After holding teaching posts at Durham and Birmingham City Universities, in 1975 Dr Watson became a member of the start-up staff team at Buckingham University, where he served for sixteen years as one of the administrative deans, with special responsibility for student recruitment, and as head of the School of Languages and Cultures. There he developed one of the prototypes of the British University International Office. In 1991, he joined Northumbria University where he took operational charge of international work, helping the institution to become one of the most internationally active of all UK universities, before moving on to form his own consultancy company.
Dr Watson has published extensively on areas of international education and is an acknowledged expert on educational qualifications throughout the world. He is a member of the UK NARIC Quality Standards Group and has assisted a number of national governments in the restructuring of their qualifications frameworks. He has also chaired major consortia of UK universities operating in Malaysia and Nigeria, being one of the first to do so in both countries.
In the 1970s he pioneered the now widespread alliances between UK universities and the private HE college sector. He has been involved with the Accreditation Service for International Colleges (ASIC) since its inception in 2006. He serves ASIC as Chief Inspector and as Qualifications Adviser, and is a member of the Accreditation Committee. For several years, he has also chaired the board of trustees of Kensington College of Business.