Mr Neil McLennan

Mr Neil McLennan

Senior Lecturer (Scholarship)

Mr Neil McLennan
Mr Neil McLennan

Contact Details

work +44 (0)1224 274512
The University of Aberdeen Neil DR McLennan FRSA FSA Scot MYAS OSS
Senior Lecturer &
Director of Leadership Programmes
Associate,  Centre for Global Security & Governance Studies
University of Aberdeen
Room 520, MacRobert Building
King's College
AB24 5UA
+44 (0)1224 274512


Neil McLennan has held a number of key roles in supporting change and improvement in public services.  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 continues to be a Reading Champion for Aberdeen City Council and is also a Burgess of Guild of the City and Royal Burgh of Aberdeen.

In 2011 The Herald described Neil as, "a charismatic visionary in Scottish education."  In 2018 Dame Sue Bruce DBE described Neil as "a pioneering figure in Scottish education."

Neil has led a number of national education organisations and professional membership bodies.  He is a former President of both the Scottish Association of Teachers of History (SATH) and the Enterprise Practitioners’ Association (EPA).   Neil was a co-chair and the General Secretary of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland and former Trustee of the Royal Society of Edinburgh Foundation (the National Academy of Scotland).  Neil was the chair of the RSE YAS Curriculum for Excellence Working Group and the Excellence in Education Working Group.  These groups engaged in issues as diverse as inter-disciplinary learning, numeracy, skill development, aspirations and the recruitment and retention of teachers.

Neil regularly leads school leader and teacher inā€service training course and residential courses on a broad range of themes such as pedagogy, education change and improvement.  He also delivers internationally on active learning, citizenship, history and social studies education.  He is an established author with textbooks being used in Scottish Schools across the country and his other articles and publications used by leaders in education and beyond.  He is a regular contributor to TESS and other national media outlets.  He has had a skills column in the Courier Newspaper, still writes a history column in History Scotland magazine and also appears on radio and broadcast media shows on education, skills and current affairs related matters.  Neil was a Scotsman 200 writer and also reguarly reviews publications, most reccently for publications such as Bloomsbury, Scottish Education Review and Scottish Archives.  

Neil was awarded Professional Recognition for Enterprise in 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.”  He has also completed the Association of Directors of Education Scotland (ADES) Senior Leadership Development Programme as well as ILM accreditation for Leadership in Social Enterprise.

Neil also sits on a number of panels and working groups including previously being involved in Ministerial Working Groups and giving evidence to Government Comission.  He is a lay advisor to the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh and Director of the Royal Caledonian Education Trust, North East Scotland College and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra.  He was a Board Director for Connect (the Scottish Parent Teacher Council) and a Board Director for the Scottish College for Educational Leadership before it was subsumed into Education Scotland.

Neil supports leaders across public and uniformed services in his role as Senior Lecturer and Director of Leadership Programmes at the University of Aberdeen School of Education.  He has lectured across the world including invites to speak at University of Oxford, Korea University (South Korea), Toyo University (Tokyo, Japan), Athens State University (Alabama, USA), Valenciennes University (France) and Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (UK).

Neil retains an interest in history and history education where he still researches, writes and lectures extensively.  His main focus areas are The First World War, First World War poet Wilfred Owen's 're-education' and Scottish History.  The poet Helen Boden described Neil as an "indefatigable researcher." Neil's research work into the Great War was described by STV journalists as "great detective work."  The Evening Express noted him as "one of the top authorities on the First World War."  Neil was appointed an ambassador of the Western Front Association in 2020. He is also an honorary member of the Wilfred Owen Association.


Research Interests

Leadership models- cooperative leadership

Values and leadership

Public sector improvement

Change theory and practice 


History curriculum


Social studies pedagogies

Teaching 'controversial' issues

First World War History especially that of the Great War poets

Scottish History


Public engagement in the arts


National Design Group member- Scottish College for Educational Leadership, Into Headship Qualification

National Design Group member- Scottish College for Educational Leadership, In Headship Qualification

International Collaboration with SCEL writing:-Social emotional learning - a summary of changing the odds

This paper by Jay Helbert (SCEL Lead Specialist) and Neil McLennan brings together some of the core areas of research that underpin SEL. It reports on a 2016 conference and summarises the inputs to the field made by a number of significant contributors. The paper also provides a gateway to further reading and exploration into some of the fundamental aspects of SEL.

