The John Smith Centre has today detailed the recruitment process for a new Director.

Well known for its unique mix of world leading research, ground-breaking internships and advocacy work, the Centre marks its 10th anniversary in 2024. Based at the University of Glasgow, it works across the United Kingdom to break down the barriers underrepresented groups face in politics and wider public life.

Kezia Dugdale, who has served as Director for the past 5 years said: “The beauty of the John Smith Centre is that it works both on the long term structural issues that deter too many people from thinking politics is something for them and on making a difference in the here and now.

“I’m thrilled to be passing the baton in such a significant year. One that marks 30 years since John Smith’s passing, 25 years since the Scottish Parliament opened its doors and 10 years since the Centre found its home here at the University of Glasgow. 2024 of course also sees over two billion people across the globe go to the polls. There simply couldn’t be a better time to make the case for why politics matters.”

Kezia Dugdale will continue in her role as Professor of Practice with expanded responsibilities across the University of Glasgow.

Chair of the Board of the John Smith Centre, Catherine Smith added: “The John Smith Centre has a busy year coming up in 2024. Not only will we launch a major new piece of polling research assessing the attitudes of young people towards politics; but we will also present a fantastic line up of events involving outstanding UK and international contributors in our John Smith Centre at 10 Series to celebrate our 10th birthday”.

“Our internship and development programmes continue to grow with the introduction of opportunities with the Mayoral Offices in England; and we are establishing new partners in the US for our work. This is a really exciting opportunity to lead us in the discussion about why politics matters.”


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Job specifications:

Director of the John Smith Centre

The John Smith Centre promotes politics as a force for positive change through thought-leadership and action. The John Smith Centre is embedded within the College of Social Sciences at the University of Glasgow and has built a strong reputation for student opportunities and outstanding events. We seek to extend our activities at the University and beyond, encouraging young people to participate in politics.

The Centre is at an exciting stage in our development. As our second Director since inception, the role holder will lead the next phase of our development, building on the strong foundation fostered by the current Director and the University.

We are launching the UK’s first Youth Poll this year, a multi-year tracker poll assessing the attitudes of young people towards politics. Key to the poll’s success and unique appeal is that students are involved in every part of it. The new Director will have the opportunity to curate actions and events from the data it generates.

We will also present a series of high-profile campus-based events to celebrate our 10th birthday in 2024: our ‘John Smith Centre at 10’ series. We have commitments to participate from outstanding UK and international contributors and the new Director will continue to shape this series as the year goes on.

We have ambitious plans to grow our internship and development programmes. We run the only paid internship at the Scottish Parliament, and are now able to offer Westminster internships. We will offer our first internships with the mayor offices in England in 2024 and hope to develop opportunities in local government.

Job Purpose

The Director will provide strategic leadership to all the activities of the John Smith Centre. The role holder will shape the strategic direction of the Centre, direct the thought leadership of the organisation; craft and direct activities; and lead the engagement with both the University community and the wider UK.

Main Duties & Responsibilities

  1. Strategically lead, maintain and grow the current core work of the Centre, including internship and development programmes.
  2. Lead on the organisation and delivery of student engagement activities; online and in person with visiting practitioners presenting events and masterclasses.
  3. Start up and oversee the annual John Smith Centre Youth Poll, the first UK wide poll tracking youth opinion on the health of politics, embedding students at the University of Glasgow in the project.
  4. Research curation and bespoke research on behalf of the Centre.
  5. Disseminate the mission of the Centre in the UK through the media and influencing.
  6. Nurture the Centre’s Alumni Network to influence and offer continuing opportunities for it to grow and support our mission.
  7. Line manage John Smith Centre staff.
  8. Direct and manage the Centre’s finances and resources within the University’s scheme of delegation.
  9. Identify and build new streams of work and activities in line with the Centre’s mission.
  10. Build connections with key sponsors, funders and donors and raise funds to support the work of the Centre and its projects/initiatives. Bring in new sources of funds as well as effectively manage and nurture existing sources for the Centre’s long-term success.
  11. Lead foresighting activities to enable the Centre to anticipate and respond to emergent challenges for our mission, including analysis of trends in data and evidence to shape the Centre strategy.
  12. Lead on maintaining and raising the profile of the Centre within and beyond the University, through social and traditional media.
  13. Lead collaborations within the University and beyond, including with non-academic partners, to further the Centre’s aims.

