The Past and the Future at the University
of the Highlands and Islands
past few decades things have been changing in the Highlands and Islands. Communities have acted together to buy and run their
land resulting in population growth and new businesses. For several years Inverness
has been the fastest growing city in Europe. The Pentland Firth has become a
leader in renewable energies. Instead of abandoned crofts, there are new homes. Instead of a constant flow of talented young
people to the south and across the ocean, established residents and newcomers alike have real opportunities. An intrinsic
part of this growth has been the establishment of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Britain’s newest university. The Centre for History is a core part of UHI’s mission to provide Highlanders with the opportunity for higher education, employers
with a highly-skilled workforce and local communities with self-confidence. History graduates have a high level of literacy, research and analytical skills as well as a reflective understanding
of how society, culture, economics and politics change over the long term, all of which are vital for
the development of our society.
Founded in 2005, the Centre for History has gone from strength to strength, developing three under-graduate
honours degrees (Scottish History, History and Politics, and Scottish History and Archaeology), one Masters degree (Highlands
and Islands history), and a strong research base. The degrees are offered across the UHI region (which encompasses half the
land mass of Scotland!) so people are able to study from one of 13 colleges and research centres, over 50 local learning centres,
or online. In order to serve the whole of the Highlands and Islands we have embraced technology through providing learning
materials on an internet-based teaching system, holding discussion-based classes using video-conferencing, and investing in
e-books. The technology enables our students to study and communicate with each
other from Argyll to Lewis, Perth to Thurso, and Barra to the tiny Shetland island of Whalsay.
The Centre for History’s Masters’ degree in the History
of the Highlands and Islands was launched in September 2011. UHI is currently the only university to offer a degree specialising
in the history of this fascinating region. Due to the considerable
amount of international interest the programme is fully online. As Professor
Jim Hunter put it, “taught from the Highlands: available anywhere on earth”! While some of our students wish to gain a full Masters’ degree and
see it as a pathway to a PhD, many others are pursing the subject for personal interest and are taking whichever modules appeal
to them most on a stand-alone, short course basis.
The vision of UHI to make a positive impact on the economic and social development of the Highlands and Islands isn’t
fanciful dreaming, it is happening and it is having an influence on real people and real businesses. For a Highland historian, it is so exciting to be part of an organisation which is part of the solution
to the long-lamented ‘Highland problem’.