Leadership of cross sector and joint HEI projects:-

Chair of cross sector collaboration of 25 organisations to produce 17 events sharing my research into and cultural output inspired by, war poet, Wilfred Owen:-

Chair of cross sector collaboration to commemorate Scotland's Great War Poets:-

Chair of international concert for coopeartion on 100th anniversary of Armistice (#iPlay4Peace):-

Research Grants

2019 University of Aberdeen grant to support REF case studies.

2017 Scottish College for Educational Leadership grant to support travel, conference attendance in USA and writing of Professional Learning Resource on social and emotional learning.

2015 Royal Society of Edinburgh award to support Wilfred Owen research at Harry Ransom Centre, University of Texas, Austin (UTA).


Teaching Responsibilities

Programme Director for MSc Leadership in Professional Contexts

I currently teach:-

Exploring Leadership

Leading Effective Improvements

Leading Change

Action Research Project

Developing as a Strategic Leader (Into Headship programme for HT/principal preperation)

Leading Strategic Change (Into Headship programme for HT/principal preperation)(Into Headship programme for HT/principal preperation)

Shaping Professional Identity and Practice (In Headship programme for newly apponted HT/principals)

Excellence and Equity (In Headship programme for newly apponted HT/principals)

Building Capacity in Self and Others (In Headship programme for newly apponted HT/principals)

I also teach intial teacher education primary teachers and secondary social studies teachers on the following programmes


I also teach on the MSc Cultural and Creative Communication programe, lecturing on the Public Engagement for the Arts course where I share my scholarship and leadership work.

Further Info

External Responsibilities


Scottish Education Research Network: Leadership in Scottish Education Network (LiSEN) Co-Convenor 2020-present

Course Architect, Tecmillenio University, Mexico, Certificate in Management of Educational Institutions (CMEI) 2018- present

Director, Royal Caledonian Education Trust, 2018 - present

Director, North East Scotland College, 2018- present

Director, Royal Scottish National Orchestra 2017- Present

Lay Advisor, Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh 2015 to Present

Associate Member Voluntary Health Scotland 2018- Present

Member of Scottish College for Educational Leadership 'Into Headship' Team 2016- Present

Member of Scottish College for Educational Leadership 'In Headship' Design Team 2016- Present

Editorial Board Member, History Scotland

Chair #iPlay4Peace / #iSing4Peace International Concert for Cooperation, 2017 to Present




Fellowship Councillor, RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) 2017-  2020

Director, Scottish Parent Teacher Council 2016- 2019

Director, Scottish College for Educational Leadership  2016-2018

(Also member, Organisational Growth and Structure Committee, Scottish College for Educational Leadership)

Chair, Wilfred Owen 1917-2017 Committee, 2014-2018

Convenor, War Poets' Corner (Scotland) Committee, 2017-2018

Member of Character and Values Pathway Team to 2017

Trustee, Royal Society of Edinburgh SCIO (2012-2016)

Former General Secretary and Co Chair of Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland

Former Chair Excellence in Education Working Group (formely Curriclum for Excellence Working Group), Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland

Former President, Enterprise Practitioners Association

Former President, Scottish Association of Teachers of History

Judge- Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Inspiring Physician of the Year 2018/19

Judge- Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh, Inspiring Physician of the Year 2017/18

Admin Responsibilities

Programme Director MSc Leadership in Professional Contexts

Member, School of Education Communications Working Group


2019 Order of Scottish Samurai, Great Shogun Award

2017 Honorary Member Wilfred Owen Association- literary association.

2016 40Under40 Award from Scottish Business News Network

2012/2013 Recipient of Royal Society of Edinburgh Henry Duncan Medal  for “outstanding contribution to civic society, creativity and social enterprise, education and the social sciences.”

2011-2016 Member of Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland.  Co Chair and General Secretary 

2011 Institute of Contemporary Scotland Young Scot of the Year

2011 Runner Up Scotland and Ireland Young Thinker of the Year

2011 Finalist UK Thinker of the Year

Local Authority Enterprise Champion Award

Public Engagement

2013 Numeracy Counts - Series of videos in support of the Curriculum for Excellence showing how Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy members use numeracy in their everyday lives. The videos can be accessed via this link:-


Founder and Curator, #aspirationaladvice Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland Social Media Campaign 2015.  The campaign logbook can be accessed here:-

Curator, #aspirationaladvice Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland Social media Campaign 2016

Founder and Curator, Leadership Lounge (2016).  Social media group sharing findings and crtitical reflections on leadership in professional contexts.

Ten Things You Never Knew About WW1 (2017) Panel event for University of Aberdeen May Festival.  Chaired by Dr Helen Lynch, sat on panel alongside Professor Webber, Professor Hutchison and Martin Malone.



Selected media clippings.  For a fuller list search on BBC, STV, Time Magazine, Scotsman, Herald, Press & Journal and TESS.

