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A diverse and balanced board

We are proud that the SFC Board was one of the first public bodies in Scotland to achieve the Government’s ambition of equal gender representation.

Our are drawn from diverse backgrounds and with a balance of interests and expertise across SFC’s policy and investment areas.

Members of the Board are appointed by the First Minister of Scotland and have a collective responsibility for the proper conduct of the Council’s affairs. They are not appointed as representatives of individual organisations.

Board membership

Mike Cantlay OBE (Chair)

Mike Cantlay is Chair of the Scottish Funding Council which invests almost £2bn in Scotland’s 45 universities and colleges on behalf of Scottish Government. He is also Chair of NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency and additionally is a Board Member of Crossreach, one of the largest social care agencies in Scotland. He was previously Chair of Forth Valley College, Chair of VisitScotland, Chair of Scottish Enterprise Forth Valley, he was an advisory member of the Board of Scottish Enterprise and also Board Member of VisitBritain based in London.

In 2006 Mike was elected Convener of the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority and more recently served as Chair of Highlands and Islands Airports Ltd which is responsible for 11 airports across Scotland.

His family business is William Glen Ltd which operates tourism and leisure interests in Scotland, Canada and the USA.

Mike was awarded Public Sector Leader of the Year at the Scottish Leadership Awards 2012 and was made an OBE in 2014 for services to tourism and hospitality.

His re-appointment runs from 3 April 2021 until 2 April 2025.

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Karen Watt (Chief Executive)

Karen is Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, whose mission is to make Scotland the best place in the world to educate, research and innovate, investing around £1.9 billion of public money each year in colleges and universities to provide life-changing opportunities and contribute to our economic prosperity.

Karen joined SFC from the Scottish Government where, as Director of External Affairs, she led the government’s international relations and response to the EU referendum. Her previous policy roles include UK relations, enterprise and tourism, sponsorship of key enterprise agencies, culture and arts funding, historic environment and creative industries. As the first Chief Executive of the Scottish Housing Regulator she provided leadership in governance and financial sustainability, improved housing and homelessness services and secured private sector investment into new and improved affordable homes.

Having held the position of Principal Private Secretary to the First Minister and Head of Ministerial Offices, Karen has a deep understanding of the wider policy context that impacts on further and higher education sectors, alongside the workings of central government at Scottish, UK and international levels.

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David Alexander

David Alexander has been a member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA) since 1996 and has held a number of senior roles in local government, colleges and with the General Teaching Council for Scotland.

David is currently Principal and Chief Executive at Gateshead College, taking up post in June 2021. Prior to this, David was Vice Principal at West College Scotland from 2013. He brings extensive knowledge and experience of public sector finance and the education sector and is a passionate advocate of lifelong learning.

His re-appointment runs from 3 October 2021 to 2 October 2025.

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Sheila Duncan

Sheila Duncan has over 20 years business experience and during her career has held a number of senior HR positions in both Financial services and the Energy sector.

Sheila was formerly the UK HR Director at Scottish Power, part of the Iberdrola group, where she was a member of the Scottish Power Executive Team with responsibilities for Health and Safety and Business Services as well as Human Resources. During her career, she also completed international assignments in the USA as Chief H.R. Officer at Avangrid, the US subsidiary of Iberdrola.

Throughout her career, Sheila has been strongly committed to education and lifelong learning, championing diversity, inclusion and accessibility for all irrespective of background.

Sheila holds an M.A. (Hons) from the University of Glasgow and is a Chartered Fellow of the Institute of Personnel and Development.

Sheila’s appointment is for four years and runs from 4 November 2019 to 3 November 2023.

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Linda Hanna

Linda Hanna

Linda Hanna is an experienced leader and non-executive working across academia, public and private sectors focusing on innovation and major economic opportunities.

As a member of the Executive Team at Scottish Enterprise for 10 years, Linda worked nationally and internationally, helping accelerate strategic investment in different parts of Scotland and industries such as high-value manufacturing, life sciences, food and drink, data-driven innovation and the low-carbon economy. Working with partners, Linda supported entrepreneurs, industries and communities in Scotland to grow, innovate and create jobs.

With her keen interest in science, innovation and skills, Linda now pursues a portfolio of interests to continue to drive ideas and action that ultimately benefits people and builds sustainable solutions.

