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History and Development

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was founded in 1973 in old farm steadings at Ostaig in Sleat. While the initial aim was to establish a Gaelic library, the long term plan was for a Gaelic-medium college providing vocational further education for Gaelic speakers, in their own language and rural environment, while also giving the growing number of Gaelic enthusiasts the opportunity to learn the language. Additional Gaelic-related services and facilities such as a research centre were also envisaged at this early stage. In its relatively short history, Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has achieved and surpassed these core aims and continues to widen access to the Gaelic language and culture.

The first board of trustees included Sir Iain Noble, Sorley MacLean, D.R. MacDonald, Dr Finlay MacLeod and Gordon Barr, and from the outset the College has had the support and encouragement of many notable individuals and organisations.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig began by offering Gaelic summer schools and night classes and organising social events in the area. Meanwhile renovation of the buildings continued, as did fundraising, development of the library and planning for greater growth.

By 1983 Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was ready to deliver its first full-time further education course and has continued to expand its course provision. Since becoming an active partner in the University of the Highlands and Islands, the College has offered Gaelic-related degree programmes and postgraduate qualifications.

The course curriculum has always offered contemporary, vocational subjects relevant to the needs of the Gaidhealtachd and the wider Gaelic community. Early subjects included Gaelic broadcasting and multi-media, business management and information technology. In addition to these important fields, today's HE provision addresses subjects as diverse as music, literature, media studies, language planning and economic development. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig has embraced developments in ICT and new teaching methods, providing greater access to Gaelic through distance learning courses.

The College campus has expanded significantly to meet the needs of growing numbers of students and projects. The Àrainn Ostaig campus was extended with accommodation blocks, office space and a full-sized broadcast-standard studio. A few years later, the highly-acclaimed and award-winning Àrainn Chaluim Chille campus was completed, providing more classrooms, accommodation, a lecture/performance hall, cafeteria and an extensive library.

More recently, the new Centre for Creative and Cultural Industries, Fàs, was officially opened by Alex Salmond, First Minister for Scotland. The new facility further enhances Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's role as the National Centre for Gaelic Language and Culture by allowing further economic development locally and expanding its existing work in teaching, learning, culture and research.

Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, through an innovative partnership with the Clan Donald Land's Trust, Sleat Community Trust and Sleat Community Council, is currently advancing a visionary proposal for the development of a new Highland Village for the 21st century. This exciting, iconic and groundbreaking plan offers the opportunity to create a sustainable community development, in a world class environment, driven by the common interests of social, economic, cultural and environmental sustainability and with a first class university campus at its heart. This partnership proposal offers Sabhal Mòr Ostaig an exciting opportunity for strategic and integrated expansion of its own estates and a unique opportunity to further consolidate its position at the heart of the local community.

College History in Print

The recently published book, 'A Waxing Moon: The Modern Gaelic Revival' charts Sabhal Mòr Ostaig's foundation and development, alongside Gaelic promotion initiatives. More information is available here.

History Timeline

Below is a PDF of all the developments of the college through the years since its begining.

The College History through the years