Leadership and Education

Public Sector Leadership

History and History Education


Recent Conference Contributions

Selected reccent and upcoming Conference Contributions:-

McLennan, Neil (2019, March 10), Chair (Panel: Richard Lockhead MSP, Minister for Further, Higher Education and Science; Carrie Lindsay, Executive Director of Education and Children's Services, Fife Council and President of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland; 
Nick Antonopoulos, Vice Principal of Research & Innovation, Edinburgh Napier University ; Grant Ritchie, Principal, Dundee and Angus College
Dr Paul Thomson, Rector, Jordanhill School; STEM Scotland Conference, Dynamic Earth, Holyrood, Edinburgh

McLennan, Neil (2019, February 28) ' Changing education- Curriculum for Excellence 2.0 and Cooperative Leadership', Wellbeing in Education, International Positive Education: The Ultimate Wellbeing in Scotttish Education Conference: Edinburgh, (International Postive Education Network in association with Engaging Education, the Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC), University of Buckingham, Scottish Council of Independent Schools, International Positive Psychology Association)   Fettes College.

McLennan, Neil (2019, February 28) Panellist, Wellbeing in Education, International Positive Education: The Ultimate Wellbeing in Scotttish Education Conference: Edinburgh, Fettes College. 

McLennan, Neil (2019, February 18), Changing Leadership Paradigms: Values Based leadership and leadership modelling for the 21st Century, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

McLennan, Neil (2019, September 28), Cooperative Leadership, ResearchEd Scotland, Dollar Academy.

McLennan, Neil (2019, September 27), Creating a new leadership model- Cooperative Leadership.  Explorathon, Lerwick, Shetland.

McLennan, Neil (2019, September 25), Cooperative Leadership as a new leadership model, EduBlether as part of Scottish Learning Festival/Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative, University of Aberdeen Northern Alliance Hub.

McLennan, Neil (2019, September 24) Watson's Education Forum.  Invited delegate.

McLennan, Neil (2019, September 1 & 2), Invited delegate: Current geopolitical challenges & their impact on leadership in a disruptive age.  University of Aberdeen Centre for Global Security and Governance &  Andrássy University, Budapest; University of Aberdeen.

McLennan, Neil (2019 September 1), 'Leadership is....', British Army Officer Training Corps.

McLennan, Neil (2019 August 21), CfE 2.0 and Positive Education, EdMod, Riddles Court, Edinburgh

McLennan, Neil (2019 August 12), The Arts and Education, EduMod, Riddles Court, Edinburgh

McLennan, Neil (2019, August 7),  Cooperative Learning and Leadership, Kosovan Teachers Association, Prizren, Kosovo

McLennan, Neil (2019, July 28) Leading Cooperatively, Royal Society of Arts, Commerce and Manufactures (Japan) and University of Toyo, Tokyo, Japan.

McLennan, Neil (2019 July 22-26), Invited Keynote: '"Approach to reflection on colonialism in 1919 in connection with Paris Peace Treaty.  Lessons from History and creating cooperative leadership paradigms of the future."  International NGO Conference: History and Peace, 1919 and Its implications for Peace and Reconciliation in East Asia.  Hosted by:- NGO Forum for Peace in East Asia College of Liberal Arts, Korea University / The European Association of History Educators (EUROCLIO) / Bridge for Peace (Japan) / Institute for Peace Studies, Nanjing University (China) / The Hunters-ROTC Historical Society (Philippines) / Southeast Asian Conflict Studies Network (SACSN) Research and Education for Peace, Universiti Sains Malaysia / Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (Cambodia) / Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (USA) / London Information Network on Conflicts and State-building : LINKS (UK) / ALPHA Education (Canada)

McLennan, Neil (2019, June 28), Invited delegate of US Centennial Commission to 'Versailles 1919:2019', Palace of Versailles, France.

McLennan, Neil (2019 June 8), CfE2.0, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh

McLennan, Neil (2019 July 11), Creating a new leadership paradigm, Scottish Future's Forum (Scottish Parliament Think Tank), Scottish Parliament

McLennan, Neil (2019 May 25), Enlightenment in a Smart City (with Professor Murray Pittock), University of Aberdeen, May Festival (RSA supported event)

McLennan, Neil (2019 May 26), Enlightened Leadership: Anglo-American Leadership Lessons in the 21st Century (with Dr Robert Traynham), University of Aberdeen, May Festival (RSA supported event)

McLennan, Neil (2019 March 27), Values Based Leadership and Social Media for Business Leaders, University of Aberdeen Business School

McLennan, Neil (2019 March -25-26)British Educational Leadership and Educational Research Society. (BELMAS) Four Nations Review of Leadership (Contributor)

McLennan, Neil (2019 February 14 ), Leadership for Sports Leaders, Edinubrgh Napier University

McLennan, Neil (2018 February 8th), Organisational Values and the individual, Army in Scotland Leadership Symposium

McLennan, Neil (2018 February 11th ) Wilfred Owen Festival Birkenhead, Invited Speaker by Rt. Hon. Frank Field MP DL, 8 November 2018

McLennan, Neil (2018), Owen in/ and France, Invited keynote Université Valenciennes, 5-6 November 2018.

