Appointment of the Next Principal

Leadership Appointment & Recruitment

Appointment of the Principal

The University has recently completed the process of recruiting a new Principal in line with the Scottish Code of Good Higher Education Governance following term of office of Professor John Harper, expiring on 31 August 2020.

Selection Committee

The Board of Governors established an Appointment Committee to oversee the process and to appoint a Selection Committee.

Membership of this committee comprised:

  • 4 Independent Governors
    • Chair -  Mike Fleming
    • Maggie McGinlay
    • Tricia Walker
    • Colin Hunter
  • Professional and Support Staff Governor - Margaret Buchan
  • Academic Staff Governor – Eric Ogilvie-Brown
  • Undergraduate Student Governor - Chantay Pinas

To support recruitment, the University recently undertook a competitive tender process and appointed executive search agents Perrett Laver (PL).

Recruitment Process

As planned, the recruitment process spanned over a 6 month period, with the appointment being confirmed in March 2020. 

Early September 2019

The university actively engaged stakeholders to identify views on the type of characteristics required in a potential candidate for the Principal, in line with best practice.

This included an extensive series of meetings with both internal and external stakeholders (Chancellor, Chairs’ Committee, Executive team, Heads of School, SMG grades & support heads, open staff forums, Student Union Presidents and Elected students and TU representatives) as well as a process for an online consultation to ensure all have the opportunity to input. The survey received 180 responses.

The themes that emerged broadly included:

  • Celebration of strengths of RGU being employability & student experience; applied research; widening access and student support; region; campus; friendly and loyal staff.
  • General support for current strategy, not seeking a wholesale change in direction.

Priorities for the next Principal were identified as:

  • Need to ensure financial sustainability
  • Maintaining and improving University’s reputation
  • Maintaining and improving student recruitment
  • Maintaining and improving staff morale and engagement
Autumn 2019

Recruitment phase commenced, vacancy was promoted in the usual sites and advertising was also in THE as well as activities by Executive search agents.

In preparation of the recruitment process the university ran an Advance HE course “Diversifying Senior Recruitment” on 6 November 2019, to ensure that all Governors regardless of what part of the process they may be involved with had received recent unconscious bias training. Governors that were due to take up appointment from 1st January 2020 were included.

December 2019

Longlisting meeting – a good field of applicants was received and the Appointment Sub-Committee identified a longlist. The longlisted candidates were interviewed by PL.

January 2020

Shortlisting – from the longlisting recommendations from PL, a shortlist of 6 candidates was identified by the Appointment Sub-Committee.

February 2020 - Stage 1

Interview 1 (long short list) & Informal Information gathering for candidates 6 candidates attended interview where they were asked questions on a number of topics. They also had a tour and a meeting with the current Principal (both unassessed).

The interview panel at this stage included Chair of Board, 2 Lay Governors, Staff Governor (professional & support) and Staff Governor TU nominated (Academic staff) and an external member.

Three candidates progressed to stage 2.  Psychometric testing was then carried out on these three candidates and will inform the final selection panel.

March 2020 - Stage 2

Opportunity for candidates to have one to one meetings with Executive and selected few other SMG (unassessed). Assessed by 3 Focus groups and Formal Interview with a presentation.

The three focus groups comprised 2 staff & student focus groups (on topics of Student Experience, and Research, Consultancy and Business Development), and a Governors Focus group.

The Selection Panel at this stage comprised Chair, Vice Chair, Lay Governor, 3 Staff Governors (Academic staff, Academic Council and Professional & Support Staff), Student Governor and an external member (being a Principal of another Scottish university)

The decision

The final stage of the process involved a panel interview. The panel used a scoring matrix which was informed by the psychometric testing of the candidates. After the panel had agreed their scoring of candidates, the panel received the feedback from the focus groups. Whilst there was some consistency within some of the focus groups, there was no consistency across the focus groups. The panel discussed in detail the feedback, took cognisance of the references received and reflected on the panel scoring of the candidates. The panel reached a unanimous decision in respect of which candidate to appoint.

The decision to appoint was reached and was taken to Remuneration Committee on Monday 9 March 2020 for consideration and approval of the remuneration package that was to be offered.

After reaching the appointment decision the university obtained final references and due diligence was completed by the University Solicitor. The successful candidate also underwent the required medical.


Following this process, RGU has appointed Professor Steve Olivier as its new Principal and Vice-Chancellor. 

Professor Olivier will take up the position of Principal at RGU on 1 September 2020. He will succeed Professor John Harper, RGU’s current Principal who is due to retire after almost 47 years of service with the university.

Appointment Manager

Updates will be provided to you as the appointment process progresses. In the meantime, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to contact Veronica Strachan via

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