Student Views

Student views

Two of our former students discuss how they used their qualifications to kick start their own businesses.


Chloe Steele

HNC Music

Chloe SteeleMy name is Chloe Steele and I come from the Isle of South Uist in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. I have recently moved back home to South Uist and am now studying on the HNC Music course at Lews Castle College, Benbecula. Coming from an island, deeply enriched in culture and tradition has played a huge role in my love for traditional Scottish music of Piping and Gaelic Singing in particular.

I am so fortunate to have grown up amongst the tradition in Uist, and therefore am very lucky to have the chance to study in Uist, where my interest and love for traditional music first began. I am planning on continuing my studies at home in Uist by moving onto the BA Applied Music course next year.

Chloe Steele 2I feel there are a lot of opportunities for students in Uist – being surrounded by the everyday traditions and culture of the island and of course, the beautiful scenery.

Lauren MacIver

BA Cànan is Cultar na Gàidhlig | BA in Gaelic Language and Culture

Lauren MacIver, BA Cànan is Cultar na GàidhligCheumnaich mi à Colaisde a’ Chaisteil le BA Cànan is Cultar na Gàidhlig ann an 2016. Bha ùidh agam anns a’ chùrsa seo bho bha mi nam sgoilear ann an Sgoil MhicNeacail. Bha mi a’ faireachdainn gun toireadh an cùrsa cothrom dhomh mo sgilean Gàidhlig a leasachadh agus cur ris an fhiosrachadh Ghàidhlig a bh’ agam bho thùs. Bha mi cuideachd ga fhaicinn mar cheum air an t-slighe gu trèanadh airson a bhith nam thidsear bun-sgoile. ’S e cothrom air leth a bh’ ann dhòmhsa ceum a dhèanamh air an eilean agam fhèin, gun an dachaigh fhàgail. Bha seo gu h-àraidh cuideachdail bhon a tha mac òg agam. Bha an luchd-teagaisg co-fhaireachail agus taiceil agus fhuair mi an cothrom a thighinn gu clasaichean aig amannan a bha freagarrach dhomh. Tha mi a-nis dìreach air a’ chùrsa PGDE a chrìochnachadh agus bidh mi a’ tòiseachadh a’ teagasg anns an Lùnastal, rud a bha mi a’ miannachadh a dhèanamh o chionn fhada. Chòrd an ùine a chuir mi seachad anns a’ cholaiste rium agus tha mi a’ faireachdainn gun d’ fhuair mi mòran buannachd às. ’S e cothrom air leth a th’ ann a bhith ag ionnsachadh air an eilean agad fhèin ann an colaiste far a bheil luchd-obrach agus oileanaich air leth taiceil. Mholainn an cùrsa seo do dhuine sam bith.

I graduated with a BA in Gaelic Language and Culture from Lews Castle College UHI in 2016. The course had been of interest to me since I was a pupil at the Nicolson Institute, with the view that it would enhance my existing skills and knowledge of the Gaelic language and also provide me with a pathway to becoming a primary school teacher. As a mother of a young son, the opportunity to complete my degree at home and fit my studies around my family life was invaluable. Lecturing staff were caring, understanding and flexible and with their help and support, I was able to attend classes at times which were suitable for me. The completion of my degree has allowed me to continue with my studies, having recently completed the PGDE year to become a Gaelic primary teacher - something which has long been my ambition. My time at the college has been rewarding and very enjoyable. The opportunity to study while living at home, in addition to a supportive network of staff and students is second to none and one which I would recommend to anyone.

Ben Smart

Health Social and Child Studies Level 5 and 6

Health Social and Child Studies

I am a 24-year-old father of one and currently about to enter my 3rd year of studying at Lews Castle College UHI.

I came to college at the age of 22 having left school with no qualifications. I started the Health Social and Child Studies Level 5 course. This gave me a very secure grounding to progress to the Health Social and Child Studies Level 6 course. This course allowed me to extend my knowledge while tutors guided me through my education encouraging research of material relating to the fields we studied.

I would recommend doing these courses to anyone wanting a job in any field of social care. I am currently about to start an HNC in Childhood Practice in September and I have no doubt that I would have been unable to do this without the expert teaching and guidance of my tutors.

In the future, I intend doing a degree in social work and eventually become a child and youth care worker within residential units.

