Student Views

Don't just take our word for it, hear it from our students...

 

Aimee MorrisonAimee Morrison - BA(Hons) Health Studies and Lews Castle College UHI Student of the Year 2015

A student who achieved exceptional academic grades while bringing up a young family has been named as the Lews Castle College UHI Student of the Year. Aimee Morrison (26) from Stornoway graduated with a First Class BA (Hons) in Health Studies from the University of the Highlands and Islands.

Aimee completed the four-year degree while bringing up her first child, giving birth to her second and expecting her third during the final term of the course. She also gave up her time to volunteer as a general advisor with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau. Staff praised her for successfully managing the demands of her personal life and studies to produce high quality work which always met course deadlines.

Aimee was nominated for the accolade by health studies programme leader, Donald Macdonald. He explained: “Aimee performed to an exceptionally high standard throughout the course, culminating in the award of a first class honours degree. She has been an exemplary student. Her journey to an honours degree in her home location through an online programme is a shining example of how the University of the Highlands and Islands can transform lives.”

Aimee said: “I have thoroughly enjoyed my studies at the University of the Highlands and Islands and the years have flown past. I am grateful for the ability to study online and therefore fit everything around my family life. I would like to thank the lecturers and college staff, and also my friends and family, for all their support during my degree.”

Lews Castle College UHI principal Iain Macmillan said: “Aimee is an exceptionally talented young woman making the most of the opportunities that the University of the Highlands and Islands offers. I believe the sky is the limit for Aimee and we are proud to have been involved in her academic development.” Aimee was also awarded the NHS Western Isles Award for Highest Achievement in Health Studies for 2015.

Alistair RossAlistair Ross - First Class Honours Degree in Scottish History and Archaeology

The very first Lews Castle College student to graduate from the Scottish History and Archaeology honours degree, took his first-class honours on 28th August. Alistair Ross, who was a bank manager in a previous life, and formerly a member of the Lews Castle College board, re-entered education full-time in 2011, after a gap of nearly 50 years. He commented:

"In 1963 my Primary 7 teacher Miss McKay took our class to see a section of the remains of the Antonine Wall in Clydebank, I was thereafter quite simply hooked on History and Archaeology.

What I didn't realise at the time was that it would 47 years later before I got the opportunity to realise that interest by being accepted for UHI's joint honours course in Scottish History and Archaeology, a long career in Finance having intervened.

As a mature student it was a little bit daunting at first to be catapulted into a world of essays, word counts and the joys of referencing but gradually the fog began to clear and I finally found something I really enjoyed doing.

New challenges, new skills, new opportunities, archaeological excavations, melding the history and the archaeology together just as Miss Mckay had laid out for us all those years ago. The last four years have without doubt been some of the best of my life and I would recommend the experience to anyone, it's never too late to learn."

One of the pleasures of studying at the UHI is the wide range of students who take advantage of the opportunity, from school leavers to people shaping a second career. People with unconventional qualifications or backgrounds in different professions can take advantage of access courses, or recognition of prior learning. Many study part-time, or flexibly, alongside caring responsibilities or paid work. The archaeology and history degrees have drawn in students from all over the world, as well as locally, to study in the north of Scotland. Alistair now intends to take some well-deserved time off, before returning for post-graduate study.

 

Susan MacaulaySusan Macaulay – MA Health & Wellbeing 2015

 

Susan is employed as an Emergency Nurse Practitioner with NHS Western Isles and completed her MA degree with UHI in 2015.

 

“One of the main reasons I chose to complete my MA Health & Wellbeing through UHI was the flexibility it provided me to study on-line ,at home in Lewis, while also fitting my studies in with my family and work commitments. I was amazed at how “well thought out” the content of my MA was and how it developed my skills. I was able to make course assignments relevant to my working practice and I developed a great interest in Rural Health provision and how to interpret health policy . This interest was strongly supported, encouraged and nurtured by my tutors and Programme Leaders.” said Susan .

 

“The skills and knowledge I’ve gained from my MA have been transferrable to my working practice and equipped me to work at a level I never thought I would have had the confidence to work at . Put simply my MA Health & Wellbeing studies provided me with the skills, knowledge and confidence to develop my career.” She added.

