Global Director of Human Resources


Overview of the role

Reporting to the University Principal and Vice Chancellor, the Global Director of HR (GDHR) will play a key strategic role as a member of the University Executive. They will lead a global team of HR Professionals based in Edinburgh, Dubai, and Malaysia, delivering a first-class, customer focused service to managers and staff across our university community. They will be responsible for maintaining and delivering the People Strategy for the University as part of our Flourishing Communities strategic theme in the University’s Strategy 2025

This is a truly exciting role within a growing university that prides itself on being truly global and values led, balancing our ethos and charitable mission with a keen and growing commercial focus. Further developing our staff engagement agenda, working closely with UK Trade Unions and the senior leadership across the University, will be key to ensuring we maintain a positive culture and enhance our brand as an employer of choice within the sector in all our locations.

The department consists of Operational teams in Scotland, Dubai, and Malaysia along with dedicated Divisions covering Recruitment, Professional and Organisational Development, Payroll, Reward and Wellbeing, EDI, and Employee Relations. The Global Director will work in partnership with other University Service leaders to create a joined up, customer focused global directorate, providing efficient operational activities set within a strategic, forward looking people function.

Increasingly the maturing global teams offer flexibility in where staff can be located to support the global group and maximise service and effectiveness.

Besides membership of the University Executive, the GDHR reports to the Court (our governing body) Committees on staffing and remuneration and co-leads a strategic theme in our Strategy 2025 on ‘Flourishing Communities’.

Seven priorities that lie ahead

Development of the financial function and personnel

Support of ERP systems as it enters Phase 2 of its integration across the university

Focus on workforce planning and employee brand.

Development of the executive and leadership to assure robust succession.

Development with the Provost of effective performance management and global leadership development.

Focus on developing a ‘ purpose-led’ rationale  for staff (and students) as part of the staff engagement and development.

Participation in framing for ten-year strategy 2035 as a senior member of the executive

Key areas of responsibility

Strategic Outlook

Provide strategic direction and leadership across all aspects of human resources and organisational development, to ensure that the Directorate delivers dependable, responsive, consistent, and connected services to all service users and stakeholders; and manage the activities of the Directorate within the agreed budget.

Lead the strategic development of the Human Resources Directorate and wider People Strategy for the University. Develop and deliver annual operational plans which deliver the wider objectives of the Global University. Participate in Court Meetings as well as attending the Staff Committee and Renumeration Committee.

Contribute to the development and delivery of University-wide initiatives (e.g., Strategic Plan, Learning and Teaching Strategy, Research Strategy) drawing upon and sharing knowledge gained through engagement and close relationships with colleagues to inform and influence decisions.

Work in partnership with the UK trade unions to develop and maintain a positive employee relations environment. Contribute to national discussions in relation to pay and conditions at a sector-wide level.

Represent the University on external, Higher Education networks and in the external environment in all our locations.

Please note that this job description is not exhaustive, and the role holder may be required to undertake other relevant duties commensurate with the grading of the post and

its general responsibilities. Activities may be subject to amendment over time as the role develops and/or priorities and requirements evolve.


Participate as a full member of the University Executive and act as a key advisor to the Senior Team, work with colleagues on our University Court to ensure the people agenda is fully embedded in the University priorities.

Provide the visionary leadership that inspires others to implement strategic and operational plans, deliver to objectives, achieve standards of excellence and quality outcomes, and ensure that customer needs are met. Ensure the provision of specialist professional, technical and expert advice within the team and across the University.

To work closely with Executive colleagues, especially the Principal and Vice Chancellor, and University Secretary, the Global Chief Financial Officer, and the Vice Principal and Provost.

Management Responsibilities

Oversee the planning and delivery of sector-leading Human Resource services to underpin delivery of the University’s corporate objectives and ensure that the Directorate team is consistently working collaboratively with other University service functions, Schools, and Institutes in the delivery of operational and strategic outputs.

Manage the overall budget for the Human Resources Directorate, prioritising and focusing resources as necessary to meet the University’s needs.

Ensure that sustainability principles and practices are integrated throughout the management of the Directorate.

Championing Change

Assess and lead on the change management activities associated with delivering the University Strategy. Ensure the HR Directorate is well positioned to influence and deliver on stakeholder expectations.


Positively promote the University internally and externally through positive values-led behaviour and, where appropriate, by attending open days and other public engagement activities; Build partnerships to advance the University’s strategy, including at an international level.

Work with public bodies, charities, government agencies and other external stakeholders and influencers to provide input and support in areas such as policy formation, legislative consultation, committee membership or other activities

that will support the University strategy and demonstrate its co-operation with, and support for, the local community.

