New Scottish Funding Council chief executive appointed

Written by Jenni Davidson on 28 November 2018 in News

Scottish Government director of external affairs Karen Watt will lead the education funding body

Students - Image credit: PA Images

Karen Watt has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council (FSC), the body responsible for funding further and higher education in Scotland.

Watt is currently the Scottish Government’s director of external affairs, where she has had a key role in developing the government’s response to the EU referendum.

The role also involved working on the internationalisation of Scotland’s economic strategy, including the place of education and research, and communicating the potential impact of Brexit on universities and colleges.

In addition, during her time in that role, which she has held since 2015, she set up a number of overseas investment and innovation hubs and worked on developing the ‘Scotland is Now’ marketing campaign.

Previously Watt was head of enterprise, tourism and cities at the Scottish Government, where she had responsibility for enterprise agencies Scottish Enterprise and Highlands and Islands Enterprise and tourism body VisitScotland.

She also led the Scottish Government’s culture policy and the establishment of Historic Environment Scotland.

Before that, Watt was principal private secretary to the first minister and she also set up the the Scottish Housing Regulator, where she was the first chief executive.

Commenting on her appointment, Watt 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.”

SFC chair Mike Cantlay 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.”

Congratulating Watt on her appointment, minister for further education, higher education and science Richard Lochhead called her “an outstanding public servant”.

He said: “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.”

Watt will take up the role on 14 January 2019.

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