Graduation 2018 – Nevis Centre, Fort William

Students from all of the college’s 10 centres throughout Skye, Wester Ross and Lochaber were invited to attend and, this year, around 120 students and their families including 30 students who studied for their qualifications outside Fort William came to celebrate the occasion.

West Highland College UHI held its annual Graduation ceremony last Friday October 5, celebrating the success of over 225 of its full time students who achieved their qualifications this summer

Students from all of the college’s 10 centres throughout Skye, Wester Ross and Lochaber were invited to attend and, this year, around 120 students and their families including 30 students who studied for their qualifications outside Fort William came to celebrate the occasion.

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 Rachel Walker from Spean Bridge, our own Principal and Chief Executive Lydia Rohmer, members of the board of management and other guests lead by Piper Raj Smith from Mallaig.

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: ”It’s a privilege to celebrate the efforts and the successes of our students at graduation. Many of them have overcome great barriers to achieve their qualification, while others are here today to mark the end of a long period of study and their readiness to step out into the world of work. All of them are to be congratulated – and all of the lecturing and support staff throughout the college wish them well as they embark on their future careers or to further study.”

Our largest cohort yet of BA (Hons) Applied Music who have studied alongside students from all over Scotland.

The number of HNC students continues to increase each year reflecting how important these qualifications are to students seeking to secure employment in fast growing areas.

More and more students are achieving their qualifications by studying part time, perhaps over two or more years, in order to improve their career options whilst balancing study with work and home life.

School of Adventure Studies Milestones

Our School of Adventure Studies attracts students from other parts of Scotland, the UK and indeed Europe to study in Fort William. It uses the fabulous location in the Outdoor Capital of the UK to ensure that students have the best possible opportunities close to lakes, sea and mountains to gain expertise in all areas of adventure and coast tourism. This year, there are a number of firsts:

  • The first Master of Science in Ecotourism was awarded to Nathan Berrie, a recent student and now working as a Ranger at the John Muir Trust.
  • The first Honours degrees to be awarded in Marine and Coastal Tourism. This is a recently introduced qualification which seeks to supply one of the fastest growing areas of tourism with skilful and highly qualified practitioners.
  • Nathan Adam received his BA (Hons) Adventure Tourism Management and in doing so became the first student to have progressed from our Certificate in Outdoor Adventure based on the Isle of Skye, to the Certificate in Outdoor Leadership and then on to complete the 4 year honours degree. 

Student Awards

WHC Principal Lydia Rohmer and Kasha Mackay

HE Student of the Year is Kasha Mackay (HNC Social Services)

Kasha is from Caol near Fort William. 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. She had never studied at this level before, but was not only willing to learn in class, but also to use her placement experience to develop her practitioner skills.

Kasha assisted the college’s Supported Learning Programme class in preparing for their pantomime earlier in the year at the Nevis Centre and has contributed suggestions to the course staff that will be taken up to further improve the support for students in the future.

Lydia Rohmer and Joanne Hercus

Further Education Student of the Year is Joanne Hercus (NC Early Education and Childcare)

Joanne is from Dunvegan and studied at the College in Portree, Isle of Skye using the college’s VC facility to network with her classmates in Fort William.  She came along to a college open day in Portree and, whilst she was nervous about coming back into study as a result of previous learning experiences, she was invited to come into college to observe a class delivered using on-line technologies and VC in order to allay her fears.

Joanne works part time in two different jobs and has a young family but has succeeded in achieving excellent results in all of her assessments. She has also proved such an active contributor to the class that she has become Class Representative in the Students’ Association and regularly volunteered to attend face to face meetings in Fort William.

Joanne is now keen to continue her studies with an HNC in Childhood Practice in Portree. She said: “I loved the course and by completing it I was able to apply for HNC Childhood Practice and this will allow me to be an early years practitioner with more responsibility, or perhaps to carry on to study BA (Hons) Childhood Practice which would mean I could actually teach.”

“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.”

Professor James Hunter Dissertation Prize, the University of the Highlands and Islands, Centre for History,

Brenda Grant, from Corpach graduated with a first class Honours degree in Scottish History, having studied at the college in Fort William on a part-time basis since 2010. Each year, the Centre for History is delighted to award the Professor James Hunter dissertation prize to the best first class dissertation of the year.

The Centre for History team were tremendously impressed at the quality of the research and writing that went into Brenda’s dissertation and are delighted to be awarding her this year’s prize. The title of her dissertation is ‘A Woman’s Fight: The Glasgow Rent Strike 1915.’

