Orkney Islands Council
Working together for a better Orkney

Exciting New Period Ahead for Orkney College UHI.

Exciting New Period Ahead for Orkney College UHI.
07 December 2018

Orkney College UHI is due to welcome a new principal next year.

Professor Eddie Abbott-Halpin will take up his posts in early January and will be supported in the management team by new Assistant Principal Tom Duff, who took up his post in October and existing Assistant Principal Jo Wallace.

The appointments follow the retirements of principal Dr Bill Ross and Assistant Principal Issy Grieve.

Professor Abbott-Halpin is currently a professor at Leeds Beckett University in the Department of Computing, Creative Technology and Engineering, with more than 20 years experience in the further education sector, including work as a visiting professor in Sri Lanka and Iraq.

Tom Duff was London head of the University of the West of Scotland and previously a lecturer in Computing and Academic Practice.

Orkney College UHI provides opportunities for learners across all 12 of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) levels in Scotland, ranging from school level work, through a wide range of further and higher education courses to research PhDs.

At the heart of the College mission is a commitment to the high quality learning and teaching with the aim that those attending the College can be helped to achieve their full potential. For a number of years Orkney College has featured as one of the highest performing Colleges in Scotland and a report, published this year by Audit Scotland, entitled “Scotland’s Colleges 2018”, indicated that students on full-time further education courses at Orkney College had the:

  • Highest Attainment
  • Highest Retention
  • Highest Satisfaction
  • Highest positive destinations.

The College has a major role to play in delivering the ‘Orkney Offer’ and ensuring the local agenda for “Developing the Young Workforce” is fully implemented. [Note: The ‘Orkney Offer’ is the Education Service’s commitment to help ensure that all young learners in the County are able to access an educational pathway that improves their life chances and helps them in to sustainable employment / further study.] The College has supported Modern Apprenticeships in Orkney for many years and now, working in close partnership with both the Secondary and Junior High schools, the College is introducing Foundation Apprenticeships to give more young people the opportunity to develop employability skills alongside good academic achievement.

The College focuses on local labour needs providing students with a broad range of vocational and academic opportunities which include:- Agriculture, Agronomy, Archaeology, Art & Design, Business, Construction, Computer Science, Early Education, Engineering, Hairdressing, Health, Hospitality, Progression Courses, Maritime, Northern Studies, Rural Skills, Social Care and Teacher Education.

Although unemployment in Orkney is well below the national average, matching College provision to employment opportunities remains essential. The College runs ‘employability’ courses to help those seeking to move in to employment, perhaps for the first time, but is also a key provider of continuing professional development opportunities for working people offering a wide range of short courses to help employers meet their statutory and other needs.

As a partner in the University of the Highlands and Islands, Orkney College makes an important contribution to the research profile of the University. As well as taking forward academic knowledge much of the research undertaken in the College has significant social and economic benefits and also underpins teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Orkney leads research in UHI in three areas. These areas, Agronomy, Archaeology and Northern Studies have a particular resonance in an island community with close Nordic ties, superlative archaeological sites and where agriculture has been a core industry for generations. Research activity is also developing in the field of art and design and this enthusiasm to explore new horizons characterises staff in the College.

Wilfred Weir, Executive Director of Education, Leisure and Housing at Orkney Islands Council said: “I wish to thank Bill and Issy for their long tenure, and distinguished leadership over the years. They have built the college into a strong educational institution that makes a major contribution to tertiary education in the Orkney community and places it on the national and world stage.

“An exciting new period lies ahead and we look forward to working together with Eddie, Tom and Jo to continue to go from strength to strength and further build and shape a college suited to the sustainability of Orkney, playing a major role in the Orkney Offer for our learners and continuing to lead very high calibre research."

Bill Ross has been Principal of Orkney College since January 2002. Prior to this he was Head of Faculty for Sixth Form Centre, Science & Technology, Humanities and Languages at Bournville College in Birmingham.

Orkney College Management Council Chairman John Ross Scott  said he was delighted Eddie Abbott- Halpin had accepted the position.

He added: “This is an exciting, challenging and decisive time for Orkney College and the University of the Highlands and Islands and it is important that our new Principal here in Orkney has significant experience in leadership within complex organisations and has sound academic credentials. Professor Abbott-Halpin meets both these criteria well.

“I look forward to working alongside him in the years ahead as we reshape the way we do things here in Orkney, and within the UHI. We must keep up with modern day further education and higher educational requirements. We aim to forge closer links with local businesses and the community and build on the commercial aspects of our research institutes.”