UHI West Highland Graduation Ceremony 2022

Students and their families from centres throughout UHI West Highland joined staff to celebrate Graduation for the first time in 3 years.

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Lecturer and Course Leader Morag McKie with five of her student graduates

UHI West Highland held its annual Graduation ceremony on Friday October 7 2022, celebrating the success of its full time students who achieved their qualifications. This year, the ceremony also welcomed some of the students who had been unable to attend a ceremony during the last two years because of Covid-19 restrictions. Whilst not everyone could attend on the day, over 150 students plus a further 400 guests including families, staff and stakeholders of the college, came to the Nevis Centre to celebrate the occasion.

The Ceremony began with an academic procession led by Su Bryan, Dean of the Faculty of Science, Health and Engineering of the University of the Highlands and Islands, the Mace carried by Mace Bearer Matt Groves, our own Principal and Chief Executive Lydia Rohmer, members of the board of management and other guests lead by Piper Calum “Wee Cal” MacAskill – a student at the college’s music department. 

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 welcomed the graduating students and their families and urged students to make the most of their achievements and choices.

”It is always a privilege to celebrate the efforts and the successes of our students at graduation. This year we are delighted to welcome back some of our students from previous years who could not celebrate graduation in person due to the restrictions surrounding Covd-19.

These last few years have required all of our students to commit to study in a way that we have ever experienced as a society before. This unprecedented crisis forced innovation, and we developed new ways of delivering our learning to all our learners, delivered digital devices and data to everyone who needed it, provided academic and wellbeing support for all, and ensured that no-one was left behind.

And because we already delivered some of our courses across our 10 college centres this way prior to the pandemic, the college was recognised for its excellence in digital education, both in the TES UK FE awards and the CDN Colleges Awards for Scotland. Our staff managed even to connect our most vulnerable learners with profound special needs to connect using technology, helping them to remain engaged and even make new friends online.

We are extremely proud that everyone who achieved their qualification, and in particular those here today, overcame all of those challenges and exceeded all expectations. Every single one of you are to be congratulated and all of us, every department and team throughout the college, wish you well as they embark on your future careers or to further study."

The number of HNC and HND students studying with the college continues to increase each year reflecting how important these qualifications are to students seeking to secure employment in fast growing areas.  Industry awards representing our close ties with employers were also presented to students who had excelled in their vocational courses for hospitality, tourism and marine sectors.

10 Year Anniversary Tree Plantings

As part of our Graduation ceremony short film was shown celebrating a series of tree plantings to commemorate the college’s 10 year anniversary.

Our college was created in 2010 when Lochaber College and Skye and Wester Ross College merged to become a positive force for change in our communities. We want to demonstrate that our local centres are rooted in their local towns and villages and that we remain committed to not only giving back to those communities but also to have a positive impact for future sustainability. What better way to celebrate our past and look to our future legacy than by working with others to select suitable sites to plant a mixture of Scots and native broadleaf species.

Lydia Rohmer explained to the assembled guests: "Our initial planting took place in Glen Nevis, where our partners Nevis Landscape Partnership helped us identify a site and plant over 400 trees. They then helped us identify other sites and community groups and neighbours at our college centres to plant even more throughout 2021. We hope you enjoy seeing the results, and more importantly, that you might want to add your own legacy planting by donating a tree to commemorate the steps our students are taking today to thrive and grow as committed and responsible members of our society."

The 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, we are delighted that we will be awarding several first class honours degrees to our students both from the School of Adventure Studies and from the wider UHI partnership. 

Guest speaker this year was Andy Macleod PLY   

Andy is a former student from our School of Adventure Studies who has an inspiring story to tell. 

His life took a very different turn in March 2011 when he was struck by a grossly speeding vehicle whilst riding his mountain bike. His leg was subsequently amputated and he suffered injuries to his brain. 

Since then, Andy has reached the summit of Ben Nevis, carried the Olympic Flame in 2012, ran with the Queens Baton for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Adventure Tourism Management in 2015 and these are only some of his achievements. 

We wee extremely proud to welcome Andy back and to hear more of his story including his successes as a British World Cup Para Athlete and Paralympian. 

Musical items during the Ceremony came from “Wee Cal and Julian

Calum MacAskill “Wee Cal” - is originally from Glenelg and is studying HND music and specialises in traditional music, especially whistle and bagpipes. Julian Beale is on the HNC course and has joined us from Orkney. He plays guitar and piano, but will be playing guitar for the ceremony. Calum MacAskill was also the Piper who led the Academic Procession at the start of the ceremony.

During the ceremony, various special awards were presented:

Hugh Vowles

  • Course Student of the Year, Countryside Skills, Broadford
  • UHI West Highland Student of the Year -  Endeavour 
  • OVERALL UHI West Highland Student of the Year 

Hugh is a mature student from Balmacara near Kyle of Lochalsh who was recently featured in The Crofter magazine.  His lecturers said of him: “He has been generous with his time, his patience, his knowledge and his good humour throughout his course – he is extremely popular with staff and students alike and offered kind words of thanks and support to others at every opportunity.” 

