The Principal

Professor John Harper BiographyBiography

John was born and brought up 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 then Head of School of Applied Sciences. In this role, 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 and subsequently Principal and Vice Chancellor.

John has served on a number of national committees associated with institutional quality assurance, quality enhancement and widening participation and undertaken non-executive governance roles in a range of organisations including national regulator, FE College, and private School.


The Board of Governors has delegated to the Principal the responsibility and authority for the leadership, administration and management of the University.

The main functions of the post can be summarised as follows:

  • The Chief Executive Officer of the University, appointed by the Board of Governors and accountable to it for the management and organisation of the University and for discipline within it
  • The Chief Academic Officer of the University and the Chair of its Academic Council
  • The Officer designated to be responsible to Scottish Government for the University's use of public funds
  • The University's chief ambassador

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The Executive

Inside the Sir Ian Wood Building atrium

Find out more about the Executive members