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Finance executive Richard Watson appointed as Arts University Plymouth’s new Chief Operating Officer

Richard Watson joins from the South West Academic Health Science Network with 25 years experience in research and finance management and development

Richard Watson, finance executive and fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, has been appointed as Arts University Plymouth’s new Chief Operating Officer.

This new role sees him join the university following four years with the South West Academic Health Science Network (SW AHSN) where he held a number of executive roles including interim CEO and Director of Corporate Operations. Prior to this, Richard worked at Plymouth Marjon University as Director of Finances and Facilities, helping the university to develop its campus in Derriford.

Rich Watson

Richard Watson

"Getting it wrong is a luxury that not a lot of organisations can afford, but I feel that is an essential in the education world to innovating, growing, and learning for the future. The unusual mix of accountant, by trade, and farmer, by background, have helped me to fine-tune my decision-making skills. Understanding that making timely decisions - or deciding not to take action at all - can be equally appropriate, what’s essential is that the decision is informed and positive."
Richard Watson, COO of Arts University Plymouth

Richard said, “An organisation with long term financial viability allows it to take more long-term judgements into the future, allowing it to think more broadly and deeply about the world we’re serving and in terms of academia, research, innovation and employment. That fundamentally comes from a sure economic base, and it importantly gives you the bandwidth to succeed, by accepting a non-existential risk to getting it wrong. Getting it wrong is a luxury that not a lot of organisations can afford, but I feel that is an essential in the education world to innovating, growing, and learning for the future. The unusual mix of accountant, by trade, and farmer, by background, have helped me to fine-tune my decision-making skills. Understanding that making timely decisions - or deciding not to take action at all - can be equally appropriate, what’s essential is that the decision is informed and positive.”

With 25 years of experience in research and finance management and development, Richard built his career at the University of Exeter and a commercial accountancy practice, where he had a specific focus on rural diversification and viability investment across Wales and the South West.

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Helping develop the skills and businesses that enhance opportunity and innovation is a key driver for Richard. With both his career choices and commitments to support investment in the region’s social enterprises, he is keen to champion the South West and its creative assets.

Richard said, “I really care about this part of the world. When we think of opportunities, the answer tends to be that they start in Bristol or further towards London, and I want that to stop happening. I'm very fortunate to do what I want to do where I want to do it, and I want more people to have that opportunity. No organisation has a right to exist, but as long as we are here, we have a responsibility to serve our community. That’s why I do what I do.”

Richard will take on this role within the Senior Leadership Team, replacing Mark Taylor, current Director of Finances and Resources who leaves Arts University Plymouth after 10 years of dedicated service to move on to new opportunities around his new home in Wales.

Professor Paul Fieldsend-Danks, Vice-Chancellor of Arts University Plymouth, said, “ We are delighted to welcome Richard to our university community and particularly at such an exciting time in our 166 year history as a provider of creative education in Plymouth. Richard brings with him the knowledge, experience and acumen needed to support Arts University Plymouth’s strategic ambitions for the future and the continuing success of our graduates in their creative futures.”