Nicky Cowsill

BSc Sustainable Rural Development

BSc Sustainable Rural DevelopmentI am a fulltime student, just completing third year on BSc Sustainable Rural Development. I live in the most north westerly district of the Isle of Lewis. It is fairly remote especially during the long Lewis winters when the weather is challenging but the online learning environment creates a great sense of community probably more so than a campus based course.

The tutor support and camaraderie amongst fellow online students is really supportive with plenty of online chats and discussions. These sound daunting at first and before I started the course, I was not sure, how a whole degree programme could be delivered on line or how I would cope with this way of learning. It does take some time and commitment but the flexibility of online learning means that I can fit the weekly workload in around home life or other commitments knowing that I can catch up on another day.

The content of the course covers a fascinating and wide range of topics that I previously had not considered to have any relation to sustainable development such as climate change, poverty alleviation or conservation, so each term I have had the opportunity to explore something new. More importantly, the course allows me the freedom to research into issues that are relevant to living on an island or in a remote community. I know that I have great potential and the confidence to find work once I’ve graduated with the wide ranging skills and knowledge I have acquired throughout this course.

I would definitely recommend giving the course and online learning a go. It has given me a fantastic opportunity to learn and meet new people despite living in a remote island community and all from the comfort of my own home.

Artemis Marguerite Pana

MSc in Sustainable Rural Development

Artemis Marguerite PanaMy last foray into academia featured frequent episodes of hiding under a duvet, deadline looming, promising myself that I would never put myself through the same thing again. Fast forward fifteen years and with a newborn baby I embarked on the MSc in Sustainable Rural Development, wondering whether I was being slightly over-ambitious. To my delight I have found it to be a brilliant reintroduction to academic study; a thoroughly engaging and relevant course with lots of interesting topics to get my teeth into. The flexibility of distance learning also suits me down to the ground.

I divide my time between the Isle of Raasay and Edinburgh while my work takes me all over the Highlands and Islands. On my travels I have met many inspiring and vocal people, practitioners and academics who are driving forward the 'rural' agenda and campaigning for better resourcing and an equal voice in government policy. My hope was that the MSc would broaden my understanding of the issues and that the learning would be directly applicable to my work and volunteering. It is certainly fulfilling this expectation. If rural development matters to you and distance learning fits your lifestyle, I highly recommend it!

Shannon O’Brien

Hairdressing Level 6

Shannon O’BrienMy two years in college taught me basic hairdressing skills as well as both advanced colouring and cutting techniques. I also had the opportunity to learn about the business side of being self-employed, which helped me to open my own salon. I never thought this could happen so quickly!

Every day I use what I learned in college applying theory and practice. I also take full advantage of still keeping in touch with lecturers to ask for advice and keep on top of training.

Studying at Lews Castle College UHI has truly been a life changing experience for me.

Jack Buchanan

Merchant Navy Cadet, Access to Merchant Navy

Jack Buchanan, Merchant Navy CadetI completed the Access to Merchant Navy course at the Lews Castle College UHI. It was the best move I ever made. It made possible the chance for me to have a career as a cadet on board a vessel operating all around the Atlantic. I have called in at numerous ports including Corpus Christi USA, Houston USA, Sorel-Tracy Canada, Falmouth UK, Ensted Denmark, Bahamas and Port Arthur USA.

I had a great time at Lews Castle UHI and the course helped me achieve the entry qualifications required for cadetship training. It also gave me a good grounding in a whole range of Maritime subjects. The staff also helped me with my CV and applying to companies for a cadetship. Without this support, it would have been difficult for me achieve my goals.

Tariq Hussain & Peter Haubrick

BEng Mechanical Engineering Degree

Two students who have recently completed their BEng Mechanical Engineering Degree are Tariq Hussain and Peter Haubrick. Both Tariq and Peter began their studies on the NC Mechanical Engineering programme. The time spent on the NC advanced their academic skills and also developed their practical skills.

As an important part of the degree award Tariq and Peter undertook an engineering project which allowed them to highlight many aspects of the knowledge and skills they developed throughout their time at LCC UHI.


Neural Network Project: Create a neural network to allow character recognition of letters with structural variations.

Peter – “The NC Engineering award gave me an understanding of the application of engineering sciences which I was able to build on throughout my studies on the degree programme.”


Robot Hand Project: Develop a robot hand that can mimic the movement of a real hand by use of a glove with sensors attached.

