Dr Rona J Campbell


PhD, 2023
MSc Sustainable Rural Development, 2017

"My experience of being part of the UHI community demonstrates the art of the possible. You can combine a career with studying. Yes, it can be exhausting and challenging but it is so worthwhile.  UHI makes it possible by the way it supports students, with staff very knowledgeable and flexible in their approach to working with students who also have a day job! 

A couple of decades had passed since my first degree so studying again was something which unnerved me a bit, but I was up for the challenge. I had a previous career in broadcasting before changing direction to work in economic and community development. My aim was to plug the gaps in my knowledge to support the work I do at Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE). The MSc in Sustainable Rural Development did the trick by giving me a greater appreciation of the history of rural development and current thinking in this area.  But it did much more than that because it allowed me to follow an interest in land reform and community land ownership.  

My MSc thesis ‘What are the barriers to succession planning in Community Land Trusts’ was an incredible experience, working with Community Land Trusts on an issue which is tough but important for them. I was honoured to have the work selected for publication in the ‘eTIPS’ project. Seeing my work in book form was memorable.

The MSc study threw up lots of interesting things about resilience and sustainability in Community Land Trusts and this became the focus of my PhD ‘Community Land Trusts: resilient in a crisis and a potential model for local development in the Outer Hebrides’. By pure coincidence, I gathered data during a time of lockdown and travel restrictions, so people participated in the research during a live test of resilience.

For me, the PhD was the final stage in a journey which started as an attempt to enhance my knowledge of the region to support my career but resulted in an incredible opportunity to explore issues so critical to the future of communities in the Highlands and Islands. My PhD supervisors were a great source of encouragement. It made a significant difference to be able to tap into the experience of Professor Frank Rennie and Dr Gareth Davies. I never thought I would end up doing a PhD, but they gave me the confidence to push on and complete it!"

Rona Campbell in blue top

  • Mentoring
  • Happy to talk to prospective and current students

"The advice I would give to students is do something you are interested in.  Do so knowing the university is set up to support and encourage you, with the flexibility to fit in with your work and the rest of your life. Be determined to be organised and give your studies a chance. Accept that as with everything, there will be ups and downs with studying again, particularly if like me decades have passed since any previous formal education.  This is your chance to enhance your life through learning in a supportive environment. It truly has been life changing for me. So do it!"