Brenda has expressed her intention to continue her studies starting on the MLitt History of the Highlands and Islands in January.

Special Awards from Industry

Springboard Bowl: Amy-Louise Kane - Achievement in Professional Cookery

Presented on behalf of Springboard Scotland

Strathmore Bowl: Conor Watkins, from Port Appin - Achievement in Hospitality

Presented on behalf of Strathmore Hotels

Katie Wrigglesworth: Scottish Qualification Authority Award

Katie has been a student at West Highland College UHI since 2015 and has progressed in her studies, gaining her qualifications with an ever growing confidence. In addition Katie has been involved in many aspects of student life. Her classmates elected her as class rep, and she is currently the student member on the Health and Safety committee. She also supports the HISA depute, and has offered support as a peer mentor. Katie has even given a number of talks on her previous issues with anxiety to her own class and another course as well as working and volunteering for support organisations in the local area.

Sporting Blues

Sporting Blues have been used in universities to recognise sporting excellence since the 1800’s.  They are presented to sportsmen and women who attain an exceptionally high standard of performance in their sport. The University of the Highlands and Islands’ Sporting Blues awards scheme was launched last year to recognise the sporting achievements of our regional students. The awards scheme is a joint initiative between the University and the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, with the Blues being awarded at graduation ceremonies to our winners.

West Highland College UHI are thrilled that two of its students have been selected to receive Sporting Blues this year:

Shannon Wilson - Shinty, Full Blue

Shannon is a student on our BA (Hons) Adventure Performance and Coaching programme.  She regularly plays for Fort William shinty club, South of Scotland under 21s, Scotland team and university Scotland shinty and is receiving a Full Blue at the ceremony.  Shannon said: “I am really happy to win this award as I feel it demonstrates that shinty is beginning to be recognised as a more mainstream competitive sport in Scotland.”

Louise Anna Ferguson – Mountain Biking, Half Blue

Louise Anna Ferguson is well-known to the Fort William mountain-biking scene.  She is a student on the BA (Hons) Marine and Coastal Tourism degree and will be receiving her degree at the ceremony as well as her Half Blue for Mountain Biking.  She said: “I’m thrilled to be recognised for sporting achievements whilst studying here. This award makes me very happy, and also thankful. The past 4 years have been hectic trying to make time for everything whilst studying and it was made substantially easier by the support of some very kind people within School of Adventure Studies.”

HISA Award: Most Inspiring Lecturer

Geoff Wright from Fort William has recently retired from lecturing on our Skills and Learning Programme; supporting students with additional needs to study and achieve qualifications at college.  The Highlands and Islands Students’ Association (HISA) Awards are organised to give students a chance to thank the academic and support staff who have inspired and supported them in their studies.  This year HISA received over 428 nominations from all 13 academic partners. In a variety of categories.  Geoff was presented with his award by Callum Stephen, Vice President Further Education at the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association.

Guest speaker this year was Fiona Quinn. In spring 2017 Fiona walked the length of Great Britain, covering 993 miles in 57 days. This was followed in September by cycling almost 1200 miles, solo and unsupported, from Land’s End to John O'Groats. Her latest adventure, to SUP the length of Britain, means that she is now the first woman to complete a length of Britain triathlon, and the first woman to SUP across the Irish Sea. Her message to the students was that adventure can teach us so much about ourselves and help us realise our full potential. When we dare to do more, push our boundaries and overcome our fears, we can achieve so much more than we ever imagined possible.  

During the Ceremony, Georgia Dennis, currently a 6th year pupil from Mallaig High School, performed “Rewind” – a song she composed and which won a composition competition organised by the Music Department last year. It was first performed at the college’s annual Fashion, Music and Art Showcase event in May.

Mace Bearer

Rachel Walker was given the honour of carrying the Mace at the Ceremony this year.  Rachel has been a Music Lecturer for West Highland College UHI since 2013 and is now the Course Leader.  She is well known as a Gaelic singer and won the Gold Medal at the Royal National Mod in 2017.  She has worked tirelessly to create good links with the local schools and now has RockSchool clubs running in three of them, with two more likely to start this year.

She has also created a strong link with Feisean nan Gaidheal encouraging candidates selected to take part in the Ceilidh Trail to gain formal qualifications through the college.  She has also helped lead on the development of a proposed College Gaelic Language Plan, supporting the college management team.

During the ceremony a Vote of Thanks to college staff and the students' families was given on behalf of the students by Lucia Petrovicova, Depute President, HISA.

Photographs available from The Write Image –

Further information available from Cheryl MacRae – 01397 874521 or 01397 874000