 

Lorna LuLorna Lu - HND Business

After completing an NC Administration with West Highland College, Lorna Lu enrolled on her HNC Business course through Lews Castle College UHI. She continued to complete her HND at Lews Castle College in 2014, and now intends to commence a degree in Business with UHI in the future.

Lorna completed her HND whilst bringing up a young family, and working full-time as a Project Administrator with West Highland College and the National Centre of Excellence in Traditional Music in Plockton, West Highlands, and then as Business Administrator with Taigh na Ceud Music Publishers on the Isle of Skye.

As Lorna explained “I enrolled on the HN Business courses after receiving encouragement from my tutor, Tracy Matheson at West Highland College, and really enjoyed my time studying with Lews Castle College. Some people might think that studying in a remote part of the West Highlands of Scotland would involve significantly greater difficulties to those based full-time at colleges. Nothing could be further from the truth. With the technology available and the support and encouragement I received from my lecturers and especially my Course Tutor Billy Mackinnon, I was able to complete my HND in the same number of years as the full-time students based at Lews Castle College, UHI."

"At times there were challenges involving work and family pressures but the great thing about studying through using new technology is that the tutors are aware that the demands on part-time students studying at a distance, are greater than those studying full-time at the college so they create some flexibility to ensure that we are not put at a disadvantage. Without this flexibility, encouragement and support, it would not have been possible to complete my HND. Completing my HND has not only expanded my knowledge and skills but has also built my confidence for new challenges for the future and provides me with the determination to put these to good use with my future career.”

 

Kayanna MorrisonKayanna Morrison - Trainee Gaelic Medium Teacher

I enrolled on the BA Gaidhlig and Development course to provide me with a route into employment as a Gaelic Medium teacher.

My brother had previously completed a Gaelic degree through UHI at Lews Castle College and he along with some other friends [who had also studied at Lews Castle College] spoke very highly of their time at the college.

A major reason for enrolling at Lews Castle College, for me, was that the college has a good reputation and I could study locally. The fact that the college is also small enough for students to get to know the staff well was also a factor. The staff were very friendly and provided me with a lot of support during my studies.

I have just completed a placement with MG ALBA and started my PGDE Teacher Training course again through UHI at Lews Castle College .The college has provided me with a pathway to my chosen career and I’m really looking forward to Teacher training and hopefully fulfilling my career ambition.

My advice to anyone who is still considering their future study options would be to contact the college and find out what’s available locally. It worked for me!

 

Anne BlythAnne Blyth - Project Officer, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Anne is a classic example of the approach which many people now take to lifelong learning. She completed her first course at Lews Castle College in Health Studies in 1988, then returned later to complete her HND Business course, graduating with a BA degree in Business Management in 2012.

“A key factor for me was that I was determined to improve my knowledge and qualifications, and the fact that the range of opportunities available locally continues to expand, made this possible” said Anne. “The UHI framework that Lews Castle is part of, is impressive. It removes the previous problems of remoteness and gives us access to a rich network of learning opportunities from a wealth of experienced lecturers. We are very fortunate to have such a facility on our doorstep that offers such exciting opportunities to people of all ages, promoting an excellent lifelong learning experience ‘to one and all’, should they wish to pursue it. As well as the lecturing staff, the friendly support you get from all the staff, especially the admin staff, is invaluable. They make you feel welcome and their patience and support, provided with a smile, is one of the main assets of the college.“

Anne was initially employed as an Admin Assistant and has used her studies and qualifications to assist her in developing her career to her current post as Project Officer with the local authority.

 

Christian GamaufChristian Gamauf - 3rd Year BA (Hons) in Applied Music

"I am in the 3rd year of BA (Hons) in Applied Music. I moved to Scotland from Austria to study on the HNC Music course in Benbecula in 2010 and progressed to the BA Applied Music with LCC UHI."

"The BA Applied Music degree is different from other music degrees and it suits me as I need to be available to travel and gig with different projects. The degree involves intensive 3-4 day residencies where we congregate for performances and workshops in different places all over Scotland four times a year."

