Members of the Regional Board

Ken Milroy, MBE – Chair

Ken studied Youth and Community Work at Moray House College, Edinburgh, graduating in 1981. He spent the early part of his career in youth and community development work in the voluntary sector and local government in Strathclyde and Grampian areas. In 1996 he was appointed as the founding Chief Executive of the social enterprise, Aberdeen Foyer, working to address issues of youth homelessness and unemployment. He retired from the role in August 2018.

In 2004 Ken was appointed to the Board of Aberdeen College and was appointed Chair in 2009. In 2012, as part of the Scottish Government’s reform of post-16 education, he led the regional planning and merger of the Colleges in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire to create North East Scotland College. In 2014 Ken was appointed as the Regional Chair for the new College Board and through this role is actively involved in the wider College sector at a national level, currently as Chair of Colleges Scotland and Chair of the sectors Good Governance Steering Group. Ken also serves as a Governor of Robert Gordon University and is active in his own local community in Aberdeenshire. Ken’s was a founding Director and Chair of Transition Extreme, member of the Social Enterprise Academy Board, and the Board of the UK Foyer Federation.

Neil Cowie – Principal and Chief Executive

Neil was born and brought up in ‘Little Scotland’ (Corby, Northants) but moved to Buckie, Moray in his early teens. 8 years after this relocation Neil graduated with an honours degree in Sociology from the University of Aberdeen. His first ‘proper job’ was as a seasonal sales assistant in a Union Street record shop. Shortly afterwards he was promoted to Assistant Manager, working in the company’s Aberdeen and Dundee stores. Long-standing public service ambitions eventually led him to a 9 year career in social housing. In that time he worked for several social housing providers in various roles ranging from temporary Rent Arrears Assistant to Area Housing Manager. During his housing career Neil gained a Postgraduate Diploma in Housing Studies from Sheffield Hallam University as well as Corporate Membership of Chartered Institute of Housing (CIOH). He was also a member of the Branch Committee of the CIOH in Scotland.

Passionate about education and keen to try teaching, Neil applied for a vacancy at Banff and Buchan College and in December 1999 began working there as a Lecturer in Sociology. Over the following 13 years Neil held several posts within the College namely Schools Liaison Officer, Curriculum Leader (Social Sciences, ESOL and Core Skills), Sector Manager (Social Studies and Creative Arts) and Assistant Principal (Curriculum and Quality). At its inception Neil joined North East Scotland College (NESCol) as Vice Principal and was, over time, to hold senior management responsibility for most of the College’s support-related operational areas. Neil has also held senior management responsibility for all the College’s curriculum, Business and Community Development and quality-related activities. Neil retains an active interest in quality improvement and has been a long-standing Associate Assessor with Education Scotland. In December 2019, Neil became NESCol’s Principal and Chief Executive, 20 years after he first started his College career. He remains a strong advocate for further education and continues to champion its ability to transform and improve the life chances of many.

Dave Anderson

David was born in Stirling and has been based in Peterhead since 2001. He is a Director of Score Diagnostics Limited and is responsible for promoting the company’s unique and exclusive valve condition and performance monitoring products and services worldwide. With over 35 years of experience of working directly in the valve industry, he is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, a Chartered Quality Professional, a Member of the Chartered Quality Institute and a Member of the Institute of Asset Management. He is a time served Mechanical Engineering Technician and has an array of Engineering and Business qualifications. David has worked directly in valve manufacturing, valve supply and servicing, specialised valve research and testing, surface treatments and valve condition monitoring and diagnostics. With a passion for creating opportunities and helping others realise their full potential, a major part of his career was spent designing, developing and delivering vocational training courses and unique electronic training and competency assessment systems. With the backing and support of the Score Group of companies, he set up the Score Training and Multimedia Productions Limited (STAMP) organisation and served as Managing Director of that organisation for almost 8 years. Score Group Limited have a multi–award winning Apprenticeship Scheme operating worldwide. David is also the former Managing Director and a current serving Director of Peterhead Engineers Development Limited, a registered charity organisation specialising in the delivery of Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Engineering and Administration to candidates in the Peterhead area. A fitness enthusiast, his hobbies also include football and music and he manages to combine these in a unique way.

