Board Members


College Boards of Management can number between 13 and 18. Non-executive, support, and teaching staff members are generally appointed for 4 years with the option to seek an extension and then further appointment.  The student members are nominated for a one-year term, with the option of re-appointment for a further one-year term. The Principal of the college is a member of the Board as long as he/she holds that position.  All non-executive positions are voluntary and unremunerated.



Blair Sandison - Chairman content

Blair Sandison - Chairman

Born in Edinburgh, Blair attended Wick High School from 1975 to 1979 followed by Heriot-Watt University, obtaining a degree in Computer Science.  He worked initially for the Ministry of Defence on the Outer Hebrides from 1983 until 1986 before joining BP in Aberdeen.  The bulk of his career involved leading commercial negotiations for high-value, long-term energy supply agreements and M&A transactions.  Blair has lived and worked in Australia, China, Russia and Brazil with BP, TNK-BP and Rosneft.  He retired in 2013 and lives in Melness.

Blair Sandison


College Principal

Donald MacBeath – Principal and Chief Executive content

Donald MacBeath – Principal and Chief Executive

A native of Caithness, Donald attended Wick High School between 1972 and 1977.  After leaving school, his first job was as an administrative officer with the UKAEA at Dounreay and during this time he had his first experience of Thurso Technical College, as a day release student successfully completing an SNC in Business Studies.In 1980, Donald moved to Edinburgh to study at the Napier College of Commerce and Technology where he graduated in 1984 with a BA (Hons) in Business Studies and the award of top business student that year.

He returned to Caithness and commenced his lecturing career in the Business Studies department at Thurso College.  He has held a number of positions at the College including Head of Business, Assistant Principal, Vice Principal/Director of Learning and Teaching and as of 1st July 2014 Principal.  He has worked as an Associate Assessor with HMIe and in 2010 was awarded a Fellowship of the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship.  Donald lives in the John o' Groats area with his family and outside of work has a keen interest in golf, football and looking after two energetic Labradors.

Donald MacBeath


Committee Chairs

Graham Birnie - Chair of Finance and General Purposes Committee content

Graham Birnie - Chair of Finance and General Purposes Committee

Born in Thurso, attended Thurso High School 1960 to 1964. Then attended the Pre-Apprenticeship Course at Thurso Technical College. Became a Dounreay Apprentice in 1965 , and worked with the UKAEA initially at Dounreay but finally at Risley headquarters of UKAEA.

Joined Shell U.K. in 1977 as a Commissioning Engineer and brought the Brent Charlie platform on –stream. Worked offshore  for seven years holding positions as Platform Engineer, Production Supervisor, Resident Engineer and finally OIM. Moved to Shell  Aberdeen where  he held positions as Head of Contracts, Project Manager for major projects and finally as Deputy Asset Manager for the Brent Field managing the four Brent Platforms with an annual budget of £139 million.

Left Shell in 2000 and joined Walker Technical Resources as part owner and Managing Director, successfully grew WTR into a Global Service company within the Oil and Gas Industry, setting up offices in Norway, Canada, America, Nigeria, South Africa, Oman, Qata, Kazakhstan and Egypt. Sold the company in 2009 seeking to retire but bought another company NexusAB specialising in High Pressure High Temperature Well Software.  Sold NexusAB in 2011 and retired to play golf, salmon fishing and sailing. Lives in Ellon Aberdeenshire with his family but has a house in Thurso where he spends 50% of his time.

Graham Birnie


Robbie Rowantree – Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee content

Robbie Rowantree – Chair of the Audit and Risk Management Committee

Brought up in the Far North, Robbie attended Farr Secondary and Golspie High before taking up a career in Land Management.

He currently runs a small company that delivers Habitat Management planning and delivery for various types of landholdings in the Highlands.

He is the Chairman and a director of The Highlands and Islands Society for Blind People and its subsidiary enterprises, Sight Action and Highland Blindcraft.

He has been involved in several community based organisations, as a Highland Councillor, Community Councillor and a volunteer. He was Chairman of the Sutherland Partnership (a Community Planning Partnership), a Director of the Highland Homeless Trust, the Highland Small Communities Housing Trust and an early member of the UHI Millennium Foundation, which worked to establish the University of the Highlands and Islands and of which North Highland College is now a part.

He currently lives in Brora on the family croft.

Robbie Rowantree

Heather McLean – Chair of the Learning, Teaching and Research Committee content

Heather McLean – Chair of the Learning, Teaching and Research Committee

Heather McLean was an English teacher at Thurso High School for 36 years. During that time she served as Principal Teacher of English and then as a Deputy Head Teacher with responsibility for Guidance and Health Education. Since her retirement she has maintained a link with senior pupils through the Interact Club, a Club run by Thurso Rotary Club for S/5 and S/6 pupils.

