Photo of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig 2005 graduates

Donalda MacKinnon, who together with Maggie Cunningham is the Joint Head of Programmes and Services for BBC Scotland, praised the work and achievements of Sabhal Mòr Ostaig while speaking at the college's 21st graduation ceremony last Friday (30.10.05) where a record number of students were graduating.

Ms MacKinnon encouraged all of the students to be confident as they looked to the future. She said: "We know, in spite of great progress that the numbers of Gaelic speakers continue to fall and that the older generation, which constitutes the majority of speakers, is disappearing. Indeed, many a time I've heard those who belong to that generation bemoan that Gaelic medium education was not a reality for them or for their children (that's my generation) when Gaelic was stronger as a community language that it is now.

"But we are where we are. Sometimes looking back, I recognise that this ill-will did cause a lack of confidence and this is probably still true to an extent - the effects of injustice sapped our energies and we developed a 'victim complex'. I think this can deplete the ingenuity required to minorities to ensure meaningful and sustainable progress."

Ms MacKinnon spoke of the great strides that had been made in Gaelic broadcasting and Gaelic medium education, and said that Sabhal Mòr deserved credit for what it had contributed to these improvements.

She added: "Sabhal Mòr Ostaig: a precious pearl in the string of Gaelic education beads - offering education and courses which have earned a reputation, esteem and recognition in many quarters and which attract students from around the world. At the end of the day, the evidence of this success can be seen in many work-places with alumni proving their worth at every level in many occupations. This is particularly evident in the BBC where the skills and talents of these graduates are much esteemed and indeed just over a week ago one of Sabhal Mòr's graduates earned a significant position."

The broadcaster urged the students to be confident of their own abilities. She said to the graduates: "It is down to you - to a large extent - to pursue the progress already made and to build upon it. If you find yourselves in occupations in which you use Gaelic on a daily basis, that will be fantastic because you are much needed. If opportunities do not present themselves there and you find yourselves in other fields, the success, which you no doubt espouse will serve as an exemplary message which will exalt the image of the Gaelic language wherever you find yourselves."

Speaking about the past year John Norman MacLeod, Head of Studies at Sabhal Mòr Ostaig, said: "It has been another successful year at the college, with around 90 students enrolled on the degree courses in 2004/2005 and we have the highest number of students graduating ever (45) with twelve of them receiving honours degrees.

"There was good improvement in other areas also, especially with regard to research and academic work, which was highlighted by the fact that two members of staff received an MBA from Heriot Watt University in the past year. We are proud also that Gaelic Access Course received two national awards for excellence over the past year. All of this success is very much due to the hard work of the students, lecturers and staff."

In addition to the degrees and other qualifications awarded, four prizes were awarded. Magnus Graham from Lower Breakish in Skye won the prize for the highest total marks in SQA courses at the college; Des Moore won the Gaelic Society of London's prize for progress in Gaelic; Mairi Nicolson from Sleat was awarded the Anne Duncan Memorial prize for furthering the aims of the college; and Tim Armstrong and Megan Breece, both from America, were awarded the Comann na Gàidhlig prize for promoting the rights and heritage of Gaelic.