Linda’s appointment runs from 13 November 2023 to 28 June 2024.

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Mhairi Harrington OBE

Mhairi Harrington has worked for over 40 years in Education with her experience spanning Primary Education, Youth and Community Work, Adult Education and most significantly Further and Higher Education.

Throughout that time she had held a variety of posts which have encompassed learning and teaching, curriculum design and quality, programme and project management, commercial development and marketing and all aspects of middle and senior management. Mhairi was also an Associate Assessor with HMIE for a period of seven years.

As Principal and Chief Executive of West Lothian College from 2008 – 2018 she had responsibility for Strategic Leadership and Governance for all areas and functions of the college.

Mhairi has served on a significant number of national, regional and local boards, committees and forums.  On behalf of the Scottish Government Mhairi is currently Chairing the Adult Learning Strategic Forum Scotland which is responsible for the review of community based Adult Learning.

She is also a Senior Fellow for the College Development Network and is a local board member for Family and Community Development West Lothian.

In 2015, Mhairi was awarded TES FE UK leader of the year in recognition of her collaborative leadership and partnership working. In 2016, she was awarded an OBE for Services to Education and in 2018 was honoured to be presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Glasgow Herald Higher Education Awards Event.

Her re-appointment runs from 3 October 2021 to 2 October 2025.

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Lorna Jack (Deputy Chair)

Since February 2019, Lorna has been Chair of the Highlands & Islands Airports Limited, a Scottish Government owned company which runs 11 airports including Inverness and Dundee, having served as a Non-Executive Director and Audit committee Chair from 2014 to 2018. In November 2023 she was appointed to the advisory board of the Isle of Man Airport by the Isle of Man Government.

She is also Chair of Opulus Financial, a private sector company offering accountancy and tax services, through a network of businesses they own across Scotland.

She is also the Honorary Consul for the Kingdom of the Netherlands covering Scotland, connecting businesses and organisations between both countries, keeping the Embassy in London updated on important Scottish developments and helping Dutch citizens in emergency situations.

Lorna was Chief Executive of the Law Society of Scotland, the professional body of 12,200 Scottish Solicitors until December 2021. During her time there she led the Society’s staff team in delivering a programme of transformation and modernisation.

She previously served on the Court of Aberdeen University (2017-2019) and was a founding Trustee and Treasurer of McConnell International Foundation for a decade.

Lorna is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland, and a graduate of the University of Aberdeen.

Lorna’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

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Professor Ewart Keep

Ewart Keep holds an (emeritus) Chair in Education, Training and Skills at the Department of Education, Oxford University.

Ewart has researched and written on the links between skills and economic performance; the interaction  between economic development, business support, innovation and education and training; the workplace as a learning environment; and adult and lifelong learning.

He has advised the UK government departments, parliamentary committees at Holyrood and Westminster, the OCED and the governments of Australia and New Zealand.

Ewart’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

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Andy Kerr

Andy Kerr has considerable experience in high-performing organisations, chairing and being chaired by others, working to the Nolan principles and providing effective leadership and getting the best out of people, teams, committees and Boards.

Andy has chaired several high-level Boards such as the Chairs and Chief Executives of the NHS, a variety of Scottish Cabinet sub committees, he was formerly the chair of the Board of Quality Scotland and South Lanarkshire College. He has extensive knowledge of business and commerce both as policy maker and as a practitioner and has worked in the public, private and third sectors.

As chair of South Lanarkshire College, he oversaw a strategic plan which delivered a balanced budget, many prestigious third party accreditations and SLC is one of the highest performing colleges in Scotland. Andy shares with many the mission of changing lifetime opportunities for students supporting economic growth, matching ambitions of students to the economy and positive destinations.

Andy’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

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Professor Sir Peter Mathieson

Peter Mathieson was educated in Cornwall and graduated in medicine with First Class Honours from the University of London in 1983.

Peter was awarded a PhD by the University of Cambridge in 1992 and became Director of Studies for Clinical Medicine at Christ’s College, Cambridge following this.

In 1995 Peter moved to Bristol as the foundation Professor of Renal Medicine at the University of Bristol where he was later appointed Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry in 2008. He practised as a consultant nephrologist in the NHS in Bristol for 19 years. In April 2014, Peter assumed office as the President and Vice-chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, a post he held until January 2018. He was knighted for services to higher education in 2023.

