UHI’s Deputy Principal announces retirement

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has announced Professor Neil Simco, Deputy Principal Academic and Research, will retire at the end of the current academic year in July 2024, after 15 years’ service in senior leadership at the university.

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Professor Neil Simco, UHI Deputy Principal Academic and Research, photographed on the upper mezzanine at An Lòchran on Inverness Campus. Credit: Tim Winterburn and UHI.

Professor Simco has held corporate leadership responsibility for all aspects of tertiary education, including both further and higher education, as well as research and knowledge exchange activities at the university. His role has encompassed the development and implementation of UHI’s research and tertiary education strategies, along with executive oversight of a wide range of academic functions across the institution, including UHI’s islands’ strategy.

As an advanced Gaelic learner, Neil has also overseen the development and delivery of UHI’s Gaelic language plan, reflecting his long-standing passion for the Gaelic language and culture. In his planned retirement Neil will be returning to his studies at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture and UHI partner, to further deepen his engagement with the language and culture.

Vicki Nairn, UHI Principal and Vice-Chancellor, confirmed Neil’s retirement, stating: “I sincerely thank Neil for his unwavering commitment to UHI and for his invaluable support to me, the senior executive team, the academic leadership team, and colleagues across the partnership. His contributions have been highly valued and appreciated. Working alongside Neil for the past two years has been a privilege, and I have deeply respected his support, leadership, academic excellence, and dedication to everything that makes UHI a great institution.”

“Neil’s contributions to the UHI partnership, its students, and communities are immeasurable. He leaves us with a strong and lasting legacy that is highly respected by colleagues and stakeholders across our UHI regions and worldwide. In line with Neil’s ongoing commitment to UHI, we plan to continue working with him as he transitions to his full-time Gaelic studies. Neil retires with my deepest thanks, respect, and admiration. I look forward to staying in touch with him both personally and professionally in the future.”

Professor Simco added: “It has been an immense privilege to have fulfilled various senior leadership roles in UHI over the last 15 years, including working with the Principal and Vice-Chancellor and the senior leadership team over the past 2 years as Deputy Principal. I am deeply vested in UHI, and fundamentally believe in the contribution of our institution to the economy and society across the Highlands and Islands, Moray, Perthshire and beyond. Looking to the future, I am eager to maintain a close connection with UHI and will remain available to provide strategic advice and support as and when required, whether informally or, if the opportunity arises, formally through our governance mechanisms.”

With Neil’s retirement plans well underway, UHI has commenced the process to recruit the next Deputy Principal Academic and Research, with the permanent post being advertised shortly through a formal recruitment process. 

In the interim, Professor Peter Francis will join UHI as Interim Deputy Principal Academic and Research. Peter has a deep affinity and respect for the regions UHI serve and brings extensive senior academic and research experience, most recently from Birmingham City University, and his leadership will ensure continuity and stability for UHI during this transition.

Professor Francis said "I am delighted to be joining UHI this summer for six months as Interim Deputy Principal Academic and Research. I am excited by the opportunity to contribute to the successful delivery of the university’s 2030 Strategic Plan, working with the Principal and Vice-Chancellor and senior executive leadership team, university Court, along with staff, students, and key stakeholders.”

“I am passionate about the regions UHI serves and recognise the importance contribution it makes to its communities through the delivery of sustainable tertiary education, research, and knowledge exchange. I am committed to co-producing high quality student, staff, and stakeholder experiences during my time at UHI, and look forward to joining in July.”

Professor Francis will assume his position on Monday 1 July to facilitate a handover period with Professor Simco, who will retire on Wednesday 31 July.