Sabhal Mòr Ostaig graduation celebrates academic excellence and the success of the research programme
A total of 52 students graduated at last Friday’s (2 October) graduation ceremony at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig on an evening when the academic excellence of the College’s students was celebrated and when two of the founding members of the renowned Gaelic group Runrig were awarded the Sàr Ghàidheal honour.
Following last week’s ceremony a total of 932 students have now graduated from Sabhal Mòr Ostaig since the Gaelic College was founded. There was also another rise in the total number of students enrolled on Higher Education courses in 2014-15, with a record number of 237 students now taking HE courses.
The College’s Vice-Principal and Director of Studies, John N. MacLeod said: “We were particularly delighted that there were over fifty students graduating again this year, with the graduands coming from the Highlands and Islands, from across Scotland, from England, Germany, the United States and Australia. This clearly demonstrates the influence and reach of the College as an institution serving a local, national and international community.”
On a night when many honours and qualifications were awarded, the College itself was given a special honour with the ceremonial University of the Highlands and Islands Mace being present at the SMO graduation for the first time.
Sabhal Mòr Ostaig’s Principal, Professor Boyd Robertson said: “This year’s graduation was significant in a number of ways. For instance, those graduating included two students who had taken courses offered by partner colleges in the UHI network, Orkney and Perth. This was also the last Graduation ceremony to be presided over by Roddy John MacLeod, Lord Minginish, as Chair of the College’s Board of Directors. Roddy John has been Chair of SMO for eight years and has provided sterling service and leadership during that period. His contribution to the College will be marked in an appropriate manner later in the year but it was eminently fitting that he was able, at this graduation, to bestow the accolade of Sàr Ghàidheal on Rory and Calum Macdonald, brothers whom he knew from his schooldays at Portree High and who did so much to bring Gaelic music to an international stage and Gaelic song to the attention and lips of mass audiences through the band Runrig.”
In addition to the success of the graduating students, there was also special mention for the national recognition earned by the College’s research staff during the academic year. Sabhal Mòr Ostaig and UHI were very successful with their submissions to the Research Excellence Framework. UHI submitted work related to Gaelic from eight researchers (seven of whom were from SMO) to the REF. 61% of that research work was given the highest rating possible under the framework, and the research environment at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig was also rated as excellent.
The international reach of the College was further evidenced by a student from Valencia in Spain being named as Student of the Year at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig. Marcel Gurillo, who speaks Catalan, first became interested in Gaelic through his love of pipe music. He began learning Gaelic on his own in Spain before coming to the College. Marcel has just completed the Cùrsa Comais and is currently undertaking a degree in Gaelic Language and Culture. Marcel was nominated for the award due to his academic performance and his unstinting efforts to promote and use Gaelic in the community and within the College.
Marcel said: “This is amazing and I regard myself as very fortunate. It is hard to believe that I have been awarded such a special prize, following a year which I have really enjoyed and which has been a lot of fun. I am very grateful to everyone at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, especially my brilliant tutors on the Cùrsa Comais, and to the kind and friendly people who have given me such encouragement. I now hope that I will enjoy the years ahead here just as much as I have this one.”