Peter is currently the Principal of the University of Edinburgh.

Peter’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

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Professor Irene McAra-McWilliam OBE

Irene McAra-McWilliam has international experience of creative leadership having worked as Director of Design Research for multinational Philips Electronics. She is currently Deputy Director Research & Innovation at The Glasgow School of Art and was responsible for establishing GSA’s Highlands and Islands Campus in Moray and the GSA’s new Innovation School. Irene was awarded an OBE in recognition of her work in Higher Education, Innovation and Design.

Irene’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

 

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Grant Ritchie

Fellow and Associate Director of College Development Network; Ex Principal, Dundee & Angus College

Grant was educated at Harris Academy, Dundee and graduated with an Honours Degree in History from Aberdeen University. After working in local government and freelance journalism he joined Dundee College in 1985. He completed his FE teaching qualification in 1989 and also has a postgraduate qualification in Educational Leadership from the University of Leicester.

He began as a lecturer in communications, and, prior to becoming Principal, was responsible for the growth of creative and cultural industries in Dundee College, the development of the award winning Space Dance Centre, and the £50m redevelopment of the Gardyne campus.

He sits on a range of local Boards and Committees and is past Chair of the Angus Community Planning Partnership. Nationally he has chaired the Energy Skills Project, ESP, leading the College sector in industry engagement. He also led SQA’s HN Next Generation Project and Colleges Scotland’s Skilled Workforce Group.

Grant was awarded the SQA Fellowship in 2017 and is a Fellow and Associate Director of the College Development Network.

Grant is passionate about the ways that colleges can transform the lives of people in the community and he wants to see colleges driving economic recovery by working with business to make sure the right skills are in the right place at the right time.

Grant’s appointment runs from 13 November 2023 to 28 June 2024.

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Professor John Wallace CBE

John was born in Fife, Scotland, in 1949 into a brass band family. He attended Buckhaven High School and King’s College, Cambridge. During his trumpet-playing career he held positions with the London Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia, and London Sinfonietta, as well as forming the Wallace Collection brass ensemble.

He recorded all the major trumpet solo works on CD and premiered new concertos by Malcolm Arnold, Maxwell Davies, Macmillan, Muldowney, Souster, Schuller and Saxton amongst others.

From 2002-14 he was Principal of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, after which he resumed his performing career. From 2015 -18 he was the Royal Society of Edinburgh vice-president for arts, humanities and social sciences. In 2011 he was awarded a CBE for services to Dance, Drama and Music. In 2021 he was awarded the Queen’s medal for music.

Presently, in addition to his board membership of the Scottish Funding Council, he is involved with St Andrews Music Participation (StAMP) which has started off over 500 beginners on brass instruments in Fife primary schools since 2020. He also convenes the Music Education Partnership Group, chairs the Glasgow Barons, a new orchestra based in Govan and is President of St Mary’s Music School.

A sometime composition student of Alan Bush and David Blake, John’s one-act Opera on the subject of dementia, Opsnizing Dad, was nominated for an Ivors Award in November 2022.

John’s reappointment runs from 4 November 2023 to 3 November 2026.

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Professor Lesley Yellowlees CBE

Professor Lesley Yellowlees completed both her BSc in Chemical Physics and her PhD in Inorganic Electrochemistry at the University of Edinburgh.

After completing research positions in Brisbane, Australia and Glasgow she returned to an academic position in Edinburgh in 1986 and gained a personal chair in Inorganic Electrochemistry in 2005. Lesley was Head of the School of Chemistry and then Vice Principal and Head of the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Edinburgh.

Lesley was President of the Royal Society of Chemistry from 2012-14, their first woman President in 175 years. Lesley was awarded an MBE in 2005 for services to science and a CBE for services to Chemistry in 2014. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Her re-appointment runs from 3 October 2021 to 2 October 2025.

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Board meeting papers

The Board meets regularly throughout the year and we publish the papers of each Board meeting.

Next Board meeting dates

15 March 2024

17 May 2024

28 June 2024

20 September 2024

14/15 November 2024

6 December 2024

Board Committees

Board committees advise the Board on specific responsibilities or undertake specific functions; these meet either regularly on given cycles or as required. We publish meeting papers from each committee

SFC Strategic Plan 2022-27

Building a connected, agile, sustainable tertiary education and research system for Scotland.

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