Ann Bell, MBE – Vice Chair

Ann is born and bred in Buchan. Her work began as a Training Manager helping people who were unemployed or disabled find work. She then became a Fishing Industry Co–ordinator, which included being North Sea Commission Marine Advisor. This work involved the organisation of regional and local authorities from all the countries around the North Sea. Ann was also Manager of the North Sea Commission fisheries partnership, which is a partnership of fishermen and scientists from the North Sea Countries. She was a Director and Executive Secretary of North Sea Advisory Council, an organisation of fishermen, NGOs, fishing ports, processors and women’s network. In 2003 Ann received an MBE for services to the fishing industry and communities. Ann is currently Chair of the Festive Frozen Fraserburgh Committee, working with community organisations to help both the social and economic regeneration of Fraserburgh.

Sasha Brydon – Student Member

Born in Aberdeen, educated and brought up in Aberdeenshire, Sasha has attended NESCol since 2018 completing an NC in Social Sciences, and had completed the first year of his HND when he was elected as Regional President of the Students’ Association for academic year 2020-21. Sasha sits on Kemnay Community Council, the Scottish Youth Parliament, Aberdeenshire Youth Council, Aberdeenshire Youth Forum and Aberdeen Trades Union Council, serving as its President since March 2018. He has previously served as member of the UK Youth Parliament for North East Scotland.


Youth work and volunteering have been central to Sasha’s work over the past few years, working alongside Aberdeenshire Council and other bodies. His academic interests rest with the humanities, but he is also interested in administration.

Martin Dear — Teaching Staff Member

Born and brought up in the market town of Forfar Martin was educated within the Angus school system, going on to attend both Dundee and Angus Colleges gaining a City and Guilds qualification in Carpentry and Joinery. In 1975 Martin moved to Australia having married six months previously, where he spent time both in Sydney and Melbourne, before returning home in 1983.

Martin joined a large insurance company working in the central belt and spent the next twenty one years within this industry. He then qualified through the chartered insurance institute as an independent financial adviser and latterly as a business development and training manager. Martin transferred to Aberdeen in 1990 before retiring in 2004. Having retired he set up my own company in the construction industry and then joined the former Aberdeen College in 2007 as an instructor working with disengaged young students. Martin progressed to a lecturer’s role a year later, and since joining the College has completed a HNC in Construction and a BA in Professional Development.

Martin’s outside interests include volunteering with the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, participating as an active board member for Inspire PTL, holding the office of treasurer of the local allotment community group and being a member of the local Men’s Shed as property and health and safety convener. Martin is a family person having two daughters and four grandchildren who keep him active throughout the year. His hobbies are photography, swimming and cycling.

Abdul Elghedafi

Abdul was born and raised in Aberdeen where he was educated at Aberdeen Grammar School and went onto study Law at the University of Aberdeen. Abdul is a Scottish Qualified Solicitor working for a public sector organisation specialising in a number of areas namely data protection law, freedom of information law, contract law and public sector procurement law.

Abdul is a Lay Member sitting on a joint Department for Transport and DVLA Committee where he provides a lay view on driving standards and policy. He also sits as independent panellist and chair of the Independent Appeals Panel for the Department for Transport adjudicating on train passenger appeals, and serves as a Non-Executive Director for NHS Western Isles.

Susan Elston

Susan, an MBA graduate, was born in Middlesbrough and moved to Aberdeen in 1999. She joined Sodexo in 2011 following a career in oil and gas operations, and recently retired from the position of Senior Vice President responsible for Offshore Operations in the North Sea and is the Global HSE Lead for Offshore and Marine.

In addition to being a Member of the Regional Board of NESCol, Susan is also the Chair of the Board of Aberdeen Foyer, a former Board Member of Oil & Gas UK, and Trustee of Hardship Committee of Oil & Gas UK Chaplaincy.

Susan is a recipient of the Institute of Directors Scottish Female Director of the Year Award and Grampian Director of the Year, and has received numerous awards for safety, including the British Safety Council Sword of Honour and seven consecutive RoSPA Sector Awards.

She is a member of the Sodexo Women’s International Forum for talent (SWIFt) and co–sponsor of the Women’s Leadership Development Programme.

John Henderson – Vice Chair

John was born, and lived and worked for most of his life in Edinburgh and Stirling. His mother and wife come from North East Scotland and he now lives in Aboyne.

Until the Summer of 2014, John was the Chief Executive of Colleges Scotland and the College Development Network. In that role he led these organisations through one of the most significant periods of change the college sector has experienced. He had a key role in supporting colleges throughout this unprecedented reform. He also served as a Director of SCQF, which has oversight of the framework of qualifications and how they relate to each other at different levels.