"We study all genres of music and are able to select from some excellent performance practice tutors: This year I elected to study pipes with Canadian Scot Angus MacKenzie from the band Daimh. When we are not on residencies, we work online and via video conference collaborating with each other to create new music and record our work. Although I am based in Uist- which is great as this is a community rich in the Gaelic culture, providing me with many ensemble opportunities, I am able to access the video conferencing from my laptop wherever I am - and sometimes this has been whilst on a concert tour in Austria, Italy, wherever- so long as I have a connection."

Marion MacphailMarion Macphail - The Scarr Hall Memorial Trust Award winner 2015

Marion began her time at Lews Castle College UHI by enrolling on a 1 year part-time Basic IT course and moved on to complete full time courses in Level 4 Hair & Beauty and Level 5 Hairdressing.

During her time at Lews Castle she showed tremendous initiative and was awarded the Billy Macleod Inspirational Award in 2014 and the Scarr Hall Memorial Trust Award in 2015.

“I applied for my first course at the college after being told about it by a friend.  Although I wasn’t sure what to expect - I found the college really welcoming from the time I started. The fact that it provided training locally was also a “major plus” for me.  The classes were small and this meant that you could always contact your tutor if you had a problem or didn’t understand something.  My confidence improved while at the college through making new friends and participating and organising charity events and events such as the Holocaust Day held at the college.” Said Marion.

"The skills I developed at Lews Castle College weren’t just the Hairdressing skills that I studied but I’ve developed the confidence to take part in a range of events and help organise them.  Two of the highlights of my time at the college were being awarded the Billy Macleod Inspirational Award in 2014 and the Scarr Hall Memorial Trust Award in 2015.  Being nominated and receiving these awards meant the world to me as it showed that not only had I come a long way since I started college but that people appreciated the work I put in to fund raising and charity events which will, hopefully, stand me in good stead as I move forward to a new career.” added Marion

 

James GunnJames Gunn - Marine Engineering Trainee

James enrolled on the NC Engineering course at Lews Castle College UHI in September 2013, to provide him with a route into his chosen career of Marine Engineering.

“I became aware of the NC Engineering course as a route into an engineering career, through school and advice from local Careers staff. When I started the course I still wasn’t sure whether I wanted to specialise in Marine Engineering or continue to get a higher qualification and apply for offshore engineering jobs, but, during the year I applied and was accepted for a Marine Engineering cadetship through CLYDE MARINE. The NC course was very important to being accepted by CLYDE MARINE as it provides you with a lot of the skills to give you a better start to the next stage of Marine Engineering training” said James.

“The fact that the course was available locally was also a major factor as I also had a part time job, so it allowed me to save some money before moving on to the next stage of my training. The atmosphere at Lews Castle is completely different to school – it is much more relaxed but focused, and I found it easier for me to learn at college.”

 

Eddie HallahanEddie Hallahan – BSc Energy Engineering

Eddie completed his Energy Engineering degree at Lews Castle College UHI in 2014, and is currently employed as a Graduate placement by LEWIS WINDPOWER. After his placement, he intends commencing his Honours year in session 2014-15.

As Eddie explained, “Some years ago I decided to embark on a change in direction and study for an Engineering degree, as I was aware of the large number of opportunities available through Engineering. I chose the Energy Engineering degree through Lews Castle College as it was available locally, and many of my friends and family who had completed courses at Lews Castle, spoke very highly of their experiences at the college. As well as the Energy Engineering degree being available locally, the other main attractions for me were the range of subjects covered by the course, and the ease of access we have to staff. The fact that class sizes are small, means that you have close links with both staff and other students, and there is a really good group feeling about the people you’re working and studying with“.

