Outdoor Leadership NQ Level 6

What is special about this course?

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors and love the exhilaration and challenge of taking part in outdoor adventure activities? Do you also have a desire to turn your hobby into a career? If you've answered 'yes' to both then our Advanced Outdoor Leadership course is certainly for you.

You will cover many different activities – from paddle sports and mountain biking to rock climbing - during your course, learning everything you need to know to be a professional activity instructor.

You have the added bonus of studying at a college that is home to the fastest growing School of Adventure Studies in the UK. Come and experience the thrill of outdoor sports in the Outdoor Adventure Capital of Scotland.

The course contains a number of theoretical (SQA units) and practical elements (National Governing Body Awards).

There is also a work experience placement from April to early June (8 weeks) with opportunities to gain a placement with major adventure companies, including the possibility of an international placement with UK organisations. Your exact placement will depend on your achievement of awards. Students may have the opportunity of a paid work placement overseas.

Core Skills are an integral part of the course and you will study ICT, Numeracy and Communication. These will be closely tied in with the other units you are studying and will enable you to move on with confidence to your next educational step or place of employment.

Entry requirements

Students must be 18 years of age by the 1st April in their year of study in order to take up an industry work placement which is a core part of the course and ideally 18 at the start of the course to be eligible to enrol on NGB awards.

You should have at least 3 Standard Grades at credit level or 3 National 5s or an equivalent combination of both or have completed our Outdoor Adventure (NC Sport & Fitness SCQF level 5) or similar course.

  • Candidates should demonstrate competence in the relevant outdoor disciplines equal to those gained in the NC Outdoor Adventure SCQF level 5 – if not then candidates should consider this course first
  • Students will be required to complete an 8 week work placement. Students must be 18 years of age by the 1st April in their year of study in order to take up an industry work placement which is a core part of the course.
  • Mature students will be considered on merit. All candidates will attend an interview.

Please note that you are required to have a satisfactory Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check to enable participation in work placement. This will be provided as a mandatory part of your course. Further information can be found here at mygov.scot

  • adventure sport performance and coaching
  • personal fitness and exercise
  • leadership
  • personal development
  • industry experience
  • research skills
  • work experience
  • core skills numeracy, ICT and communication

The majority of SQA units in this course are at SCQF level 6.

You will have the opportunity to gain the following awards which are included in the course (this list is not exhaustive):

  • British Canoeing: Paddlesport Instructor and Paddlesport Coach -Core & Sheltered Water Coach
  • British Canoeing: Paddlesport Explore (formally 2*) and 3* Performance Award
  • British Canoeing: Foundation Safety and Rescue Training/ White Water Safety and Rescue
  • British Cycling: level 1/2 Training Mountain Bike Leadership Award
  • Climbing Wall Instructor (CWI) Training
  • Environmental awards
  • Customer care and guide training
  • Outdoor specific first aid qualification

* Entry to awards is subject to obtaining the required performance standard and log book days.

How will I study my course?

  • Full Time

Each week will comprise of scheduled, connected learning time and flexible learning time. You need to commit to both, but you can choose when to complete flexible learning to fit around work, caring and personal commitments.  Some flexible learning must be done on a weekly basis.  

Connected learning is when you learn together with lecturers, instructors, students and others. Connected learning happens at a scheduled time in a practical workshop, an online-classroom, a studio, a specialist classroom, the workplace or in the outdoors.

Flexible learning covers lecturer directed learning and self-directed learning.

Lecturer-directed learning is weekly learning activity, for example:
•    posting your idea in a discussion forum,
•    completing a quiz,
•    practising a task, activity or idea
•    watching a video or reading,
•    discussing and working on a solution with another student,
•    researching and gathering information,
•    completing an assignment or project-based task.

Self-directed learning is your decision about further study and focus.  We encourage you to take ownership of your learning and areas of interest. You can ask us to help you to determine areas for further development.

As and when it is appropriate and safe to do so, your connected learning will generally take place in the outdoors.  However, during periods of social distancing restrictions, some of your learning may need to move to an online-classroom.  This will include a combination of video conferencing, interactive chat and sharing of presentation slides and other visuals. Online-classrooms provide you with real time interaction, contact and discussion with your lecturer and fellow students.

How long will my course last?

34 Weeks

Where can I study my course?

    • Fort William

Start date



Most students have their course fees paid as this is a full time course. Please read our Fees & Funding information pages for more information regarding residency, previous study and bursary rates. Please contact funding.whc@uhi.ac.uk if you have any further questions.

Some of our courses require students to have essential equipment/clothing.

If you are under 18, you are entitled to have essential equipment paid for whether you are entitled to Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) or not. However you must complete an application even if you know that you’re not entitled to EMA.

If you are 18 and over and are eligible for a bursary, these costs will be met through your bursary. If you are not eligible for a bursary, you will need to fund these items yourself.


Students may qualify for bursary funding.

What can I do on completion of my course?

On successful completion of this course, you may be eligible for any of our four degrees or other related course. You could also consider a career as an outdoor activities instructor or adventure guide.

Is there more information available online?

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What our students, graduates and staff say

On this course, the academic study continues and I felt well able to deal with that and was able to focus on improving my mountain biking and water sport activities. A big part of the course is teaching you how to lead and develop a professional mind-set that is needed when you are responsible for others.

I have had two work placements: a week working with a rafting company in Iceland at the end of Outdoor Adventure and then a two month placement in Spain with Sierra Mountain Bikes at the end of Outdoor Leadership. Both were great experiences and I learned a lot as well as having a good time!

In 2019 I've opted to do a Adventure Tourism Management (BA) Hons as I thought long term the management side of things would be useful if I want to do freelance instructing.

Sean Mackenzie

Apply for Outdoor Leadership NQ Level 6

We are no longer accepting applications for 2020/21

I want to start in 2021/22

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at West Highland College UHI. West Highland College operates a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity status, race, religion and/or belief, sex, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.