Tariq – “NC Engineering covers a wide range of practical skills using industry standard machines and equipment. The practical aspect of the NC course helped develop my ‘hands on’ skills as well as giving me an understanding of dimensional accuracy and quality requirements. This has given my academic learning a more meaningful context and supported my studies at all levels.”

Christine Hazelton

NC and HNC Fabrication and Welding

Christine HazeltonI absolutely loved attending college, studying the NC Fabrication and Welding course.

The class spent half the time on classroom based academic subjects including core skills, and the other half was workshop based practical units. It was hard work, but I enjoyed all the units and welding was my favourite.

The theory elements were not as enjoyable, but I was determined to do well because I loved doing this so much. The help and support I received from the lecturing staff made it so much easier they were great. I was actually studying for assessments in the evenings after work, which for me was a big change. I had never applied myself this hard at something before and I decided that I wanted to do this all the way to HNC level and the lecturers were very supportive of my goal. I managed to achieve perfect attendance and shared the student of the year award with another girl. I was really proud but my family were more so.

After achieving my HNC I saw advertised a suitable position at the University of Strathclyde which I applied for. To my surprise, I was offered the job as an apprentice technician.

Michael R Ferguson

Masters degree in Archaeology

michael-r-ferguson.jpgMichael decided to leave school in 5th year but wanted to achieve some Highers.  He came to Lews Castle College when he was 18, as an FE student on the NC Access to Arts and Social Sciences course. While studying for his Highers, he investigated the HE courses available at Lews Castle College UHI and decided that the BA in Archaeology looked very interesting.

“I have always found history enjoyable and this was a way to achieve a qualification in something I was very interested in”.

He graduated from Lews Castle College UHI with an honours degree in Archaeology in 2016, and progressed on to the Masters degree in Archaeology.

“I looked at various Masters degrees in Archaeology at other HE institutions as well as UHI. I felt the UHI degree offered a more practical degree where I would learn on the job”

His long term plans are to complete his Masters, take some time out to do some contract work and gain valuable work experience, and then perhaps go on to do his PhD.

He has taken the opportunity to do some archaeological work in Orkney over the summers he has been a student, and has found that to be a great way of meeting fellow students and other archaeologists.

Maro McNab

BA Fine Art

McNab Art Student"I moved to North Uist to study for level one of the Fine Art BA. I was drawn to the location of the course and the focus it has on responding to the unique environment of the Outer Hebrides - and I have had a truly wonderful year. The course and the place have fed off each other; the islands have providing inspiration for my work while the process of making art has deepened my understanding of and engagement with my environment."

"I have appreciated the high quality of the teaching I have received, the low student-staff ratio, and the way in which the course has enabled me to simultaneously develop my technical skills as well as my ideas and approach to making work."

"I can't imagine a more beautiful and inspiring place to live and study in and am very sad to be leaving. However, I have finished the year with much greater confidence in my work and a strong drive to continue to find ways to pursue it."

Rebecca Somerville

Professional Diploma in Education (PGDE)

Rebecca Somerville, Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Primary)I am 21 years old and I live in the town of Stornoway. At the young age of 17, I was all set to leave the island and move to Edinburgh to study Primary Teaching. However, a lecturer from the University of the Highlands and Islands advised me that I could remain on the Island and still pursue my aspiration of becoming a primary school teacher.

I was advised to undertake the HNC in Early Education and Childcare, which, after studying an additional unit, gave me enough credits to go directly into the second year of the BA Degree in Child and Youth Studies. Due to the online nature of this degree, I was able to maintain relief work in primary schools and nurseries, contributing to my experience for teaching. I was also able to take on the role of a cheerleading coach, which gave me additional experience in teaching in a different context.

The flexible online degree programme offered by UHI facilitated me to take on these roles and develop essential skills for the workplace. After three hard years, I graduated with a BA in Child and Youth Studies.  I applied for the Postgraduate Diploma in Education (Primary) at Lews Castle College UHI and was successful. The course is extremely intense and offers valuable placement experience, which helped me to understand the link between theory and practice. UHI is a great asset to the Islands; offering flexible courses to pursue aspirational career choices. I am now delighted to be commencing my probationary teaching year in a local primary school.

Natalie Murray

HNC Early Education and Childcare

Natalie Murray “I became aware of the Health Studies courses at Lews Castle College through a Careers advice meeting when I was on S5 at the Nicolson Institute . I then went on to complete the Health, Social and Child Studies Intermediate 2 and Health, Social and Child Studies Higher courses before completing my HNC Early Education and Childcare at Lews Castle College.”