Eddie’s graduate placement opportunity came about through links which the college has been working to develop with LEWIS WINDPOWER, which is the development partnership comprising EDF & AMEC. LEWIS WINDPOWER has planning permission to develop the Lewis Windfarm, which is the largest windfarm planned for the Western Isles. Continuing, Eddie said “I am grateful to have been given the opportunity by LEWIS WINDPOWER, to undertake this Graduate placement, researching the subject area, “Local Procurement and supply chain for the windfarm when it is being developed”, and the opportunity to gain experience in a related area to my studies, while working with two large international companies”. As well as the placement with LEWIS WINDPOWER, Eddie is also completing his NEBOSH Health & Safety qualification which combined with his Honours degree and industrial experience will leave him ideally placed for a career in Q.H.S.E. [Quality, Health, Safety and Environment] in the Energy industry. .”

 

Angela MacdonaldAngela Macdonald - Professional Cookery

To fulfil the terms of a conditional offer for teacher training from Strathclyde University, Angela enrolled on a group of Professional Cookery units at Lews Castle College UHI. This would then enable her to further her ambition to become a Gaelic medium Home Economics teacher.

She had previously been employed in the textiles industry as a self-employed clothing designer, focusing on working with Harris Tweed and as a professional kiltmaker.

“After deciding to change career to become a Gaelic medium Home Economics teacher, I was told that I would need some Professional Cookery qualifications to satisfy the entry requirements of the Home Economics teacher training course, which would reinforce my previous degree in Textiles and Fashion. To achieve these units in time to start my teacher training, I contacted the Hospitality staff at Lews Castle College UHI to ask if they could offer me a customised Professional Cookery course. This would allow me to fulfil the conditions of the offer I had received from Strathclyde University. I then met with the college Hospitality staff who designed an accelerated learning programme for me which allowed me to gain the necessary qualifications over a three month period from April to June this year. Without this ‘crash course’ I would not have been able to enrol on the teacher training course in September 2014. I would have had to wait for another year if the college had not worked to help me gain the qualifications locally in the islands. I really enjoyed my time at Lews Castle and will always remember the flexibility and support which the college Hospitality lecturers and technicians showed, without which I would have ended up wasting a year before enrolling on my teacher training course in 2015.”

 

Ruairidh MacleodRuairidh Macleod - Access to Merchant Navy

“I enrolled on the Access to Merchant Navy course in September 2013. I was interested in going to sea and a career in the Merchant Navy and found out about the course from a family friend whose nephew previously completed the course and went on to a successful career in the Merchant Navy” said Ruairidh.

Ruairidh is one of a growing number of students choosing to come to the islands to develop their skills through Lews Castle College UHI as a pathway to a new career. He is currently employed by CALMAC in Ullapool, over the summer, and starts his cadetship with Anglo-Eastern Ship Management in September.

“The best things for me about the course were meeting new friends from other areas and finding out more about the Merchant Navy from the lecturers who told us about their experiences from when they were at sea“ added Ruairidh, who was the joint award winner prize for the top student on the Access to Merchant Navy course at Lews Castle College UHI at the college’s recent Prize-giving.

 

Martin ZweifelMartin Zweifel

“I moved to the islands from my home in Zurich in 2012. The reason for coming to Scotland and to the islands was that I have a love for Scotland and liked the idea of coming to work in a close-knit, friendly community. Shortly after arriving in Lewis I started working in local hotels and also became aware of the opportunities available at Lews Castle College. I discussed these with some of the students and staff who came to the restaurant - I work in - and they provided me with a lot of encouragement to sign up for the NQ Business Administration course as I am interested in developing a career in Management" said Martin Zweifel “The NQ has been really enjoyable and I have learned a lot from working with a group of students and staff from very different backgrounds. The main thing I've learned which will help me in the future is the importance of teamwork if you want to achieve a success.”

Martin is continuing his studies with an HNC in session 2014-15 while at time working towards developing a career in Hospitality Management.

Anne Lundon, BBC, Glasgow. Graduated 2008 BA Gàidhlig.

Anne Lundon - BA Gàidhlig

Anne currently works as a BBC TV presenter based at their Glasgow HQ. She graduated from Lews Castle College UHI in 2008 with BA Gàidhlig.

“The benefits of higher education are endless, and what I learned both inside and outside the lecture theatres at Lews Castle College has stayed with me well beyond graduation day! Studying here, and being taught by experts in their field, helped equip me with the necessary skills that I can apply to both my career and my personal life."