Hugh’s former career was in the military and in forestry.  He was attracted by the mix of modules and industry tickets which can be achieved on the Countryside Skills course. When asked what drew him to the course he said “to keep my mind busy, be physically active and learn new skills.  For anyone who is thinking of taking on a croft or garden, you will leave this course with a lot of confidence and a mind full of ideas.” 

As part of his course, Hugh sourced 10 tonnes of pathing material for a local playgroup access path and his calm and logical attitude rubbed off on his fellow students.  Despite suffering from Parkinson’s Disease which, at times, sapped his energy, Hugh refused to allow it to dampen his enthusiasm or his achievements – we are all delighted he has been chosen to receive the award for Overall Student of the Year at UHI West Highland.“

Emma Goodall-Copestake

  • Course Student of the Year, HNC Childhood Practice 
  • UHI West Highland Student of the Year – Achievement

Emma Goodall- Copestake studied her HNC Childhood Practice from our Ullapool college centre supported by Centre Manager Christine Crook as well as her lecturing team.

She was nominated by her lecturer not only for her outstanding academic achievement, but also for her fun-loving attitude which helped to gel the class together and create great bonds between students who studied in many different college centres around the west highlands. She facilitated motivational Monday quizzes and even helped organise a class birthday party for herself and a fellow student when the students met up together in Fort William which again, emphasise the hugely positive class environment she supported her lecturer to create. 

Emma worked as a Practitioner at Kinder Croft Nursery in Ullapool throughout her course and was also an exemplary Class Rep. She regularly shared her experiences to the class to give examples of best practice and stimulate debate and discussion about real - world applications. She is now studying to become a primary school teacher, and is a very worthy recipient of the UHI West Highland Student of the Year Award for Achievement. 

Course Students of the Year:

  • Samuel Bowes | NC Creative Industries
  • Abie Beagrie | NQ Early Education & Childcare Level
  • Melissa Cardosi | BA (Hons) Adv Perf & Coaching 
  • Kaiya Clarke | HNC Social Services 
  • Owen Connolly | NQ Outdoor Leadership
  • Joanna Fallows | NC Health and Social Care
  • Emma Forman | HNC Music
  • Teresa Johnston | NQA Construction Skills
  • Stephanie Keenan | NC Professional Cookery and Hospitality
  • Fiona MacLean | HND Textiles
  • Imogen Martin | BA (Hons) Marine and Coastal Tourism 
  • Leah Maxtone | NC Child Health and Social Care Level
  • Ellie Moore | NQ Countryside with Ranger Training 
  • JayJay Munro | NC Professional Cookery
  • William Simpson | NC Shipping & Maritime Operations
  • Katherine Smith | HNC Photography
  • Peter Clifford White | BA (Hons) Adventure Education

Special Awards from Industry

Presented by Adam Robertson, Head of Curriculum at UHI West Highland.

  • Springboard Bowl |  Jay Jay Munro, Achievement in Professional Cookery
  • Strathmore Bowl | Stephanie Keenan, Achievement in Hospitality
  • Mallaig Harbour Authority Award | William Simpson
  • Calmac Award for student making the most progress on a maritime course | Niall MacBeth
  • Scottish Qualification Authority Local College Award | Hope Harrigan, HNC Digital Design and Web Development 

The winner of this Award is selected by our Student Support team for a student who has stood out above other students for them during the year. 

Charles McCrimmon, lecturer was delighted to hear that Hope Harrigan, from Broadford Isle of Skye had been selected for the SQA Award. He said “Hope has been described as a “shining light” of enthusiasm and hard work to everyone in her local centre, UHI West Highland – Broadford, where she has studied her course using our synchronous virtual learning platforms to engage with her lecturers and fellow students. We are delighted that she has chosen to continue studying for an HND Computing Science with us this year.” 

HISA Awards – Sporting Half Blue | Mattis Robertson, Cycling – presented by Heather Innes - HISA President.

Matiss is a current Adventure Tourism Management student in the School of Adventure Studies. He said "I feel honoured to be receiving such a prestigious award. It’s not easy easy juggling my training along with studying so it’s really nice to see the hard work pay off. I’d also like to thanks Aaron Johnson for the nomination and all of his help and hard work organising some of these Scottish Student Cycling events that have allowed me to achieve this award."

Mace Bearer - Matt Groves

Matt, from Roy Bridge, has been at UHI West Highland since 2006 and has helped pioneer the development of the School of Adventure Studies and its suite of further and higher education programmes. Prior to that, he had an active and varied career in the outdoor sector driven by a passion for all mountain sports. As a result of these interests, he has fostered an equal passion for understanding the underpinning ideas as a professional practitioner, coach and educator.  

As a Programme Leader he oversees the delivery and monitors student progress on the degree programmes within the School of Adventure Studies as well as the strategic development of the curriculum. This year Matt has been responsible for the development and successful approval of the innovative new post-graduate certificate in Outdoor Adventure and Therapeutic practice. 

Vote of Thanks

During the ceremony a Vote of Thanks to college staff and the students' families was given on behalf of the students by Shannon MacCallum, Depute President, HISA and a student at UHI West Highland

Closing Remarks

The ceremony was brought to a close by Derek Lewis, Chair of the Board of Management.

Photographs – available from Alba Photos – iainpics@googlemail.com