“I really enjoyed my three years at Lews Castle College. The best parts were learning new skills and meeting new people while being able to study at home. I also feel that college gave me a lot more confidence. I now intend to follow a career in Nursery work.”

Natalie is now working as an Early Years Worker at An Cotan, Lews Castle College's nursery.

Gordon Macleod

BA Theology

Gordon MacleodGordon Macleod enrolled on the BA Theology with UHI in September 2012 . His aim being to enter the Ministry. Gordon is the proprietor of Laxdale Holiday Park and he previously worked in the oil industry.

“I enrolled on the BA Theology course as I wanted to follow a vocation through Ministry with the Church of Scotland. Before deciding that this was the path that I wanted to follow I thought that a major obstacle for my studies would be the ability to study for my degree locally at home in Lewis. When I checked out whether I could complete my studies in the islands I was pleasantly surprised not just about having the ability to study from home but by the quality of facilities and support available to me.” Said Gordon “ I first became aware of the opportunity to study for my degree in Theology through a friend who was also studying at Lews Castle College and he told me how the college was linked into the University of the Highlands and Islands which included the Highland Theology College [HTC]."

"I am thoroughly enjoying the challenge of my Theology studies and the access I have to tutors through new technology and the library facilities available locally to me enables me to fulfil other business and family commitments while completing my studies . When I complete my studies I hope to enter the ministry with the Church of Scotland - which is a pathway and change of direction which has been driven by my faith and I’m really thankful that this fantastic opportunity became available to me at the time it did and for the support I’m receiving from the staff and other students.

"My advice to others looking to make a change in their life and/or career would be not to allow themselves to be put off by entering a new or unknown area of study or new technology . Check out the direction that you want to follow and you’ll soon find that the technology , facilities and support available locally are not a barrier – they are an opportunity . My experience is that the culture of Lews Castle College and the Highland Theological Institute is one where the staff provide great encouragement and support to achieve your chosen goal."

Rebecca Cotton

BA Fine Art (Part Time)

Rebecca Cotton"Being on the course was one of the best things about moving to work and live in the Islands. The flexible approach of the College allowed me to follow/study painting and drawing throughout the year and continue to earn my living."

"I can't think of a better place to study art in such an amazing natural environment and within a very supportive learning/teaching structure."

John Macinnes

Student on the HND Business having completed his HNC in session 2012-13

John MacinessAs well as being a student at Lews Castle College, John also manages a local social club. Since becoming manager, he has made a major contribution in transforming the finances of the club, and helping to boost membership through a diversified range of events hosted by the Lewis and Harris Rangers Supporters Club.

Mr Macinnes said “I became aware of the HN and Degree courses in Business at Lews Castle College through friends, the college website and a range of positive pieces in the local and national media about the college. I enrolled on the HNC to start with, to see if it would provide me with the necessary skills to continue in a career in Management and I now hope to continue to complete the BA degree in Business”. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at the college. The course has provided me with a better insight into business and helped me develop my knowledge of management. The staff have been excellent and very supportive. Completing an HN whilst also running a social club requires flexibility, and the timetabling of the course and assessments have allowed me to maintain my commitment to both the course, and to my responsibilities with the Rangers Club.

He further added “I personally think that our community is very lucky to have such a modern facility with friendly and professional staff available locally, as it offers a great opportunity to get ahead, learn new skills and gain qualifications. For me, the combination of support from the staff and flexibility are the key to successfully completing the course, and the main reasons why I am confident that I will move on to complete my degree.”

Carol Maclean

Student on BA Health Studies

Carol Maclean“After coming back to the Island in 2005, I had picked up a prospectus but didn't have the confidence to apply for courses until the summer of 2010, when my lone parent adviser prompted me to "take a stroll up and see what's on offer"! Very sheepishly I proceeded to the college, not believing there would be anything suitable for someone of my age (a young 40!) and with my lack of qualifications!! Twenty minutes later, after speaking with some of the staff, I left but with a new label - STUDENT!!"

"After completing my Health, Social & Child Studies Higher course, I’ve gone on to enrol onto the BA Health Studies Degree and I’ve just passed the first year. For me the best part of my time at Lews Castle College is the commitment from the lecturers to us as students and their determination to bring out the very best in us!"