"Being able study in my hometown was something which was invaluable to me and helped me gain what I can only describe as my dream job - It has opened doors to new experiences and new people and I look back on my years studying there with very fond memories.”

Paul Macaskill

Paul Macaskill - Chief Internal Auditor at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar

Paul Macaskill enrolled on the National Certificate in Public Administration at Lews Castle College in the 1990’s. He then moved on to complete his HND Business at the Lews Castle and his BA degree in Business Studies at Glasgow Caledonian University.

“Originally I enrolled on the Public Administration course at the college - as I wanted to join the police. After completing my NC I decided to keep my options open by continuing to do my HND at the Lews Castle."

"One of my main memories of my time at the college was how supportive and encouraging the staff were, particularly the interest in what students wanted to do with their future career, and for me it was the ideal start to the career which I’ve followed. After completing my HND I went to Glasgow Caledonian and began to specialise in Finance. This led me to train as an accountant and continue with Professional exams -which have led me to my present post as Chief Internal Auditor with Comhairle nan Eilean Siar" said Paul Macaskill, Chief Internal Auditor Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

“Nowadays the option to continue to degree is available locally through the University of the Highlands and Islands at Lews Castle – but when I completed my HND this option wasn’t available. My time at Lews Castle and the HND I gained were the key which opened the way to my career and I would recommend this career route to others interested in a career in Business or Finance. The HND opened up a wide range of options for me and now with the degree being made available locally there are even more opportunities available through Lews Castle. I would strongly encourage people to take advantage of these opportunities and follow their studies up with Professional examinations in their chosen specialism as early as possible in their careers if they wish to progress” added Mr Macaskill.

 

F.E.S.Trainee Facilities Engineers

Luke Allen & Craig Paterson –F.E.S. Trainee Facilities Engineers

Luke and Craig are the first people to be recruited as trainee Facilities Engineers in the Western Isles and are employed by FES in Stornoway.

“We first became interested in Construction and Engineering when we completed the Skills for Work – Construction and Engineering course at Lews Castle College while we were on S3 &4 in school .I signed up for the Skills for Work course as I wanted to find out whether I wanted to work in Construction or Engineering when I left school. The course was brilliant . I learned a lot about the skills required for a career in Engineering and Construction and followed on by completing the Introduction to Construction course at the college. This allowed me to develop my knowledge and skills and was a major factor in F.E.S. taking me on as a Facilities Engineering Apprentice" said Luke Allen.

“I also did the Skills for Work course on third and fourth year and then went onto complete a Pre Apprentice Electrical course - which I chose after being introduced to the wide range of skills needed in Construction –during our course at the college. The course led to me doing the Electrical course and was the pathway into my apprenticeship with F.E.S. The course I did at Lews Castle introduced me and many of my friends to what is required in Construction and Engineering and many of the people who did the college course are now employed as plumbers and electricians. It was our pathway to a career with prospects“ added Craig Paterson.

“The fact that Craig and Luke had both completed initial Construction training at Lews Castle College and came with good references was a significant factor in F.E.S. employing them - as we knew that they had shown commitment during their training and already had basic skills before starting their Apprenticeship with us . F.E.S. looks forward to continuing to work with the college to build on this relationship which will hopefully provide more opportunities for college students and trainees with our company in the future” said Mr Dougie Ferguson - Operations Manager F.E.S.

Luke and Craig are now also completing their SQA qualification in Facilities Engineering and are employed by F.E.S. in Stornoway.

F.E.S. provide Facilities Management for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar for all schools in the Western Isles and also provide Facilities Management for Tighean Innse Gall for their Housing portfolio in the islands.

Daniel Smith

Daniel Smith - BA (Hons) Business and Management

Daniel 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!“

Ross Macaulay

Ross Macaulay - Access to Merchant Navy

Ross Macaulay is an Engineering Cadet from Keose in the Isle of Lewis. Having spent a lot of his youth working with boats and fishing his ambition was to go to sea.

