The University of the Highlands and Islands Student Development Fund is celebrating its tenth birthday. Launched in October 2009, it has supported over 400 students to take advantage of personal development opportunities in connection with their course that would otherwise be missed due to financial constraints.
To mark the occasion the university has created an online gallery of recipients from across the partnership to share their personal journeys.
Here are their stories:
Jakub Pesek, a Perth College UHI graduate from Dundee
“The Student Development Fund helped me a lot during my time studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. It enabled me to take online courses at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Taking the courses was a great experience. I learnt many skills that will benefit my career in the future and has connected me with some of the best songwriters around the world.
“The support has meant a lot to me because, without it, I wouldn’t have been able to take part in these really exciting opportunities which have allowed me to grow not only as an artist but also as a person.”
Mike Robertson, a Highland Theological College UHI graduate from Inverness
“I received a grant from the Student Development Fund supporting my personal costs to lead a team of volunteers to help sponsor and run a summer respite camp for children and families affected by disabilities in Romania.
“The grant enabled me to engage in work on the ground and learn simultaneously, whilst I was still a full-time student. I’m still involved in leading trips annually with the church and over the years, a wide range of people have been directly impacted by the fund’s grant. It has literally helped change mine and many others lives, and I will always be very grateful.”
Christian Gamauf, a Lews Castle College UHI graduate from Glasgow
“I hugely benefited from the Student Development Fund throughout my time at the university. I was able to take part in some amazing opportunities throughout the UK, in Europe and North America. These trips were highly valuable to my student experience and overall development as performing musician. Being able to connect with other traditional musicians from around the world was fantastic.
“I was also able to gain experience in project planning and budgeting, which has been really beneficial for future freelance projects.”
Becs Boyd, a Moray College UHI student from Dingwall
“The Student Development Fund helped me to take a Mig Welding course at Varis Training in Forres. As a result, I was able to make metal sculpture as part of my artwork and have extended my technical skills. It was really important to be able to access the fund as I have a family and would not have been able to afford it otherwise.”
Matthew Snape, a Scottish Association for Marine Science UHI graduate from Stockport, Cheshire
“I studied a BSc Marine Science in Oban. As a mature student I did not qualify for student finance from the government or the university. Without the support of the Student Development Fund, I would have been unable to complete my degree.
“With the support of the student development fund I earned a first class degree and was able to attend a summer school on Mediterranean Ecology in France and an Erasmus semester on Arctic Environmental Management in Svalbard.”
Head of Development at UHI, Alison Wilson commented that over £165,000 in grants has been awarded. These are made possible by donations from businesses and individuals.
Alison Wilson said:
“The impact of those gifts has been huge. They have helped our students to feel supported, encouraged, and motivated to succeed. They have provided unforgettable development experiences, opened minds to new ideas and helped develop connections with new people and places. They have allowed students to work in local communities and on research contributing to global social issues.
“Looking to the future, we want to continue to help many more students access unique learning experiences and we can only do so by securing new donors to fund future rounds of support for our students. No matter what size of donation, it really makes a difference and if any local business or individual feels they would like to help in some small way I’d be delighted to hear from them.”
Thomas Prag has been donating to the fund for 10 years and recieved an award for his regular support.
“It came as a bit of a surprise to find out that my regular small donation had been going for so long, but perhaps that’s the point – £5 or £10 a month is relatively painless and builds up, if enough of us do it. I particularly like being involved in helping students do things outside their course work – it’s what being at university is all about.”