Eric Macleod

BA Health Studies

Eric Macleod"I’ve just completed my degree in Health Studies at Lews Castle College UHI. The reason I chose this course, was that I was looking to change career. Previously I worked with a local construction manufacturer, but I’d always wanted a career working with young people, which is something I’ve been committed to ever since leaving school. A large part of my spare time has always been devoted to coaching and youth work, but when any jobs came up in this area I couldn’t get to the letting stage as I lacked formal qualifications."

"When I was looking at ways to gain a qualification to provide me with a pathway into a career in youth work, I looked at a range of options. I knew that there were a large choice of courses, but I also knew that there were a number of limiting factors for me. The main ones being the course needed to be available locally and delivered flexibly, in a way which allowed me to fulfil other commitments."

"The BA Health Studies “fitted the bill” in terms of the qualification I needed, but the clinching factor for me was that it was available on-line through my local college – Lews Castle College UHI."

"When I was accepted for the course, I was given an induction which introduced me to an approach to learning I knew nothing about previously. This brought its own worries but these were quickly dealt with by the teaching and library staff at the college, who showed me how to structure my studies, and helped me through the most difficult early stages. Most important of all, they made me feel more like a friend than a student!"

"The most impressive thing for me while doing the course, was how friendly and supportive were the students and the college staff. By that I don’t mean just the teaching staff, I include the library staff, office staff, cafeteria staff, janitors, cleaners and managers. They all made me feel part of a family rather than a number."

"If I was to be asked what it was about the course that worked for me, it would be that although it was available on-line, I never felt that I was studying from a distance, as great library facilities and supportive tutors were available locally."

"If anyone who is in a similar position to where I was before I started my degree course, asked me about my experience of studying at Lews Castle College, the answer would be simple. It Worked For Me!"

On completing his degree at Lews Castle - Eric was appointed to the post of Youth Support Officer with The Foyer Project in June 2013 and then moved on to become an Active Schools Coordinator with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in October 2013.

Daniel Smith

BA (Hons) Business and Management

Daniel SmithDaniel enrolled at Lews Castle College UHI in September 2009 on an HNC Business course . His intention at that time was to “try the HNC” and then decide whether this was the career direction he wanted to follow . Having successfully completed his HNC he decided to follow through his studies to degree level and this year became the first “First Class Honours” Business graduate to have completed his studies through the University of the Highlands and Islands at Lews Castle College UHI.

Daniel’s initial decision to study at Lews Castle was based on an induction visit he had to the college, advice from Guidance staff at the Nicolson Institute and a desire to study at home in the islands – a pathway that an increasing number of island students are choosing to take.

The growth in island students choosing to study for degrees through Lews Castle is summed up by Daniel ‘s view that the decision to study at home wasn’t just based on convenience it was based on what he describes as being “pleasantly surprised by the resources available at the college” and the “really good support” he received from college staff.

Daniel’s achievement of a First Class Honours Degree is all the more remarkable considering that his final two years studies were on-line .On-line study involves significant discipline and commitment and is now becoming regarded by employers as an indication that prospective employees are “self-motivators” and can work to challenging targets without requiring constant supervision.

When asked about advice he would give to future potential Business students Daniel said he would thoroughly recommend the course but that students should be prepared for “a big jump” in work and commitment if they want to move on from an HND to completing a degree.

Lews Castle College offers potential students the option of choosing to do an HNC/D before deciding to continue to degree which provides students with the flexibility to make career and study choices which suit their needs.

Daniel is now employed as a marketing Officer with one of the most successful businesses in the Islands, Stag Bakeries. The company continues to extend into new bakery product markets both nationally and internationally, while making a substantial investment in new production facilities in Stornoway.

“I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity to gain practical Marketing experience with Stag Bakeries in July 2014, through a Marketing Graduate Placement, at a time when the company was expanding rapidly into new markets. The placement provided me with invaluable experience to build on the Marketing which I had studied while completing my Honours Degree and it allowed the firm to assess whether I would be suitable for a full-time Marketing post.“ said Daniel “I joined the company full time after completing my placement and I would recommend the career path I followed to anyone thinking of thinking of studying at Lews Castle. I started with the intention of completing an HNC and seeing how that went. Now I have a full time Marketing post - after completing an Honours Degree and a Graduate Placement. It worked for me!“