Dame Joan is a British political scientist and former Principal and Vice Chancellor of Edinburgh Napier University, the first woman to lead a Scottish university. Prior to that she was Principal of Queen Margaret University College and held senior appointments at The Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen. In her academic career she has championed internationalisation in education and is a strong believer in the need to strengthen business/university links. She has held numerous appointments outside academia including Chair of the Northern Ireland Equality Working Group, member of the Constitutional Steering Group on the Scottish Parliament, the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland, and the HFEA. She is currently pursuing a non-executive career as Chair and Independent non-executive director of a range of private, arts and not-for-profit organisations and is adviser to a number of organisations on governance and strategy.
She is Senior Independent Council member of the Institute of Directors.