McLennan, Neil (2018), Wilfred Owen's Franco-Scottish Connections, Invited speaker Mayor of Ors on the 100th anniversary of the death of Wilfred Owen, 3-4 November 2018, Ors.

McLennan, Neil (2018) researchEd, Dollar Academy, 22nd September 2018

McLennan, Neil (2018) The impact of policy on leadership practice:  growing a leadership agenda, British Educational Research Association 2018 Annual Conference, Newcastle University, 13 Setpember 2018.

McLennan, Neil & Catherine Walker MBE, Golf, Gas and the Great War: The Edinburgh Meeting of the war poets, Royal and Ancient Golf Club / British Golf Museum Lecture Series, British Golf Museum, St Andrews, 6 September 2018.

McLennan, Neil (2018) Scotland 2030: Aberdeen and the North East.  Scottish Parliament / Scottish Future's Forum Panel Session at University of Aberdeen May Festival, 25 May, King's College, Aberdeen.

McLennan, Neil (2018) Leading!  Exploring what we really mean by Leadership.  University of Aberdeen May Festival, 25 May, King's College, Aberdeen

McLennan, Neil (2018) Values in the British Army, 51st Brigade Leadership Symposium, March 2018.

McLennan, Neil (2018), Next Steps for Curriculum for Excellence- supporting teachers, tackling the attainment gap and priorities for the Education Bill, Scottish Policy Conference, 13 March 2018 at Royal Society of Edinburgh.

McLennan, Neil (2017), Wilfred Owen's Edinburgh Enlightenment, Royal Society of Edinburgh lecture hosted by Edinburgh Napier University at Craiglockhart Campus, 15 August 2017.

Neil McLennan (2017) "Are we really learning from Europe?  Brexit and Education", University of Glasgow ESRC-IAA, British Academy funded "Disadvantage" workshop, 6-7 July 2017

Full Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy of Scotland report can be accessed along with the Brexit Observatory at:-

McLennan, Neil (2017) 'Wilfred Owen's Scottish Enlightenment', University of Aberdeen May Festival, 26 May 2017

McLennan, Neil (2017) 'The Dreams and Secrets of Wilfred Owen.' The Fictional First World War: Imagination and Memory Since 1914: An International Conference at the Centre for the Novel, University of Aberdeen, 6-9 April 2017 

McLennan, Neil (War Poets in Edinburgh) & Oswald, Alice (On Homer). StAnza - Scotland, International Poetry Festival 2017.  Supported by EventScotland and part of Scotland’s Year of History, Heritage and Archaeology 2017.

McLennan, Neil (2016) 'Wilfred’s War — Wilfred Owen and Scotland.' Closing the 'Remembering the Great War' by Scottish National Portrait Gallery at Inverness Museum and Art Gallery Saturday 5 November

McLennan, Neil & Villasenor, Paula. (2016) Creating the Spark and Lighting the Fire: Moving From Theory to Action.  International Positive Education Festival, Dallas, Texas, USA (July 2016) (NB due to circumstances Paula Villasenor from the Ministry of Education, Mexico, could not attend and so Neil McLennan presented this session).

McLennan, Neil (2015) Curriclum for Excellence Conference: Education Scotland, Beach Ballroom Aberdeen

McLennan, Neil (2014, October 15) "Defending the Discipline" Michael A. Sant Memorial Lecture, University of Malta

McLennan, Neil (2012, July) Trainer & facilitator for building capacity and curricular reform project with Turkish Regional Teacher Trainers. Project funded by Social Transformation Programme Central and Eastern Europe (Matra) of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs & Tarih Egitmcileri Bilrligi Dernegi (Turkish Professional Education Organisation).

McLennan, Neil (2012, April) Facilitation & lead international ‘expert’/trainer for United Nations Alliance of Civilisations / EUROCLIO Building Capacity project in Former Yugoslav Republic countries (joint funded by Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kingdom of Belgium Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Development Cooperation and Open Societies Foundation.