Over the past 10 years, we have seen thousands of students come through our doors across the region.
Many approach us starting out with a lack of confidence or with a fear of diving back into education, and are nurtured by our dedicated cohort of Curriculum and Support staff as individual learners to achieve results they can be proud of.
Each year, outstanding students are recognised at our Graduation ceremonies with special awards. Take a look back at our students' successes over the years:
HE Student of the Year 2020
Alexandra Mckeown, HNC Social Services
“My qualification has helped me to start working as a Support Worker within Key Community Support. I’m currently training to work with adults who have a variety of additional support needs, supporting them in their own homes. I feel that I'm now enjoying building a career, I have made many life-long friends and I'm really looking forward to my future.”
One of her lecturers, Andy Gibb said “Alexandra is a very determined individual who fought through issues with anxiety and confidence to achieve to a very high standard.”
FE Student of the Year 2020
Eddie Mowles, Maritime Skills & Aquaculture NQ
This was a huge step for Eddie having no previous relevant experience or qualifications, but he demonstrated tremendous determination and used his college experience to turn his life around completely.
Shaun Escott, Course Leader said: “We are all very proud of Eddie and he is testament that our courses can be life-changing no matter what age you are or what your previous experience has been – all you need to do is give it a go – and we’ll be with you every step of the way.”
HE Student of the Year 2019
Sandra Palicka, HNC Social Services
“The lecturers on this course have been incredibly supportive and it is this support that has increased my passion for working in Social Care. They have also helped me make a firm plan for my career and I am excited to be taking the first steps towards reaching my long term goals.”
Course Area Leader, Andy Gibb, who taught Sandra throught her 3 years at college said “I've seen Sandra develop and mature as both a student and professional... I have received very encouraging feedback about the positive impact she has on her clients’ lives.”
FE Student of the Year 2019
Linda Mackenzie, Maritime Skills & Aquaculture NC
“The course has given me the qualifications for my dream job at Calmac. I am now freight assistant and accompany the freight from Mallaig out to Small Isles - weather permitting! I’m really glad to be here today I’d recommend the courses in Mallaig to anyone.”
Her lecturer said, “She “hated water” when she joined the course on Level 5, she bravely overcame her fears and completed her Personal Survival Technique course in the swimming pool. This year, she insisted on helping the nervous Level 5 students, and accompanied them up to the pool, jumping into the water first as an example of how fear could be overcome.”
HE Student of the Year 2018
Kasha Mackay, HNC Social Services
“She is mum to 3 children and has juggled studies and a busy home life to achieve consistently high standards of quality in her assessments.”
Kasha went on to study Nursing at the University of the Highlands and Islamnds, and in the spring of 2020, Kasha and her classmates were thrust into the NHS front line during their clinical placements to help the health service take care of as many patients as possible.
FE Student of the Year 2018
Joanne Hercus, NC Early Education and Childcare
She took the step to attend our open day in Portree, despite being nervous about coming back to study. Fast forward to Graduation and Joanne had become a star student.
“I would encourage anybody to go back to college: age is just a number! My family have been very supportive and proud. I am so delighted to be chosen as FE student of the year. It’s a real achievement for me.”
HE Student of the Year 2017
Kelly Adams, HNC Social Services
“If West Highland College UHI had not been in Fort William there is no way I could have moved away to study. Now, I have been given a great opportunity and I really want to go on to gain my degree in BA (Hons) Health Studies and to work in this hugely important area of social care.”
FE Student of the Year 2017
Samanta Milzaraja, NC Early Education and Childcare
“At the beginning I was not sure if I would manage to stay on the course, I was anxious and lacking in any confidence - but as the year went by I made new friends, participated more, and with the support of my lecturers and support staff, I completed all my units!”
HE Student of the Year 2016
Rachel Bradley, BA Adventure Tourism Management
“Fort William has been a fantastic place to study and the Highlands provide both aesthetic inspiration for, and relief from, my studies. There is a strong community spirit which, through both my work and volunteering, I feel I have become part of. I would love to travel after my degree, but be secure in the knowledge that the Highlands is the place for me!”
FE Student of the Year 2016
Craig Muir, NC Crofting and Countryside Skills
Lecturer Heather McNeil said: “Craig was determined to succeed from the start. He committed himself to every aspect of his work and was extremely knowledgeable in some fields such as environmental studies and horticulture which he was happy to pass on to his fellow students... He was a real asset to the course and we wish him huge success with his future studies.”
HE Student of the Year 2015
Mike Martin, BA Adventure Tourism Management
During the course of his degree, Mike began coaching at the Arisaig Sea Kayak Centre and eventually ran the business when he graduated. Lecturer Alex Williams said: "He is the best example of a student who has taken every learning opportunity, raised the standard amongst his peers by example and class contribution, and who graduates with a fully-formed, local, successful business within the adventure tourism sector.”
Joint FE Student of the Year 2015
Cathryn Baillie, NC Crofting and Countryside Skills
“This last year has been pretty hard and I can honestly say that I don't know where I would be now if it wasn't for college. I am so glad that I decided to go ahead with the course. It has opened up so many opportunities for me and gave me all of the industry awards I needed for my new job as a grounds-person at Dunvegan Castle – which I love. It has inspired me to apply for future courses too and I am genuinely excited about the future.”
Joint FE Student of the Year 2015
Jayne Lear, NC Early Education and Childcare
“I found last year’s course gave me a real insight into world of nursery education... the subject motivated me to do my best and work hard and my tutors Claire, Elaine and Helen were all great in supporting me throughout the year.”
HE Student of the Year 2014
Donna Calder, NC Early Education and Childcare
Donna won not only for her personal achievements but for her contribution to college life, persuading the college to introduce an HNC course so she could continue to progress without travelling and encouraging other classmates to join her. “I am both amazed and delighted to be given this award,” she said.
FE Student of the Year 2014
Lesley Boath, NC Administration
Lesley joined the college as a mature student after a spell of ill health and personal trauma resulting in low confidence levels. She discovered a newfound love of learning. “Exactly two years ago I would never have dreamed I could have achieved so much and change my life entirely, I am now looking forward to the next two years of my academic journey."
Student of the Year 2013
Will Rowland, BA Adventure Tourism Management
Will was praised for his hard work and positive attitude as well as personal achievements as a mountaineer. Programme Leader Matt Groves explained: “Will was diagnosed with dyslexia in 2011. Despite this, he worked with real integrity to achieve a 2:1 honours degree. He was a significant driving force in his module group...setting an excellent example to his peers in engaging in group discussion and personal study.
Student of the Year 2012
Alastair Buchanan, BA Adventure Tourism Management
Alastair won our first ever Student of the Year award! On his nomination, Programme Leader Matt Groves said “He demonstrates strong academic skills and engages with critical thinking and independent research. This has all been achieved despite a significant learning difficulty [dyslexia] which he responded to without complaint.”