West Highland College UHI wins gold and silver Game Changer Awards

West Highland College UHI has won two awards in the Game Changer Awards from Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland for its proposal for the West Highland Adventure Trail - a new expedition route for staff, students and local communities which will link up the ten college centres comprising West Highland College UHI. The college won a Silver Award in the category of Student Achievement and a Gold Award in the Creative and Cultural category. The presentations were made by Mike Russell MSP, cabinet secretary for lifelong learning, at a ceremony in the Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, on Thursday 3 April.

Matt Groves, BA (Hons) adventure tourism management programme leader, attended the ceremony with students and staff from the college. He said: “I am incredibly proud to receive this award for an innovative and challenging expedition plan from our students. Our college is one of the youngest in Scotland and is a proud member of the University of the Highlands and Islands - the youngest university in Scotland - so we were determined to create an inspirational Game Changing event that would live up to ethos of the college to include all of our diversely spread communities while celebrating the individual strengths of our students.”

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive also congratulated the team: “I am delighted that the West Highland Adventure Trail expedition has received national recognition in the Game Changer awards. Huge credit goes to our student and staff team who have worked on this project with incredible enthusiasm and diligence. Their efforts will help to engage communities the college serves in Lochaber, Skye and Wester Ross through activities in each of our ten college centres. The project will also serve to inspire the next generation to enjoy and engage with the outdoors in a variety of ways, to gain skills in adventure sports and to encourage even those in some of Scotland's most remote communities to contribute to the legacy of the XX Commonwealth Games.”

The expedition is planned to start on 14 May with a descent of Ben Nevis and will see students and some staff take on the challenges of walking, climbing, kayaking, mountain biking, running and sailing a route which will visit and engage with communities around all of 10 college centres. The final ceilidh in Ullapool will be the culmination of a period of several months of careful planning by third year students of the University of the Highlands and Islands degree programme, BA (Hons) adventure tourism management.

The project aims to complete an expedition that will connect the remote West Highland communities with a Commonwealth-inspired team baton relay, taking in the most breath-taking scenery and the most challenging coastlines and mountains of the region. A baton, designed and created by a local businessman Don Hind from Corpach Boat Builders and engraved by Allround Signs, will journey around all 10 learning centres of West Highland College UHI, from Fort William to Kinlochleven and Ardnamurchan, then northwards to Ullapool from 14 May to 9 June.

Each learning centre community will contribute aspirations for the active future of the West Highlands to the baton, to be collected as the West Highland Adventure Trail communique, bringing people together and building capacity in the local communities to encourage them to thrive and flourish.

The Game Changer Awards 2014 is a one-off event to recognise and celebrate the varied and significant contributions that Scotland’s colleges and higher education institutions are making to every aspect of the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games and to sport in Scotland. The awards are being delivered by Colleges Scotland and Universities Scotland and are supported by the Scottish Funding Council.