news articles.

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

Environment Scotland.

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.”