He is now completing the second year of his cadetship. After having completed the Merchant Navy Access course at Lews Castle College he joined Clyde Marine and his first "deep sea" placement included Uruguay, South Africa, New York, the Mississippi, Louisiana, the Gulf of Mexico, Houston and Antwerp..... All before he was 18!

Ross applied for the Merchant Navy course, was accepted and enrolled at the college when he was 15. He was able to do this under the "Christmas Leaver" scheme where pupils can leave school before they are 16 and continue their education at Lews Castle College.

"I knew what I wanted to do as a career and didn't want to waste a year at school just because of my age!" said Ross "At college I was able to study maritime skills which would benefit me when I joined Clyde Marine and be taught by lecturers who had wide experience of the Merchant Navy. If I had stayed in school it would have been a waste of time. By starting the course as a "Christmas Leaver" I learned a lot that set me up for the cadetship I'm now doing. It also allowed me to get certificates which gave me exemptions from some of the subjects in my first year at Glasgow Nautical. For me it was 100% the right career route to follow as I was much better prepared for Glasgow Nautical and my cadetship than if I had joined straight from school" added Ross.

His objective, like many other students who follow the route to a maritime career through Lews Castle College and Clyde Marine, is to become a Chief Engineer within 10 years of starting his cadetship.

Ross's experience and opportunities are typical of most of the students who successfully complete the Access to Merchant Navy course in Stornoway at Lews Castle College.

They are entering a career with excellent prospects & earnings and the potential to "get ahead".

At a time when we have the highest level of Youth Unemployment in a generation, the expression "a life on the ocean wave" has rarely seemed to be a better option for our young people!

Fiona Knape

Fiona Knape - BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development (Rural)

Studying through Lews Castle College UHI was a unique opportunity and allowed me to study from the best possible location, home.

I didn’t need to travel or get used to new surroundings, which meant that I could concentrate more on my studies. As someone who always sat hiding at the back of the class in high school, I found that the online classes allowed me to participate more in the lessons and improved my confidence. The variety of modules proved to be much more than I expected and allowed me to choose subjects that were interesting and completely new to me.

People may think studying on line is isolating. However, the Sustainable Development degree has a weekend residential each semester, which I would strongly recommend. This is where I met my virtual ‘class mates’ in person and stayed in some of the most beautiful Scottish localities, in addition to gaining practical experience of sustainable communities. It was good to make new friends and to be able to share learning experiences, both as a ‘newbie’ in year one asking lots of questions, to an experienced 4th year answering lots of questions. I registered in 2009 alongside the same 3 students that I graduated with in 2013. During our four years of studying our friendship has grown as we shared the same highs and lows of student life, with the high point being our graduation. For this day alone, I would highly recommend this course to everyone.

I moved to the Outer Hebrides with my husband in 2006 and decided to study rural sustainable development to gain a better understanding of the history, geography and economy of the area.

In 2013, after four years of full time study, I was awarded a 2:1 BSc (Hons) Sustainable Development (Rural). Although I studied full time I also worked full time as a Performance Monitoring Officer at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. This was only possible as the course was delivered fully online.

In my first year as a UHI student and as part of my ‘Attracting & Applying for External Funding’ assignment, I successfully secured funding for over 20 students to visit the European Parliament in Brussels (flights and a meal) from the office of Struan Stevenson MEP, which the UHI Student’s Association is still to take up.

My studies also had an impact on my hobby, Clay Pigeon Shooting. As voluntary Treasurer of Harris Gun Club (HGC), I researched funding and secured almost £40,000 to relocate and develop the club for the communities of the Outer Hebrides. This enabled the club to host the 2013 Highland & Island shooting competition in May 2013 for the first time in the club’s 100 year history. The next phase was to have the club registered with the Scottish Clay Target Association (SCTA). This enabled HGC to hold registered shoots at which local shooters can register their scores for submission to the SCTA, if they want to be considered for the Scottish Team. This eliminated the discrimination they experienced by having to travel to the mainland to register their scores. Subsequently, in October 2013, Harris Gun Club was awarded ‘Club of the Year 2013’ by the Lewis and Harris Sports Council.

