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MasterChef finalist Sarah Rankin and face of UK government pandemic briefings Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam set to inspire graduates in Inverness

By Erin Miller

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The UHI Inverness campus.
The UHI Inverness campus.

UHI Inverness has lined up two inspirational guest speakers at its 2023 graduation ceremony tomorrow.

Approximately 900 people will attend the event at the Free North Church in Bank Street.

Sarah Rankin, a marketing agency owner from Inverness, embarked on her latest career as a food writer and broadcaster in her late 40s after making it to final week in the BBC's MasterChef. She is a firm believer in the value of lifelong learning and will be the guest speaker at the morning ceremony.

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam will address the afternoon ceremony after he graduates with the postgraduate certificate in leadership and management he studied part-time and online at UHI Inverness. Additionally, he will be awarded an honorary doctorate by UHI in recognition of his leadership, communication and service during the Covid-19 pandemic.

As deputy chief medical officer, he became well-known for his leadership role during the pandemic, particularly his no-nonsense communication style from the podium at No.10 Downing Street, vaccine rollouts and antiviral drugs. He received his knighthood in 2022.

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam
Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam

Sir Jonathan began studying with UHI Inverness in 2016 because it offered him the flexibility to gain a formal qualification in leadership and management. He believes UHI Inverness is a ‘special kind of university’ because the supportive staff encouraged him to continue his studies when he considered withdrawing due to the pressures of his work during the pandemic.

“These days, I am used to being on the platform at graduation ceremonies," he said. "To sit among the student body as a genuine student, and formally graduate at UHI Inverness is going to be a very special moment indeed, which at one point, I thought might simply never come.”

A passionate home cook, Sarah took the plunge and entered the BBC’s cooking show MasterChef in 2022 and made it all the way to final week. Her first cookbook, Kith, will be published in early 2024. She is also a columnist for Highland News & Media.

Sarah said: “I am humbled to have been invited to speak to graduating students at UHI Inverness in my beloved Inverness. To be able to offer them my warm congratulations for their hard work and for overcoming the many challenges that learning has faced in recent years, is a real honour.”

Sarah Rankin.
Sarah Rankin.

Professor Chris O’Neil, principal and chief executive of UHI Inverness, said: “Friday will be a very special day for our students, their friends and family. The joyful event is a reminder to us all at UHI Inverness of our purpose and the important role we play within the Highlands and Islands. Our communities need educated and skilled people like our students who have the vision and the qualities to make our world better.”

The graduation ceremony will be followed by a celebratory reception at the Inverness campus.

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