Mrs McLean has been Secretary and President of Thurso Rotary Club. She has a long association with the Scottish Community Drama Association and with Thurso West Church where she is Clerk to the Board and has recently become an Elder.

For several years she has served on the Learning, Teaching and Research Committee of North Highland College and is currently its Chairperson. She also serves on a number of N.H.S. Caithness Redesign Committees.

Andrew Kerr - Chair of the Human Resources Committee content

Andrew Kerr - Chair of the Human Resources Committee

Andrew is originally from Edinburgh, but has lived and worked in the Highlands for the past 5 years.  He has worked as a solicitor for the past 10 years. After graduating from Glasgow University, he worked in Edinburgh in both public and private sector before moving to the Highlands in 2011. Outside work he lives near Portmahomack, and divides his time between Caithness and Easter Ross with his wife, daughter and dog. Andrew is a keen photographer, determined runner and dreadful golfer who enjoys being outdoors exploring the countryside with friends and family.

Andrew Kerr


Student Members

Tia Cannop – HISA Depute, Student Member content

Tia Cannop – HISA Depute, Student Member



Staff Representatives

David Olds – Teaching Staff Member content

David Olds – Teaching Staff Member

David’s responsibilities vary greatly right across the NHC Game keeping courses. His main responsibility is with the MA Gamekeepers where he organises training, assesses the students, liaisons with work placement providers (sporting estates) and generally mentors the apprentices/students whilst at college. A lot of the MA’s are 16-18 yrs old and is the first time that most of them have lived away from home and had their first job. He still has a passion for the mountains whether it’s deerstalking, back country skiing in the winter months or downhill mountain biking where he gets a great adrenaline rush from going fast. He thinks that the UHI is a great place to come and study and that there are great opportunities for students and staff. He works as a retained Firefighter (Crew Manager) in his hometown of Kingussie in his ‘spare time’ where he can be called out to a variety of incidents including house fires, Road Traffic Collisions, wildfires and chemical incidents.

David Olds

Magnus Davidson content

Magnus Davidson

Magnus was brought up in Cromarty on the Black Isle with Far North family connections. Having studied at the University of Glasgow he was keen to move back to the Highlands and took the opportunity of postgraduate study with the College’s Environmental Research Institute. Having completed his studies and finished some consultancy work Magnus took on a full-time research role with ERI specialising in investigating the interactions between the environment, the economy and society. Magnus was a founding member of the 2050 Climate Group, an environmental organisation that empowers young people in Scotland to act on climate change, and also sits on the steering group for Thurso Community Development Trust. Magnus lives in Thurso with his family where he surfs, spearfishes, and is trying to finish a book on the history of energy in the Highlands and Islands.

Magnus Davidson


Non Executive Members

Tessa Palmer content

Tessa Palmer

Born and raised in Argyll, Tessa attended the University of St Andrews and graduated with a degree in Mathematics. Following graduation, Tessa has held a number of positions as a financial analyst, including several years with Barclays Investment Bank in London and most recently with Fidelity Investments as a Senior Analyst in Boston in the US, where her husband is from. Tessa currently lives in Dornoch and works as an independent financial analyst. She enjoys photography, running her small craft business and attempting to learn how to play golf

Tessa Palmer

Jim Mcgillivray content

Jim Mcgillivray

Jim studied for an Honours Degree in Computing from the old Paisley College of Technology (now West of Scotland University) and subsequently spent a brief spell in Explosives Research with Nobels Explosives (ICI).  Jim was a Systems Analyst with Babcock Power at Renfrew for two years before moving into Teaching at Tain Royal Academy for nearly 3 decades, latterly as Principal Teacher of Computing.  He retired in 2007 and was subsequently elected as Highland Councillor for East Sutherland & Edderton Ward, he was re-elected in 2012.

Jim Mcgillivray

Patrick Murray content

Patrick Murray

From an old Dornoch family but brought up in the South East of England, he graduated from Oxford with a degree in Philosophy Politics and Economics and then qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Peat Marwick Mitchell (now KPMG). Joined Shell International Petroleum in 1980, and worked in London and Tokyo in the oil trading and planning departments. Traded international cargoes of crude oil and products with oil companies and government entities around the world including Algeria, Japan, Korea, China, Greece, Brunei. Joined HSBC James Capel, Tokyo in 1988. Started as COO and subsequently became Global Head of Japanese Equities and the Tokyo Branch Manager. Returned to London in 1998 and joined Robert Fleming Securities, London as a Director and Chief Operating Officer.

He retired to the family home in Dornoch in 2009 and is Treasurer of the Dornoch Community Council, the Dornoch and District Community Association and the East Sutherland Rotary Club.He enjoys ski-mountaineering and visiting friends and family around the world, particularly in Japan, Australia, US, France, India, and Kenya.

Patrick Murray


Board Secretary