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Education / College looking to boost student numbers in recovery from pandemic

UHI Shetland's Lerwick campus.

COLLEGE chiefs say they are “trying hard” to turn around a shortfall in student enrolment figures.

Shetland UHI principal Professor Jane Lewis, however, said other colleges across the Highlands and Islands are in the same situation following the Covid pandemic.

Currently the number of full-time further education course enrolments in Shetland stands at around 20 per cent less than the pre-pandemic average.

Covid restrictions have also impacted student numbers through more tangible factors such as reduced class capacity and some courses being postponed.

Professor Lewis told a meeting of the Shetland college board on Wednesday that efforts to boost enrolment figures were ongoing, while there have been some recent success with new courses.

“We are working hard to try to turn that around, including improving our marketing and enrolment processes for the coming year,” she said.

Shetland UHI formed in August last year as part of a merger of the local college, the NAFC Marine Centre and Train Shetland.

It means that Shetland Islands Council is no longer funding tertiary education services, resulting in anticipated savings of £1 million a year.

Professor Lewis described the merger – which was delayed by a number of years – as a “very complex and large project”.

College board chairman councillor Peter Campbell said on Wednesday that “hopefully this is maybe our ultimate meeting”.

The board was designed to update elected members on the work of the college.

A ‘lessons learned’ report on the college merger was heard in private at Wednesday’s meeting.

At the meeting Campbell took time to praise the work of Professor Lewis throughout the merger process.

“The project to merge the colleges has benefitted greatly from her input, from her experience, from her academic standing,” he said.

“She has been very important to the successful outcome of his project.

“Much of the success and future success of Shetland UHI will derive from the hours and hours and hours of dedicated work which she has contributed.”