John Harper – Doctor of Science (DSc)

John Harper – Doctor of Science (DSc)
Robert Gordon University’s Chancellor, Dame Evelyn Glennie CH, conferred the honorary award of Doctor of Science on Professor John Harper on Wednesday 8 December for his 47-year-long commitment and impact on the higher education sector.

“John’s commitment to RGU and higher education will never be forgotten,” said RGU’s Principal & Vice Chancellor Professor Steve Olivier. “His leadership has ensured that RGU not only grew in strength and impact but continued to achieve its strategic ambitions throughout his career and supported tens of thousands of students, staff, and alumni to success and prosperity.” 

John was born and raised in Wick in the North of Scotland before moving to Aberdeen where he studied for both an honours degree and a PhD in Chemistry at the University of Aberdeen. He entered higher education as a lecturer in Chemistry at the former Robert Gordon Institute of Technology and subsequently progressed to senior-lectureship and on to become the Head of School of Applied Sciences. 

In his role as Head of School, John was involved in a range of national activities, including teaching quality assessment, external examining and course development and approval. This contributed to his attaining the award of Fellowship of the Royal Society of Chemistry.  

John was promoted to the role of Assistant Principal/Dean of the Faculty of Health and Social Care before progressing to the role of Vice Principal and subsequently Deputy Principal and Vice-Chancellor, with specific responsibility for Academic Quality and Development.  

In 2010-11, John stepped up to the role of Acting Principal following the unexpected passing of the then Principal.  In 2018, he again agreed to take on the role of Principal for a two-year fixed term.  

In his final period of office, in addition to dealing with the expected challenges, he led the university in its transition off campus due to the COVID-19 crisis.  

As a leader, John, was passionate that the university be judged by what it does and what it achieves and inspired staff, students, and stakeholders to deliver on RGU’s strategic mission: to transform individuals and communities by providing demand-led teaching and research to contribute to economic, social and cultural development.  

The success of his leadership is evidenced by the Teaching & Excellence Framework Gold award, achievements in widening access, by a sector leading employability rate and, as he retired, RGU achieving the accolade of Scottish University of the Year in the Times & Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. 

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