Prior to starting my UHI studies in 2009, I successfully self-studied for the ACCA’s Certified Accounting Technician (CAT) Qualification, which I was awarded in 2007. In 2011, I joined the Institute of Economic Development (IED) as a Student Member to support my studies and, having graduated, I am now an IED Associate Member.

Fiona Knape BSc (Hons) AIED CAT

Eric Macleod

Eric Macleod - BA Health Studies

"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.

Catriona Mackay and Norman Smith 2013

Catriona Mackay and Norman Smith - BA Gaidhlig

B’ e am brosnachadh a fhuair mi bho mo chàirdean aig an robh fios gun robh ùidh làidir agam ann an cultar na Gàidhlig aon de na prìomh adhbharan a thàinig mi air a’ chùrsa . Nuair a thòisich mi air a’ chùrsa an toiseach, chuir mi romham cùrsa eile a dhèanamh ann an Glaschu, ach dh’atharraich mi m’ inntinn agus thill mi chun chùrsa BA,” thuirt Catriona.

“Shaoil mi gun robh an cùrsa, na cothroman agus an taic a bha ri fhaotainn tro chùrsa Gàidhlig UHI aig Colaisde a’ Chaisteil a freagairt air na h-amasan agam fhìn a thaobh an eòlas a bh’ agam air cànan, cultar agus eachdraidh na Gàidhlig a leasachadh. Tha mi a-nis anns an dàrna bliadhna, agus tha mi air mo dhòigh glan ag ionnsachadh còmhla ri oileanaich agus luchd-teagaisg sònraichte."

A major reason for me joining the course was the encouragement I received from friends and family who knew I had a strong interest in Gaelic culture. After starting the course initially, I decided to move to Glasgow to study - but changed my mind and decided to return home and rejoin the BA course" said Catriona. "I found that the course, opportunities and support available through the UHI Gaelic course delivered by Lews Castle was more in tune with my aim to develop my knowledge of Gaelic Language, Culture and History than other courses. I'm now onto my second year and loving every minute studying with a great group of students and staff."

Thuirt Tormod, “Mus tàinig mi dhan Chaisteal, chaidh mi tro fhoghlam gus a bhith nam oifigear sa Chabhlach Marsantach, agus bha an t-ionnsachadh sin glè choltach ri bhith anns an sgoil. Tha an ceum Gàidhlig aig Colaisde a’ Chaisteil gu tur eadar-dhealaichte, agus tha e a’ còrdadh rium fada nas fheàrr. An dèidh dhomh mo dhreuchd a leigeil dhìom bha mi airson leantainn rudan anns an robh ùidh agam ach nach b’ urrainn dhomh fhoghlam fhad ’s a bha mi aig muir. Nam biodh an cùrsa coltach ris an dòigh teagasg a fhuair mi roimhe, cha bhithinn air cumail orm. ’S e an cùrsa seo an dearbh rud a bha mi a’ lorg. Tha e air a lìbhrigeadh gu h-ionadail le luchd-teagasg càirdeil, tha e air m’ eòlas air ar cànan ’s ar cultar a leudachadh, agus tha e air còrdadh rium gu mòr a bhith ag obair còmhla ris na h-oileanaich eile sa bhuidheann againn… Chan eil e idir coltach ris an sgoil!

"Before coming to the castle my previous training experience from my Merchant Navy Training - to become an officer - was that learning was very much like school. The Gaelic degree at Lews Castle College is a totally different experience and much more enjoyable. After retiring I wanted to develop interests that I hadn't had the opportunity to develop when I was at sea. If the course had been the ‘chalk and talk’ I experienced with my previous training I wouldn't have continued. This Gaelic course suits my needs perfectly. It is delivered locally by friendly staff, has greatly expanded my knowledge of our Language and Culture and working with the other students in our group has been a really enjoyable experience ....not a bit like school!" said Norman

Tha dùil aig Tormod agus Catrìona crìoch a chur air na ceumannan aca ann an 2015, agus bhiodh iad deònach bruidhinn mu na ceumannan Gàidhlig aig Colaisde a’ Chaisteil le duine sam bith aig a bheil ùidh anns a’ chùrsa. Faodar fios a chur thuca tro Fàilteachas na Colaiste air 01851 770000.