Work with the Principal and Vice-Chancellor, and with fellow Directors leading the University Professional Services teams, to deliver joined- up University-wide systems and processes; and actively demonstrate the University’s values.


Accountability for the development and operation of an organisational development programme to enable staff to understand and deliver the University’s strategy and objectives which reinforce Heriot-Watt’s culture and values; embed talent management and succession processes which support the professional development of our staff and deliver a sustainable workforce across all areas.

Enable the creation of a working environment and framework, which will attract, retain, and motivate highly qualified academic and professional services staff. Develop market leading performance management and reward processes in each of our locations to develop and recognise a high performing, highly motivated workforce.

Accountability for the development and operation of remuneration, job evaluation, promotions, and performance pay systems and processes that reward performance and contribution, are sustainable and affordable, promote inclusion and eliminate discrimination.

Improving systems and processes to ensure effective communication, consultation and engagement of staff and trade unions in matters that affect their employment; and development and improvement of reporting systems on the current workforce, identifying future workforce requirements, and developing and reporting on performance indicators including indicators of staff well-being.

Ensure staff growth and retention through Talent Management and Recruiting Strategies are in line with University ambitions across the globe.


Background and criteria

  • Essential CriteriaCriteria we would especially like to emphasize are:Significant experience as a senior leader in a complex international organisation. Strategic and operational experience in supporting a large, complex, and multi-site, multi-service operation.Commercially minded and committed to grow commercial acumen in the organisation and its processesAbility to lead and develop the HR function and be a member of the University ExecutiveGood level of digital skills and competence and understanding of the use of data to track performance.Awareness and ideally experience of a global reward context of the university.The successful candidate will be based at our Edinburgh Campus; we would therefore expect candidates to live within a reasonable commuting distance of the Edinburgh Campus.

    Other essential criteria are:

    Ability to travel to all campus locations on occasion, in Scotland, the United Arab Emirates, and Malaysia.

    Educated to degree level(or equivalent).

    Demonstrable experience of managing and leading an HR function, workloads and changing priorities for self and others.

    Proven track record of delivering excellent, customer-centric HR services.

    Experience of managing highly specialised operational teams at, or near, Director level that includes multiple layers of management in a large complex geographically dispersed organisation.

    Demonstrable financial, resource and budget management experience.

    Demonstrable experience of successfully managing and delivering strategic change in a large, complex organisation.

    Experience of organisational-level strategic and operational planning

    Understanding of relevant employment, and other, legislation.

    Demonstrable experience of producing accurate analysis and management information to assist in strategic decision-making, both orally and in writing.

    A proven track record of working effectively with multi trade unions and/or staff associations.

    Strong consultative, communication, presentation, and interpersonal skills to interact effectively with colleagues across the University, including Academic and Professional Services colleagues, all levels of management, etc.

    Excellent influencing and coaching skills, to be able to influence and persuade senior representatives and others across the University in issues relating to the operational services and the requirement for future enhancements to support and enhance the University’s objectives.

    Good track record as a team player, developing and maintaining positive working relationships with internal and external customers, peers, stakeholders, and others.

    A well-organised and efficient planner, able to demonstrate strong programme and project management skills.

    Politically astute, able to contribute to the management and leadership of cultural / organisational change at an institutional level; Collaborative in style and approach, able to anticipate and resolve problems where there is lack of precedent, in partnership with a variety of internal and external stakeholders.

    Capable of inspiring trust and confidence through building strong relationships.

    The personal credibility and impact to command the respect of peers and other stakeholders through confident application of professional expertise.


    Direct experience of universities but clearly an appreciation of the complexity of the organisations.

    Relevant professional / postgraduate qualification – MCIPD or FCIPD is highly desirable.

    Experience of operating in a global environment.

    Excellent project management skills.

    Knowledge of current policies, practices, and technologies relevant to higher education

Closing Date

Closing Date for applications is 17th April  2024

Interviews for this post will take place on 07th May 2024


The candidate brochure about this post is available here

How to apply?

For more information, or an informal initial discussion, please contact Ailsa Sutherland on 0131 539 7087

Delivery team

Ailsa Sutherland


Clare Stibbard

Executive Assistant

Apply now

Global Director of Human Resources

Heriot Watt University

Please fill out the form below to apply for this position:

Upload CV and/or supporting documents, or paste LinkedIn profile below:
Drop files here or
Max. file size: 128 MB, Max. files: 5.
    Upload CV (MS Word preferred but PDF allowed), or link to LinkedIn profile