Knowledge, Qualifications, Skills and Experience


A1 Ability to demonstrate the competencies required to undertake the duties associated with this level of post having acquired the necessary professional knowledge and management skills in a similar role. Or: Scottish Credit and Qualification Framework level 9, 10 or 11 (Ordinary/Honours Degree, Post Graduate Qualification), or equivalent.
A2 Recognised expertise in public service and politics to develop new knowledge and understanding within the field.
A3 Comprehensive knowledge of programme processes, management information systems and strategic programme of delivery.
A4 Demonstrable understanding of successful partnership engagement at senior level.
A5 Detailed knowledge and ability to structure and develop plans to exploit opportunities.


C1 Proven ability to plan and lead staff and efficiently deploy resources in support of activities.
C2 Track record of innovative idea generation leading to effective solutions.
C3 Highly effective oral and written communication and interpersonal skills with the ability to challenge with diplomacy.
C4 Resilient and able to maintain momentum in the face of obstacles and setbacks.
C5 Ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty in an effective manner.
C6 Ability to prioritise and juggle competing demands from a variety of stakeholders.
C7 Strong leadership, performance management and mentoring skills.
C8 Ability to challenge assumptions and practices.
C9 Effective team worker.
C10 Strong blend of gravitas, intellect and credibility.
C11 Ability to represent an organisation clearly and compellingly to external audiences.


E1 Substantial experience of management in the field of public service/politics or a relevant area.
E2 Experience of working with a Board to define the direction of an organisation and bring the resulting plans to fruition.
E3 Track record of successfully fundraising from multiple sources (e.g. individuals, trusts and foundations, corporates, statutory sources) to meet fundraising targets.
E4 Extensive experience of setting strategy and translating this into measurable outcomes.
E5 Extensive experience of managing relationships with stakeholders and senior levels and enhancing an organisation’s standing and reputation.
E6 Experience of successfully leading and managing a team.

F1 Experience of giving media interviews and handling media enquiries.
F2 Experience of giving presentations to large audiences.
F3 Experience of running social media campaigns.

Terms and Conditions

Deadline: 5 March 2024

Interview date: Monday 25 March 2024 at the University of Glasgow. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to meet with members of the John Smith Centre Board (online) before formal (in-person) interviews.

Salary will be on the  Management, Professional and Administrative, Senior Administrative Group, Grade 9/10. (Please find information about the University’s grading scales here and here.)

This role is full time (35 hours per week) and offered on an open ended basis.

Please find the University’s recruitment brochure here:

As part of Team UofG you will be a member of a world changing, inclusive community, which values ambition, excellence, integrity and curiosity.

As a valued member of our team, you can expect:
1 A warm welcoming and engaging organisational culture, where your talents are developed and nurtured, and success is celebrated and shared.
2 An excellent employment package with generous terms and conditions including 41 days of leave for full time staff, pension – pensions handbook, benefits and discount packages
3 A flexible approach to working.
4 A commitment to support your health and wellbeing<

We believe that we can only reach our full potential through the talents of all. Equality, diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our values. Applications are particularly welcome from across our communities and in particular people from the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) community, and other protected characteristics who are under-represented within the University. Read more on how the University promotes and embeds all aspects of equality and diversity within our community

We endorse the principles of Athena Swan and hold bronze, silver and gold awards across the University.

We are investing in our organisation, and we will invest in you too. Please visit our website for more information.
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