Prior to this John served in a variety of senior positions as a civil servant with the Scottish Government and the Scotland Office. These included involvement with college policy and funding at the time of incorporation. Other areas included International policy, the devolution settlement and financial management.

He has three children, two step children and a granddaughter. His interests include reading, gardening and community life in Aboyne and North East Scotland.

Abha Maheshwari

Abha Maheshwari is a Consultant Gynaecologist, Specialist in Reproductive Medicine and Director of Aberdeen Fertility Services. She did her basic and post graduate medical training in Delhi (India). In 2000, she moved to the UK gaining experience throughout England in the obstetrics and gynaecology sector, thereafter moving to Aberdeen in 2005 to complete specialist training in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery.

Abha is also Person Responsible in accordance with licensed clinical services governed by the Human Embryology Fertilisation authority (HFEA), and Lab Director for the Andrology Laboratory in Grampian which is ISO 1589–2012 accredited.
Abha has been a member of committee in HFEA to work on Information for quality programme and chaired the expert group on data reporting and analytics. She has been a member of National Infertility group (Scottish Government) and has taken an active role in developing regionally agreed practices across Scotland.

She has active interest in research and has published widely in field of Reproductive Medicine. She is Chief Investigator of a National project funded by National Institute of Health Research (UK) along with part of multiple national projects, collaborating with various multidisciplinary teams worldwide. She has obtained post graduate diploma in Medical Education from Dundee University and has had several roles, including curriculum development in the MBChB programme for the University of Aberdeen. Abha also supervises higher degrees for medical and non–medical trainees and is examiner for higher degrees for other academic institutions. She is also sub speciality training programme supervisor for training in Reproductive Medicine and Surgery and Preceptor for Advanced training skills module for specialist training in obstetrics and Gynaecology.

Julie Mcginley – Student Member

Born in Glasgow, Julie lived in Newcastle Upon Tyne prior to moving to Aberdeen before spending a number of happy and relaxing years in Cyprus.  She then returned to Aberdeen in 2017.  In 2019, with her daughter starting school, Julie decided that it was now her time to concentrate on her life and education, fulfilling a long standing ambition of studying law.  Julie is currently in her second year of studying a HND in Legal Services at NESCol.

Julie is passionate about education and learning and endeavours to encourage anyone, no matter what age or background, to follow their dreams or goals to better themselves, even if this is initially out with their comfort zone.

Following completion of her HND, Julie intends to continue with her personal goal to progress to Robert Gordon University.  Her motivation to work hard with a determination to do better and to be an inspiring role model for her daughter will ensure that she obtains her long wanted Law Degree.

Julie’s motivation for joining the Regional Board stems from her passion for learning, when the opportunity arose to serve as a Board Member she jumped at the chance to do something unforeseen and out of her comfort zone.  Being a NESCol student is a great experience and in expanding this to include serving on the Board, Julie feels she will benefit from learning from other Board Members as part of her journey onto university and into the workplace, whilst also striving to contribute to making NESCol an even better place to study

Neil McLennan

Neil has held a number of key roles in supporting change and improvement in education. After a teaching career in the central belt he was seconded to Learning & Teaching Scotland (now Education Scotland) as a National Development Officer. After two successful secondments implementing national policy he moved to the North East as Quality Improvement Officer (Education, Culture and Sport) for Aberdeen City Council where he also undertook a period as Acting Service Manager (Schools & Curriculum). He currently supports leaders in across public services in his role as Senior Lecturer and Director of Leadership Programmes at the University of Aberdeen.

Neil has led a number of national education and professional membership bodies. He is a former President of the Scottish Association of Teachers of History (SATH) and the Enterprise Practitioners’ Association (EPA), a former co–chair and the General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland. He has been a non–executive director of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Foundation and the Scottish College for Educational Leadership (SCEL), and a former a Scottish Fellowship Councillor for the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). He remains a board director for the Connect (formerly Scottish Parent Teacher Council) and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra (RSNO) as well as a Lay Committee members for Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh (RCPE).

Neil was awarded Professional Recognition in Enterprise Education by the General Teaching Council Scotland and also was the recipient of a Royal Society of Edinburgh Medal for “for his outstanding contribution to civic society, creativity and social enterprise, education and the social sciences.” In 2016 he was a Scottish Business 40Under40. Outside of work Neil enjoys historic research, travel and the fine food and drink of the north east of Scotland.

