Board Member Profiles

Ray McCowanChair of the Board Register of Interests

Ray joined the Borders College Board in February 2022 as Chair of the Board. He is also the Director for the WEA [Workers Education Association] in Scotland and a member of its UK Executive Leadership Team. He is also a member of the Adult Learning Strategic Forum for Scotland a member of the Education Scotland Board and has previously held a number of other non-executive director roles.  Prior to his current roles Ray worked in the college sector as a lecturer and learning manager before securing Assistant Principal roles at Perth College UHI, Adam Smith College and finally a Vice Principal role at Edinburgh College.

Pete Smith – Principal of Borders College   Register of Interests

Pete’s contribution to further education began in 2004 with a senior position at Edinburgh’s Telford College.  He then joined Borders College as a Vice Principal from 2007 to 2018 before undertaking a similar role at North East Scotland College from 2018 until appointment to his current role in September 2022. Prior to joining the further education sector, Pete spent 15 years in local government, working in both corporate finance and delivering a range of education support services.

Pete currently serves on the Colleges Scotland College Sector Finances Committee and the Good Governance Steering Group.  He also undertakes non-executive director and trustee roles for external bodies, currently Advanced Procurement for Universities and Colleges (APUC) and Live Borders.

Pete’s priorities are to ensure the College delivers the education and skills necessary to support economic growth in the Scottish Borders and beyond, as well as drive forward the innovative and creative partnerships and developments that will ensure that our economy is both inclusive and sustainable.

Building on the foundation of education and learning opportunities in the community, Pete is focused on the vision of ensuring that local partnerships with our schools are effective, that the concept of lifelong learning thrives within the Scottish Borders, and that Borders College plays a key role in delivering this.

Pete is clear that the enrichment of the student experience is essential to a successful college and is a process that is continual. Through self-evaluation and reflective practices Borders College will continue to respond to the ever-changing needs of the diverse student population.

The concept of the College as a community anchor is one that Pete feels very strongly about and is something that he is determined to ensure is recognised across the Region.

Jess McBeath (Board Member since February 2019) Register of Interests

Jess is director of Jess Ltd, specialising in online safety and digital citizenship in Scotland. Jess works directly with young people and parents and she also advises organisations on their knowledge, policy and practice in supporting young people to be safe online. Jess was awarded the NSPCC Childhood Champion Award as Schools Volunteer for Scotland 2018. She is also Non-executive Director to Ofcom’s Advisory Committee Scotland.

Paul Cathrow (Board Member since January 2021) Register of Interests

Paul is an Economic Infrastructure Development Project Manager, employed by South of Scotland Enterprise. He has previously worked as a senior manager with Scottish Borders Health and Social Care Partnership. In addition, Paul is Team Leader of Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team.  

Carol Gillie (Board Member since January 2021)  Register of Interests

Carol worked for over 35 years in the NHS gaining a breadth of experience in a number of areas including finance, capital planning, procurement, estates and facilities.  She graduated from the University of Edinburgh with a degree in modern languages and is a qualified accountant (member of the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy).  She has also held a number of voluntary roles in support of her local community. 

Lynn Mirley (Board Member since January 2021) Register of Interests

Lynn is currently Director of Business Support at Eildon Housing Association.  As a qualified accountant, she has worked in a number of senior leadership roles and her 30 year career spans a wide variety of functional and industry areas in the private, public and third sector.   She has been involved in leading the delivery of major digital change projects and has a keen interest in supporting people to reach their potential. 

Bernie Quinn (Board Member since July 2022) Register of Interests

Bernie is a higher education consultant and director of Caledonia Education Ltd operating in the transnational education sector. Prior to this, he worked in Singapore as academic dean for a Swiss international branch campus institution. He was also a senior lecturer in the school of Business, Enterprise and Management at Queen Margaret University and has worked extensively in the far east.

Christopher Alder (Board Member since July 2023) Register of Interests

Christopher is President of the Borders College Students’ Association.

Ann McKerracher (Board Member since June 2021) Register of Interests

Ann is the Support Staff Board Member.  Ann has worked with Borders College for around 18 years, initially delivering hospitality related training through BCC.  She has subsequently worked in student support roles and is currently an Achievement Coach within Creative Industries.  Ann is also a Director of a brain tumour charity and has been a foster carer for the past 10 years.

Prof. David Roberts (Board Member since July 2022) Register of Interests

Vernice Key (Board Member since July 2022) Register of Interests

Vernice is now retired and has recently relocated to the borders after more than 20 years working as a CIPFA qualified finance professional and senior manager within local government in England where her final role saw her managing a shared service across a partnership of three local authorities. Alongside her professional career she has been able to develop and continue her interest in education through board membership of her local FE college, Cambridge Regional College.

Ugonna Mbaezue (Board Member since July 2022) Register of Interests

Ugo is currently employed by NHS Borders as a Project Manager. Prior to taking up this role, he worked in the private sector as a mechanical engineer specialising in heat exchanger design and engineering compliance. Ugo has also worked for the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow as a research associate. He obtained his MPhil and MSc. (both in Mechanical Engineering) from the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.

Samantha Hamilton-Green (Board Member since April 2023) Register of Interests

Samantha joined the Regional Board of Borders College in April 2023 bringing expertise in hospitality, with over 16 years in the industry, and HR as a Chartered fellow of the CIPD. Holding an undergraduate honours degree is Tourism & Hospitality Management, an MBA, and a level 7 CIPD Diploma in Human Resource Management, Samantha is a strong advocate for continuous development.

Samantha aims to provide strategic leadership and guidance as part of the board, after having recently completed an Executive Leadership course with Saïd Business School at Oxford University as well as drawing on her experience from her current role as Group HR Director for Dakota Hotels.

Philip Macdonald (Board Member since April 2023) Register of Interests

Phil Macdonald is the Managing Partner of Oberlanders, one of Scotland’s leading architectural practices, with a head office in Edinburgh and 5 other offices across the UK, including in Galashiels. Oberlanders was founded in 1983, initially focusing in complex scientific research and healthcare facilities. However, today they undertake projects in all sectors and of all sizes and scales.  Phil is the Partner Lead for projects within the higher and further education, science and research sectors and has experience working on a wide range of projects from complex multi-phased refurbishments to large scale strategic masterplans and major new-build developments.

Phil joined Oberlanders in 1999, becoming a Partner in 2002 and Managing Partner in 2016. He has managed the growth of the practice to nearly 100 staff, with a clearly defined business purpose, vision and values underpinned by a strong people focused culture. He has developed cohesive and effective collaborations, allowing clients to access the very best in sector leading, innovative talent whilst having confidence in project delivery that is rooted in the local context. He facilitated Oberlanders membership of the International Design Alliance Network (IDeA) – a global alliance of like-minded architectural practices committed to sharing world class, sector leading knowledge and expertise, delivered in a local context and scale.

In December 2022, Phil was appointed to the Board of the UK Science Park Association (UKSPA) as Director representing Business Affiliate Members. In April 2023 he was co-opted onto the Board of Management of Borders College in Galashiels, also taking a position on the College’s Audit Committee.  

Phil lives in Innerleithen, with his family. Away from work, he is a committed member of Tweed Valley Mountain Rescue Team and is currently team Secretary, as well as being one of the team’s Casualty Carers. He is also a Scottish Ambulance Service Community First Responder in his local community of Innerleithen in the Scottish Borders where he is currently Chair and Group Coordinator.