Both Norman and Catriona now intend to continue to complete their degrees in 2015 and would be happy to discuss their experience of their Gaelic degree at Lews Castle College with anyone who has similar interests and wants to find out more about the course. They can be contacted through Lews Castle College reception on 01851 770000

Carol Maclean

Carol Maclean - Student on BA Health Studies

“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!"

John Maciness

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

As 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.”

Angela Grant

Angela Grant - BA in Health Studies

Angela, Personal Assistant to the Director of Public Health/Administration Manager first started studying part-time, for a BA in Health Studies (Rural Health, in January 2010, after completing an HNC.

During her studies, Angela developed many skills that she can use in her work, such as applying critical thinking and analysis, as well as report writing, research and time management skills.

“The course was something I wanted to do to challenge myself. The main draw to this course was the fact that there was an exit point, so if I felt it was getting too difficult, I could at least finish with a Diploma. However, I was enjoying the studying and, as my results improved, I decided to continue with the Degree. I certainly was surprised to learn that I was awarded a degree with distinction and couldn’t believe it when I received another letter informing me that I had been awarded a further prize. It certainly made all those years of studying worthwhile.”

Rebecca Cotton

Rebecca Cotton - BA Fine Art (Part Time)

"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."

Gordon Macleod

Gordon Macleod - BA Theology

Gordon 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."

Natalie Murray

Natalie Murray - HNC Early Education and Childcare

“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.

Pat Sattaphol

Pat Sattaphol Specialist Welding Services Award for Best Engineering Trainee

Pat Sattaphol completed a remarkable double this month when he was presented with the Specialist Welding Services Award for Best Engineering Trainee at Lews Castle College at the College's UHI Diamond Anniversary Further Education Awards .This was the second year running that Pat has been awarded for being the top student on his course . What makes it remarkable is the awards for two completely different areas of study – Catering and Hospitality!

On leaving school in 2011 Pat enrolled on a one year Catering course at Lews Castle and he went on to achieve the Stenhouse Award for Food Management. After completing the course Pat decided to make a change in his career direction and enrolled on the NC Fabrication & Welding course at Lews Castle College UHI in August 2012.

College Principal Ian Macmillan added his congratulations to Pat’s success and commented that “Pat’s success in being awarded prizes in two completely different disciplines, in consecutive years, is a unique achievement and shows a remarkable commitment from him. It also illustrates the wide range of opportunities the college offers to students and the flexibility to change direction if your choice of career or circumstances change.”

Pat now intends to complete the Advanced Practice Engineering course at Lews Castle before moving onto the HND Engineering . His ambition is to enter employment in the offshore industry after completion of these courses.

Pat commented “I initially intended to follow a career in our family’s catering business but last summer I decided to change direction after seeing the fantastic prospects in the off-shore industry and been told about the success of the students who went into the offshore industry after finishing their time at Lews Castle. I hope to follow the same career path. The off-shore industry offers huge opportunities to young people like myself and provides fantastic opportunities to get a well-paid job with prospects while still retaining a home in the islands. I’ve really enjoyed my first year doing engineering. There is a really good atmosphere on the course and we get really good support from the lecturers who all have wide experience of the industry.”

Nicola Macleod

Nicola Macleod - Professional Diploma in Education (PGDE)

 

Nicola has completed her studies and is now working as a primary school teacher at Stornoway Primary School:

"Teaching practice takes up 50% of the course and the tear goes so quickly. You really start to learn a lot when you're out in school; you begin to see how the theory relates to the practice."

"Now that I'm working as a primary teacher my advice to anyone considering applying for this course is to be sure that teaching is for you; be prepared to go on learning; enjoy the company of children because they teach us a lot; and have lots of commitment and energy because you're going to need it!"

"Looking back on my experience I think the best thing about it was the chance to study to be a primary teacher in the Highlands and Islands."

McNab Art Student

Maro McNab - BA Fine Art

"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."