Shetland’s two colleges are sharing in an historic day as the University of the Highlands and Islands officially gains university status.
Formerly the UHI Millennium Institute, the new university comprises 13 colleges, specialist institutions and research centres spread across the Highlands and Islands. It uses information technologies to link together students and staff to bring access to higher education to dispersed communities.
The achievement of the university title by UHI is the realisation of a long-time ambition for the region to have its own university to support economic development and to help sustain rural and island communities.
Shetland College director George Smith said as well as providing local people with the choice of university study close to home, the “innovative and energetic” institution would be a magnet for attracting students, researchers and staff into the area, helping to stimulate economic, social and cultural development.
Mr Smith said: “It is tremendously important for Shetland College UHI and for Shetland as a whole that students can now study for qualifications to degree level and beyond without having to leave the islands. This will allow industry to access a broad range of qualifications relevant to the economic and social development of Shetland on their doorstep.”
NAFC Marine Centre director David Gray said the Scalloway-based college had been, and continued to be, a proud academic partner in the UHI family.
He said: “We are delighted that university title has been awarded to UHI; a deserving recognition of the high standard of education being delivered throughout the Highlands and Islands.”
Mr Smith said Shetland College provided high quality further and higher education and training, meeting the needs of the population and employers, and contributed to economic growth.
The NAFC Marine Centre offered high-quality accredited and bespoke training, as well as research, development and knowledge exchange provision to clients including the nautical, fisheries, engineering, aquaculture and scientific sectors and other emerging industries that may contribute to sustainable development.
MSP Tavish Scott said while the new university widened the options for those wishing to study in the Highlands and Islands, it must not undermine the courses already offered by Shetland College and the NAFC Marine Centre.
He said: “The granting of full university status is good news and it a just reward for a lot of hard work by all involved in UHI. I hope that it will lead to a greater range of qualifications being available to Shetland residents who want to seek a university degree, but want to study in Shetland.
“The move should not, however, be allowed to undermine the wide range of further education courses already offered by Shetland College and NAFC Marine Centre. These two colleges have played a key role in providing Shetlanders with the qualifications they, and the wider community, need and this work must continue.
“The University of the Highlands and Islands has been built on strong foundations – the colleges across the Highlands and Islands which have come under its umbrella. The university should be seen as adding to the good work of the colleges and not in any way superseding it.”