UHI principal and vice-chancellor James Fraser today confirmed that, after more than a decade of planning, the Privy Council had approved the institution’s application for university status.
The university started life in 2001, when 13 partner colleges and research centres across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland came together. It finally obtained degree-awarding powers as the UHI Millennium Institute in 2008.
“It takes a long time to become a university. It’s quite a privileged accolade that we shouldn’t win easily,” Mr Fraser said. “We do believe that we have been [offering] a university education and it’s great that our students are able to have that recognised.”
It is hoped that the university will now attract a larger share of Scottish school-leavers. The highlands region has about 30,000 fewer young people aged between 19 and 39 than it should have, partly because of the number of people who leave to study at university elsewhere and the choose not to return.
“We’re trying to keep some of these people home for the benefit of the economy,” Mr Fraser said.
He added that obtaining university status would also make it easier to attract students from outside the region, to bring in funding and to work with other universities.
UHI specialises in Gaelic languages and other disciplines central to the region’s economy, including oceanography, archaeology and outdoor adventure management.
A new campus is planned for the Beechwood area of Inverness.