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'There will be no more vanity courses' at University of the Highlands and Islands

By Alasdair Fraser

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Professor Todd Walker.
Professor Todd Walker.

FUTURE learning at the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) will be much more closely tailored to booming sectors of the economy, the establishment’s new leader has said.

Professor Todd Walker, an accomplished Australian academic, accepted the post of principal and vice-chancellor in February but, given the pandemic, was only last month able to emigrate to the Inverness area.

Now with feet firmly under desk in the Highlands, the former New South Wales resident told the Courier he had set in motion a root and branch review of UHI’s strategy and vision for the future of the 40,000-student, multi-campus further and higher education institution.

In his first interview since arriving in Scotland, Professor Todd warned the days of “vanity courses” – academic fields of study less closely linked to jobs, industry and growth – would be a thing of the past at UHI.

He said: “The university has started a curriculum review which will examine, among other things, workforce alignment and demand. The review is in its early stages and will take two to three years to complete.

“It is about training talent to retain talent in the region.

“One of the biggest focuses over the next five years will be to make sure that courses and training we provide are aligned to growth in the economy.

“I’d go on the record as saying the days of having a vanity course, unit or subject are over. We’re not here to study something for which there is no direct employment, growing market or sector.”

The renewables sector, at hubs like the Port of Cromarty Firth, is one area abuzz with potential, but only one.

Professor Todd added: “It is only one of about seven or eight different sectors starting to grow.

“That’s one of the great things about Scotland at the moment. You can start to see this energy coming back into the economy, built around a number of different industries.

“Our role – and we have a duty of care here – is to provide for the workforce of the future to help fuel that growth.”

See tomorrow's Inverness Courier for a full interview.

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