Highlands and Islands Uni in new principal search

The University of the Highlands and Islands have begun their search for a new principal. Picture: Comp
The University of the Highlands and Islands have begun their search for a new principal. Picture: Comp
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A worldwide search is underway to find a new principal for Scotland’s newest university – a post which attracts a salary well in excess of the Prime Minister.

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) is scouring the planet for an “outstanding candidate to lead one of the most interesting and challenging developments in education in recent decades”.

A dossier of global candidates is already being compiled.

It follows the announcement by present principal and vice-chancellor James Fraser – who won the institute university status two years ago and boasts a £227,000-a-year salary, compared to PM David Cameron’s £142,500 – that he is to retire at the end of the year.

Experienced executive headhunters Aspen People have been engaged to lead the search for his replacement - and are already compiling a list of prospective candidates including respected academic figures in locations as far afield as the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand for the role.

Aspen co-founder and director Donogh O’Brien said: “The next principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands will be an outstanding individual with distinctive leadership qualities and considerable vision and intellectual gravitas.

“The Highlands and Islands of Scotland cover a sixth of the entire land mass of Great Britain and there is a unique set of challenges associated with heading up an institution which is spread across such a huge geographical area.

“It is therefore vital we attract someone who can balance organisational leadership, ambassadorial experience and managerial acuity with credibility within the academic environment.

“While it is entirely possible such an individual is already based in the UK and Ireland, the role requires engaging creatively with potential partners and sourcing new revenue streams on an international level, it may therefore be necessary to look further afield to source the right candidate.”

Heading a partnership of 13 institutions spread across 45,000 square kilometres, the UHI’s new principal and vice-chancellor will not only have responsibility for higher education and research, but will be a key player in the development of the university in delivering further education in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.

With almost 7,000 undergraduate students enrolled directly and 33,000 further education students across its partnership, the university is at a significant point in its history, with the opportunity to mould and innovate for the future of post-school education in Scotland and beyond.

Steve Thomson, incoming chair of the university court, said: “The University of the Highlands and Islands is one of the most interesting, and challenging, developments in post-16 education in recent decades.

“Under recent Scottish Government legislation, in addition to higher education, the university will assume responsibility for all further education within its region, creating an integrated tertiary institution.

“The Highlands and Islands is a great place to live, to study and to do business. It is known worldwide for its outstanding scenery, for its distinctive heritage and cultures, for its recreational opportunities and for the quality of life which the region offers.

“Modern communications, both physical and virtual, are addressing the historical isolation of the region and its communities and traditional and new industries are underpinning an economic resurgence.

“This is an exciting and decisive time for the university, which is still in the early years of its development but also at the leading edge of post-16 education.

“The new principal and vice-chancellor must lead the institution through this period of significant change and opportunity, providing both academic and managerial leadership and also acting as an ambassador for the university within the region, within further and higher education and throughout the world at large.

“This will require someone with substantial senior experience in a complex organisation and with the academic standing that would be expected of such a role. The faint hearted need not apply.”

Outgoing principal James Fraser joined what was then the UHI Millennium Institute as Secretary in September 2002. He was appointed Deputy Principal in 2007.

In 2009 Mr Fraser succeeded Professor Robert Cormack as Principal and subsequently became Principal and Vice-Chancellor in February 2011, on the achievement of university title.


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