Graduates celebrate success at HTC graduation

Graduates from across the UK and beyond gathered in Dingwall this week to mark the completion of their studies at Highland Theological College (HTC). Thirty-eight scholars graduated with certificates, diplomas and degrees from the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) at a ceremony in Dingwall and Strathpeffer Free Church on Thursday 29 June.

The graduating students were joined by their friends, family and staff from the UHI partnership. Reverend Hector Morrison, Principal of HTC, welcomed the guests and Professor Neil Simco, UHI’s Deputy Principal Academic and Research, conferred the awards on the graduating students.

The ceremony ended with an address from Elaine Duncan, the Chief Executive of the Scottish Bible Society, before attendees enjoyed a reception in the church hall.

Some of the graduates from the day shared their stories:

Ramone McKenzie - BA (Hons) theological studies

Ramone with his scroll

Ramone studied for his degree online from his home in Dunfermline. He explained:

“This is the third degree I’ve completed. I’ve studied theology before in the USA, but I wanted to explore it from a British perspective. As someone who is sight impaired, I was concerned about undertaking the course, but the help and support I’ve received from the peers and faculty has been amazing. I think this is a real strength of UHI and I’ve encouraged people with autism and Asperger’s to consider studying here too. Now I’ve completed my degree, I’m going to continue at HTC to do a Masters. I hope to eventually become the first registered blind person to graduate from HTC with a PhD. My interest is in the history of the church and I’d love to lecture on this topic one day.”

Paulette Mill - BA theological studies

Paulette with her scroll

Paulette travelled from her home in Dunfermline to graduate. Talking about her time with HTC, she said:

“I had a 30-year career in the civil service before following the call to study theology. I found it tough at times, but various lectures went beyond their teaching remit to provide pastoral care. I lost my son in the July prior to enrolment and, during my time at HTC, had many other significant losses - my brother, brother-in-law, auntie and several lifelong close friends. When Covid was at its height, I succumbed and could not complete that year's study. The kindness of the faculty enabled me to re-join and go on to finalise my BA. It’s a celebration to be here today. It’s the furthest north I’ve ever been! I’m now going on to do another qualification so I can become a religious and moral education teacher.”

Francis Podger - Certificate of Higher Education theological studies

Francis with his scroll

Francis studied for his certificate online from his home in Angus. He explained:

“I used to be an engineer and spent most of my career working in the oil and gas industry. When the pandemic hit there was less work to do so I retired. However, after a few months I felt the call to become an ordained local minister. I signed up to study part time with HTC to allow me to do this. The online model was attractive as I’d already travelled the word with my previous career. It was a bit of an adjustment to start writing essays after years of writing reports! There was a good community and I met with other students both online and in person. Now I’ve completed by studies, I’m looking forward to starting my probationary year in a rural parish.”

Catherine Rawlinson-Watkins - BA theological studies

Catherine in the church

Catherine completed her degree from her home in Edinburgh on a part time basis. She said:

“I have three children so the option to study online and part time suited my family life. I had been working in the charity sector then decided to change career to become a minister with the Church of Scotland. I loved studying and surprised myself at what I was able to achieve. I’m delighted to be graduating with distinction and am looking forward to starting my placement at Davidson’s Mains Parish Church in Edinburgh.”

Rajeev Browne - Certificate of Higher Education theological studies

Rajeeve in his robe

Rajeev studied for this certificate online from his home in Norwich while undertaking the first year of UHI’s BSc (Hons) psychology degree. He explained:

“I chose to study at HTC because it’s a small close-knit community with Christian principles. I live in Norwich where I studied online and found the experience really positive with great professors and lecturers. I am from India and studied at Hislop College in Nagpur. It was originally a small primary school founded by Scottish Missionary Reverend Stephen Hislop in 1883 and is where most prime ministers and India’s President studied. During my studies at Hislop College, I accepted Christ as my personal saviour and that brought me here today, celebrating my graduation in Scotland. It has been my dream to graduate here. I’m continuing my studies with UHI and I’m just about to go into my second year of psychology. I hope this will help me go into some sort of psychological field in the future.”