West Highland College UHI - Graduation Ceremony

Staff and students gathered at Duncansburgh MacIntosh Parish Church in Fort William last Friday for their annual Celebration of Achievement and Graduation Ceremony.

Around 100 current and former students gathered with family friends and staff from the college to receive a wide range of vocational, further and higher education awards and to hear an address by Myrtle Simpson DL, author lecturer and adventurer.

The Ceremony was preceded by the Academic Procession of staff and guests through the church including James Fraser, Principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands, Dr Michael Foxley, Chair of the Board of Management of West Highland College UHI , The Reverend Morag Muirhead and Jean Urquhart, MSP.

Greetings from HRH The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of the Highland and Islands were included in the programme for the event.


Dr Michael Foxley, Chair of the Board of Management of West Highland College UHI congratulated students and staff for “steaming ahead”:

”This has been another year of steady expansion for the college with new centres opening in Gairloch earlier in the year and just last month in Portree. The capital and revenue expenditure required to offer such a wide range of new courses has been achieved by teamwork from both the Board and senior management of the college. We are now a major part of the economy of the West Highlands with an annual budget of £4million and over 100 staff and 3000 students studying a range of part time and full time courses.

We have very ambitious plans for the future with new premises, new courses and a much closer working relationship with local high schools and youth agencies.

Myrtle Simpson offered the keynote speech to students, congratulating them on their achievements and advising them to constantly ask “what is on the other side of the hill,” using their qualifications as a “passport to the future” and using the analogy of her own adventures in Greenland.

Special Awards

The ceremony included the presentation of several special recognition awards, including the individual Course Student of the Year Awards, the presentation of industry awards from Strathmore Hotels and Springboard Scotland and the overall West Highland College UHI Student of the Year Award to Will Rowland. A number of college staff, who have achieved various continuous professional development awards over the course of the past year, were also recognised at the event. Principal and Chief Executive Lydia Rohmer presented the awards for the Celebration of Achievement Ceremony, while UHI Principal and Vice Chancellor James Fraser presided over the Graduation Ceremony.

Graduates and Honours Students

For the first year, the Graduation Ceremony included awards to ten Honours students who have complete the BA (Hons) Adventure Tourism Management degree.

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive commented “This degree is the cornerstone of the college’s Higher Education provision. We have over 100 students studying on the 4 year degree course and we are very proud to see our first cohort of Honours students graduating today. The ATM is one of the UHI’s flagship degree course, combining academic and practical skills, creating highly employable graduates for the hugely important and rapidly growing adventure tourism sector. Our students come from all over the UK, from the EU and further afield overseas to study this course here in Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK.”

“It is the success of all of our students which defines West Highland College UHI and we congratulate them all today – whether their achievement be a part time or full time course and at whatever level they have succeeded. However it is our staff who work tirelessly to help our students to realise their potential and I would like to pay tribute to their exceptional motivation and drive to create ever expanding opportunities for the learners, communities and businesses we serve.”

The Mace Bearer

The Mace Bearer for the procession was Sophie Monaghan, an Administrative Assistant at West Highland College UHI - Auchtertyre. Sophie has worked for the college for three and a half years and supports both learners and staff throughout many departments of the college with an extraordinarily high level of friendliness and professionalism. The honour of carrying the Mace is within the gift of the Principal, who nominated Sophie for the role.

Musical Interlude

During the ceremony, students from the college gave a short performance of a piece composed for the event. Jenna MacLean, Craig MacDonald and Liam MacLean are studying for a BA (Hons) Applied Music, hosted by West Highland College UHI. The piece was entitled “Chasing a Dream” and they describe it as being about student life and going through University.

“Lets Dance”

The ceremony was followed by a drinks reception for family, staff and students and later a dinner and dance was held at the Ben Nevis Hotel in Fort William which had been partly financed by generous sponsorship from local company Easydrive Car and Van Rental and by fundraising by students themselves. The event proved so popular that dinner tickets sold out a week in advance of the Graduation.