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Granite City among the best for producing future chiefs

University of Aberdeen graduates
University of Aberdeen graduates

New research shows Aberdeen University is the best in Scotland and among the top 20 globally for producing top-flight company chief executives.

Figures culled by UK Domain put the Granite City’s 523-year-old seat of learning in the leading pack, alongside the likes of Harvard, Princeton and Stanford universities in the US.

Harvard tops the list, boasting six former graduates who have gone on to become CEOs at companies listed on London’s FTSE 100 Index or America’s Fortune 100 group of the largest firms, by turnover, in the US.

Aberdeen University alumni include two CEOs at that level: Standard Life Aberdeen co-chief executive Martin Gilbert and Informa boss Lord Carter of Barnes.

University principal Sir Ian Diamond said the institution had “consistently produced alumni of outstanding merit”.

He added: “Many have gone on to make major contributions to science, the arts, medical research, business, politics and much more.

“Our graduates have long been the best the country offers, benefiting from an outstanding student experience, securing specific Aberdeen graduate attributes, which have shaped them to be responsible global citizens with a strong academic background, ready to add value to their chosen professions.”

Mr Gilbert said: “Aberdeen is up there with some of the best universities, not just in the UK, but around the world.

“It is no surprise graduates have gone on to be successful in their fields.

“Living in the city, whilst studying, one not only learns huge amounts in lectures and through tutors but also from what is happening elsewhere in the area.

“The hard work, entrepreneurship, perseverance and success of those involved in oil, farming, fishing and other sectors offer valuable lessons in business. They certainly helped drive my ambition.”

Aberdeen University has produced many other business leaders over the years, including multimillionaire North Sea oil and gas industry veterans Sir Ian Wood and Ian Suttie.

Dame Susan Rice, managing director for Lloyds Banking Group in Scotland, and former Scottish Environmental Protection Agency CEO Campbell Gemmell kick-started their careers there.

Hardy Oil and Gas CEO Ian MacKenzie and Willie Watt, chief executive at Edinburgh-based Martin Currie Investment Management, are also Aberdeen University graduates, while Jeanette Forbes, who heads up north-east information technology services firm PCL, is another former student.

Honorary graduates include Sir Moir Lockhead, the founder and former chief executive of transport giant FirstGroup, Craig Group chairman and managing director Douglas Craig and Jim Milne, the founding chairman of engineering firm Balmoral Group.

Former Shell UK chairman James Smith, now chairman of the Carbon Trust, studied physics there before an accountancy job and an illustrious career in the oil and gas industry.

Sir Don Cruickshank, who had spells as chairman of London Stock Exchange and Scottish media group SMG, having earlier led a review of the UK banking sector, has two degrees from the university to his name. He is also a former governor.

Engineering science graduate Iain Gray went on to head up the UK Government’s technology strategy board as CEO and is now director of aerospace and a member of the senior management team at Cranfield University.

HSBC group finance director Iain Mackay launched his career with an Aberdeen University degree in business studies and accounting.

Otto Thoresen, chairman of the National Employment Savings Trust and a former director-general of the Association of British Insurers studied maths and statistics there.

Will Whitehorn studied history and economics at the university before a series of jobs, including a spell as president of space travel venture Virgin Galactic, led to boardroom roles at Stagecoach Group, Clyde Space and the Scottish Gallery.