Professor McCormac: a biography
Professor McCormac grew up in Belfast. The eldest of seven, he attended St Mary’s Christian Brothers’ Grammar School and was the first in his family to go to university, obtaining his undergraduate degree at the Ulster Polytechnic and PhD jointly from Ulster and the University of Southampton. Specialising in space physics, carbon dating and climate change, he spent the early years of his career at the University of Michigan, where he worked on the NASA Dynamics Explorer satellite programme, before heading up the carbon dating facility at Queen’s University Belfast.
From 2001 until 2010, Professor McCormac was Pro-Vice-Chancellor at Queen’s before moving to the University of Stirling in May 2010. In his 12 years at Stirling, Professor McCormac has overseen a significant improvement in Stirling’s research and international presence, and has led the regeneration of the University estate – including the renewal of the University’s accommodation blocks, the redevelopment of the world-class sport facilities, and the creation of the Campus Central development. In addition, he has led the transformation of the student experience, with the University ranked top 30 in the UK in the latest National Student Survey.
Strengthening the University’s international links, Professor McCormac led the creation of a joint venture with INTO University Partnerships – resulting in a teaching centre for international students being created on campus – and a significant increase in international student recruitment. Under his leadership, the University has established a presence in China, India and Nigeria and developed transnational education with partners in the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, and Hong Kong – building on pre-existing initiatives in Vietnam, Oman, and other countries.
During Professor McCormac’s tenure, the University has received two Queen’s Anniversary Prizes – the first for its work on social marketing in 2014 and the second, in 2019, for its globally recognised Institute of Aquaculture. In addition, Stirling was crowned UK Sports University of the Year 2020 by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide, complementing its long-standing designation as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence.
The University is currently playing a critical role in delivering the Stirling and Clackmannanshire City Region Deal, a £214 million investment in the future of the region designed to drive economic growth, productivity, and prosperity. The Deal has the potential to leverage additional private investment in excess of £640 million over the next 10 to 15 years, delivering more than 5,000 new jobs across a range of sectors. Significantly, with research and innovation central to the vision, the project will see the University leading the development of Scotland’s International Environment Centre, a National Aquaculture Technology and Innovation Hub, and an Intergenerational Living Innovation Hub.
In addition to his roles at Stirling and Universities Scotland, Professor McCormac is a UK board member of the Universities and Colleges Employers Association. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, the Royal Society of Antiquaries, the Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufacturers, and the Higher Education Academy; and a Trustee of the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. In 2011, he chaired a review of teacher employment in Scotland for the Scottish Government and, in 2015/16, he served as an advisor to the Northern Ireland Executive during the creation of the Department for the Economy. Professor McCormac is married with three sons.