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North Highlands prepare for launch of 'Scotland's newest college' following UHI merger

By Niall Harkiss

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A series of celebrations are planned this week to mark the milestone launch of Scotland’s newest college – situated in the Highlands.

The launch of UHI North, West and Hebrides follows the merger of UHI North Highland, UHI Outer Hebrides and UHI West Highland – creating an anchor institution that plans to connect rural and island communities across the north through distinctive education and research shaped by the culture, location, and landscapes.

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI North, West and Hebrides.
Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI North, West and Hebrides.

By coming together, the college promises to offer combined capacity, resource, and expertise to better meet the needs of its local communities, enhance the student experience, provide equity of opportunity, and drive economic growth in the region.

The new college is expected to play a key role in enabling people to live, work and study in the area and become more sustainable at a time when colleges are being challenged to do more, with less.

The college’s website launches tomorrow (Tuesday September 12) ahead of a visit by Graeme Dey MSP, the Scottish Government Minister for Higher and Further Education, to its Stornoway campus on Thursday September 14.

HRH The Princess Royal, and Chancellor of UHI, will visit Thurso on Friday September 15 for the graduation and celebration of success and achievement ceremony for North Highland students. Activities to mark the launch of the new college in campuses and centres will take place throughout this month as part of student freshers’ events.

Map of the new UHI North, West and Hebrides campus.
Map of the new UHI North, West and Hebrides campus.

With around 9000 enrolled students, 600 staff and 19 campuses and centres stretching from Caithness and Sutherland, Ross and Cromarty to Lochaber, Wester Ross, Skye and the Outer Hebrides, UHI North, West and Hebrides covers an area larger than Wales and around 40 per cent of Scotland’s coastline.

It is well placed to provide an effective skills pipeline to meet current and future workforce needs, particularly in key growth sectors like renewable energy, net zero, engineering, advanced manufacturing and technology, space, environmental science, land and sea-based industries, tourism, food and drink, creative industries, and Gaelic.

Graeme Dey MSP, the Scottish Government minister for higher and further education, said: “I would like to offer my congratulations to the students, staff and the board of the newly created UHI North, West and Hebrides. This merger of the well-regarded UHI Outer Hebrides, North Highland and West Highland colleges will increase choice and make for a better experience for students.

"The new college, with its experienced workforce, is in a good position to take advantage of the region’s exciting economic opportunities and I very much look forward to visiting Stornoway campus on Thursday and talking to the students and staff.”

Lydia Rohmer, principal and chief executive of UHI North, West and Hebrides, said: “This would not have been possible without the incredible teamwork, dedication, and visionary leadership of many, who have worked tirelessly to bring our three colleges together to create lasting benefits for our diverse student body, staff, and the communities we serve.

"As a stronger, more sustainable organisation with combined capacity, resource, and expertise, we can play a key role in unlocking the social, cultural, and economic potential of our region. I look forward to working with everyone at UHI North, West and Hebrides and our partners to build on the rich legacy of our founding colleges and the opportunities ahead for our region.”

Mike Cantlay, Chair of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Colleges play an important part in Scotland’s future. They make it possible for people to learn and flourish, they develop skills within the workforce, and they support regional economies.

"I am confident that UHI North, West and Hebrides will help to drive economic growth in its communities, change lives, help business and bring people together in all kinds of ways.”

Shannon MacCallum, Depute President for the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association at UHI North, West and Hebrides (West), said: “This merger has been a labour of passion for improving and strengthening opportunities for all students within these rural areas.

"It could not have been done without the meticulous work completed by staff across the region and the careful consideration of students. Throughout the process, it has been imperative that students have been the centre of the project.

"As the students’ association, we have supported the merger from the beginning and have seen the benefit this will have to all students.”

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