Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor appointments

Sir Geoff Palmer
Sir Geoff Palmer. image by Alicia Bruce @aliciabrucephoto

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, Chancellor of the University

Renowned scientist and human rights activist, Professor Sir Geoff Palmer, was appointed the Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University in April 2021.  His term will last for an initial five-years.

Sir Geoff takes over from Dr Robert M. Buchan, a mining entrepreneur and philanthropist, who stood down after almost eight years in the role.  

As Chancellor, Sir Geoff will play a central role in promoting Heriot-Watt’s international reputation as a pioneer in research and education across its campuses in Scotland, Malaysia and Dubai.

Becoming the Chancellor of Heriot-Watt University, an institution I know well and admire, is a position I accept with both honour and humility. It is an institution that has, since its inception, fostered the ethos of inclusion and education for all, and I am very proud of the continued focus on ensuring that its doors are open to everyone – in Scotland and across the world. As a truly international University, I am very much looking forward to promoting and enhancing its reputation as a provider of world-class education and as a global leader in innovative research and will assist the University to achieve its goals and ambitions during my period as Chancellor.

Professor Sir Geoff Palmer

In 1989, Sir Geoff became Scotland’s first black professor and has had a long association with the University. This began when he completed his PhD in grain science and technology jointly with Heriot-Watt College and the University of Edinburgh in the 1960s.  He went on to a successful research career in Surrey before moving back to Heriot-Watt University in 1977 where he worked until his retirement in 2005.  During that time, Sir Geoff invented the barley abrasion process, the success of which attracted funding to establish the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling as part of the Heriot-Watt campus in Edinburgh. Following his retirement, he earned the academic title of professor emeritus.

Sir Geoff was knighted in the 2014 New Year’s Honours for services to human rights, science and charity. In 2018, he was appointed Jamaica's first Honorary Consul in Scotland and is the 2020 recipient of the Jamaican national honour, the Order of Distinction (Commander Class).

Alongside his academic work, Sir Geoff is a board member of many charitable and equality organisations, including the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. He was also made a Freeman of Midlothian in 2012.

Pro-Chancellors of the University

Heriot-Watt University is seeking to appoint experienced individuals to take up positions as Pro-Chancellors of the University at the University’s Dubai and Malaysia Campuses. 

Information about Heriot-Watt University, the role and responsibilities associated with the positions, the person specification, and the process for nominations is included below.

Role descriptions

Read the Chancellor and Pro-Chancellor Role Description