Tributes paid to governance trio who stand down after nearly 50 years of service to university

Alastair MacColl, the new chair of the University of the Highlands and Islands court, has praised three senior predecessor governors who stand down this month after nearly 50 years’ service to the tertiary partnership, which covers the largest geographical area of any campus-based university or college in the UK.

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Michael Foxley, Anton Edwards, Garry Coutts, Alastair MacColl

Alastair took over the role of chair on 1 August from Garry Coutts, also the current chair of Children’s Hearings Scotland, who lives in Beauly, and has held the post for seven years following a six-year stint as rector.

The same date also saw the departure of the university’s first regional lead for further education, Dr Michael Foxley, a retired Lochaber-based GP and former Highland councillor, who stood down from the university court after 25 years of service to both the court and as chair of the board at university partner, West Highland College UHI and one of its predecessors Lochaber College. 

Anton Edwards, from Caputh in Perthshire, was elected as the fifth rector of the university in 2014, taking over from Garry Coutts. He had also been a former court member and member of the university’s foundation for four years before that – an important body within the university constitution where members act as a valuable two-way link between the university and our communities.

Paying tribute to them, Alastair MacColl, chair of the university court, said: “Each of these governors has made a major contribution to developing the strength and vitality of our university during a critically important period. They have been selfless, wise and committed in their service. 

“They have helped us to lay the foundations we’ll require to turn the ambitions of our staff, students and partners into results and build an institution that transforms lives, communities and economies across our region, giving every one of our students the opportunities they deserve.”

Reflecting on his time with the university, Garry Coutts said: “It has been a real privilege and honour to have been involved with the University of the Highlands and Islands over the years. Having a university that provides a full range of educational opportunities from college courses through undergraduate degrees to world leading research in one institution is unique and something the Highlands and Islands should be proud of, cherish and support. There is now a foundation to build on and create something wonderful for the future. Just what that future will look like is now for others to consider. But no matter what happens over the coming decades, I am confident our university will be there to support individuals, communities and the whole of the region achieve their full potential.”

Michael Foxley said: “It has been hard work being the further education regional lead for the past eight years but there is now an increasingly effective working partnership across our colleges for further education. Externally, working with the vice-principal (further education), we have made sure that the particular issues across our region have been understood by Colleges Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government. We have ensured that our full needs for national bargaining and rurality funding have been provided- some £16m per annum.”

Summing up his time with the university, Anton Edwards said: “It is often said that you are only as good as your last show. With the University of the Highlands and Islands you may look ahead to being as good or better in your next show.”