Sheena Ross

Sheena has lived in North East Scotland her whole life. She gained an Honours degree in Business Studies from Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen before undertaking her Chartered Accountancy exams, where she qualified as a CA in 1995 while working for James Milne & Co, a chartered accountancy practice in Aberdeen.

After working two years in industry for Grampian Country Food Group as a Financial Accountant, Sheena moved to Johnston Carmichael in Fraserburgh where she is currently a Business Advisory Director working with rural, agricultural and small businesses and companies mainly based in the North East corner of Scotland. In 2018/19 Sheena took part in Scottish Enterprise’s Rural Leadership Programme which included visiting the parliaments in Brussels, London and Edinburgh.

Sheena, through Johnston Carmichael, has been involved at NESCol’s Fraserburgh Campus for over five years as a guest lecturer for HNC and HND Accountancy students and through the offering of summer placement opportunities to help local students gain relevant experience.

Sheena lives on the family farm with her husband and two teenage children, all of whom help keep her busy outwith work. She also enjoys yoga, being part of her local village choir, attending music concerts and socialising with friends.

Drew Russell

Born in Hamilton, Drew was educated at Earnock High School, Bell College of Technology and Jordanhill College of Education. On graduation he became a Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Thurso Technical College, before embarking on a 350+ year career in the offshore oil and gas industry.

While working for international contracting organisations in the topside, subsea and subsurface arenas, Drew travelled extensively, overseeing project execution, HS&E and business development activities across the globe.
Up until 2015 Drew sat on the Board of the Offshore Contractors Association and since then, he led a major transformation programme for Repsol Sinopec Resources UK.

Outside his business interests, Drew enjoys watching rugby union, gardening and DIY, Drew is married with two grown–up daughters and lives in Durris.

Anne Simpson

Anne was brought up in Bannockburn and graduated from the University of Stirling in 1972. Her early career was at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen where she undertook research for her Ph.D. then a post doctoral fellowship. She became interested in youth work in her twenties firstly as a volunteer and later as a paid part–time youth worker. This resulted in a change in career direction. She qualified as a Youth & Community worker in 1982 after a course at Northern College in Aberdeen. Since then she has worked in the Community Learning & Development and Education fields in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire. From 1998 until 2002 she was an Education Officer in the Buchan Area. In July 2002, she became Aberdeenshire Council’s Community Learning Manager. She took early retirement from this post in June 2011. In May 2017 she was elected to Aberdeenshire Council as a member for Ward 4, Central Buchan.

She remains as passionate about education, youth work and young people now as she did in her twenties. Her interests include her family, travel, gardening, church, cooking, reading, walking, history, family history, photography, music, and the internet. She lives in Mintlaw.

Gwen Watt — Support Staff Member

Born in Peterhead, educated and brought up in Fraserburgh attending Fraserburgh Academy, and Banff & Buchan College of FE, Gwen graduated in 1998 with a HND in Administration & Information Management. Gwen started working at Banff & Buchan College as a Word Processor in 1998. This is where Gwen’s employment has been since, excluding a 9 month spell at Score Energy, Peterhead, in 2012 where she worked as a Senior Administrator/Deputy Team Lead of Production Control. On returning to College after her time at Score, Gwen took up a role in Student Records. During merger an opportunity arose to change direction completely and work within the curriculum as a Guidance Tutor. Having thoroughly enjoyed this role and working alongside students, Gwen felt that she had found her calling. It was during this time that she completed a Post Graduate Certificate in Adult Guidance. A restructure related to student support services at the College in 2018 then afforded Gwen the opportunity to take up a line management role as Student Support Coordinator, a role which she thoroughly enjoys with its focus on helping students to achieve their full potential.

Gwen is a mother of three teenage boys. During her time as a mother she has undertaken many volunteering roles in the community from successfully campaigning to retain Maternity Services in Fraserburgh to Parent Councils, PTAs, Playgroup Committee Management and, since 2009, in the role of Club Secretary of Fraserburgh Linkup Youth Football Club. The Football Club has taken major strides forward in the past five years, including gaining SYFA Development Club Accreditation, an achievement Gwen is immensely proud of.

As a firm believer in further education and the opportunities it provides for the transformation of lives, Gwen looks forward to the contributions she came make during her time as a Member of the Regional Board.