Whalsay woman is top UHI student

A Whalsay mother of two who travels to Lerwick every day to study for her degree course at Shetland College has been named student of the year by the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI).

Angela Irvine, 43, was the judges’ choice for her exceptional achievements and determination to juggle her studies with family life and a twice-daily 30-minute ferry crossing (in good weather).

She won the title from 11 other candidates across the UHI partnership of colleges, research and learning centres, and a total of £300 in prize money – which she plans to spend on ferry fares for her third year on the BA contemporary textiles course. Her award is due to be presented at the UHI annual lecture in Lewis on 30th September.

Angela is the fourth UHI student of the year – and the second from Shetland College UHI. Child and youth studies graduate Margaret Johnston from Bixter was the first title holder in 2006.

A former hairdresser, she was thrilled with the news – and has dedicated her win to her husband, fisherman John Lowrie, and children, Rory, nearly 13, and 10 year-old Chloe, who have given her tremendous support.

She said: “I can’t believe it. It was already a huge sense of achievement when the college named me as their candidate for the overall award, and this is even more thrilling for me and my family.

“I have found the travelling utterly exhausting, but I’m so glad that I have continued with full-time study thanks to the backing of my family. There is no way I would have been able to travel to the mainland for degree education so this opportunity through Shetland College has been fantastic.

“The challenge of doing something different, in a subject I have always loved, has been a real buzz and given me a new lease of life.”

UHI principal Bob Cormack said: “We faced the usual hard choice in selecting a winner as we had so many outstanding candidates, but Angela deserves the title for her hard work and achievements. It is inspiring to know that, but for UHI, realising her talents and a promising career ahead would not have been possible for Angela.”

Angela enjoyed art at school but felt a career in the subject was uncertain so she went to college in Edinburgh and then became a hairdresser. She worked in Lerwick for 10 years before leaving to raise a family in Whalsay.

When her children went to school, she decided it was time for a change.

She said: “I studied at the Whalsay learning centre for a higher in literature and communication, and this gave me the qualification to progress on to an art and design course at the college.

“I was terrified on my first day and kept thinking that I might have forgotten how to draw – I hadn’t touched a piece of paper since school. By the end of the day, I was delighted and knew I was doing the right thing.”

Tutors Maggie Marr and Paul Bloomer encouraged Angela to carry on to the BA contemporary textiles degree course.
Section head Angela Hunt said: “Angela has been a joy to teach. She always makes good contributions to discussion groups and has a highly motivated and disciplined approach to her research. By making links to the traditional skills of Shetland, yet infusing this with up-to-date and international knowledge of contemporary textiles, she has created innovative coursework. She is an excellent example of a student working from a remote location gaining a high level of academic achievement.”

As the third year of the degree approaches, Angela is considering the possibility of starting her own business in the future.

College director George Smith said: “Everyone at Shetland College UHI is absolutely delighted for Angela. She is an excellent student who epitomises what UHI is about, and she thoroughly deserves this recognition for her high standard of academic work and her motivation to achieve.”


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