Graduation 2016

Celebrities attend Graduation Celebration for West Highland College UHI

Staff and students were joined by Ken Bruce from BBC Radio 2 and Robert Robertson – lead singer with up and coming Scottish band Tide Lines - for their annual Graduation Ceremony

This year, the event took place for the first time in the Nevis Centre in order to accommodate the growing numbers of achievers and their guests.

Over 350 guests, past and present students, family, friends, business colleagues and staff from the college celebrated as students received a wide range of vocational, further and higher education awards and to hear addresses from both guests and to enjoy a performance from Robert Robertson. The Ceremony began with an academic procession led by Professor Clive Mulholland, Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Mace carried by Mace Bearer Jessie Gourlay from Fort William, our own Principal and Chief Executive Lydia Rohmer, members of the board of management, staff and other guests lead by Piper Raj Smith from Inverlochy.

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

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive of West Highland College UHI welcomed all the students and their families to the ceremony and congratulated them on their achievements saying “Whatever your aspiration, I hope that what you gained here at the college is more than just a qualification, however valuable that is, but that you have also gained confidence in yourself, and that you have learned to think for yourself, not just following paths made by others, but being able to forge new paths in your life. Just remember, there is no such thing as failure, only new opportunities to try again and to improve.”

Ms Rohmer went on to explain the work of the College: “Our college’s mission is to act as a positive force for change in the development and prospects of our region, our people and our communities, situated in some of the most remote areas of Scotland, across a geographical area covering 1/6th of Scotland’s land mass. The opportunities for access to learning, whether for young people in school, post school, adult learners or learners in work, have hugely increased again in 2015-16.”

“We continue to meet ever growing demand as the learning provider of choice in the West Highlands with our college having grown by 10% for FE and 20% for HE. This shows in the ever increasing number of students studying with us, and the 235 eligible full-time FE and HE graduands for the academic year 2015-16, many of whom are here today.”

During the ceremony, awards were presented to almost 80 students who were able to attend from across almost all of the geographical areas that the college covers, including some graduates from other academic partner colleges within the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Students of the Year

Two students were recognised as exceptional in their achievements. Both students received a certificate and cash award.

Rachel Bradley from Cumbria was selected as the Higher Education student of the year. She is studying Adventure Tourism Management and is in her third year of the course. Further information attached

Craig Muir from Broadford Isle of Skye was awarded the prize for Further Education Student of the Year following his achievement of an NC in Crofting and Countryside Skills. Further detail attached.

Special Industry Awards

Springboard Scotland Tourism Award – Jacqueline Leighton

Strathmore Hotels Tourism Award – Tracey-Jayne Campbell

Scottish Qualifications Authority College Award - Claire McMurray

The Mace Bearer – Jessie Gourlay

The Mace is used at all the Graduation events of the University of the Highlands and Islands. It is made from silver and wood, interpreting the beauty of the area – with indigenous Scottish light ash for the shaft and some gold and mixed metals in the detail. The ornamentation symbolises sand and beaches, water and air, while the lower mount is adorned with three 18ct yellow gold wires depicting hills and mountains. A concave plate is mounted at the very bottom of the mace reflecting the theme of water and waves.

This year, the choice of who would carry the Mace was an extremely popular one…Jessie Gourlay is born and bred in Lochaber and has worked in the College building in Fort William for 20 years. For most of this time she worked with Lochaber Business Development Services (LBDS), but for the last 3 and a half years she has worked for West Highland College UHI..

Within the College Jessie is known as the go-to person for any local information or contacts. Very much a people person, Jessie genuinely enjoys helping colleagues in the College, but particularly College students. During the last few years, Jessie has done a great job in finding and working with local accommodation providers to place hundreds of students in suitable accommodation. The benefit to students (and their parents/guardians) in terms of getting them settled in their new surroundings in the Fort William area is immeasurable and has no doubt ensured some students have continued with their studies – knowing there was support available if needed!

Jessie’s commitment, enthusiasm and support to colleagues and students at West Highland College UHI over the years means that she is very much worthy of the honour of Mace Bearer for 2016.

Student Vote of Thanks

A vote of thanks on behalf of all the students was given by Rachel Bradley when she recounted the positive experiences she had had since attending her first open day – thanking staff for their contribution to student life.

Musical Finale

During the ceremony, music students from college band Savannah performed an accomplished version of their composition “Moments.”