The University of the Highlands and Islands has announced its 2018 Student of the Year winners, with all three of its top awards going to students who were enrolled at island campuses – including Lews Castle College UHI.
Crisdean Saunders, pictured above, from Lews Castle College is Further Education Student of the Year; Rhea Kay from Shetland College is Higher Education Student of the Year; and James Ellsmoor, a distance-learning student with Orkney College, is Postgraduate Student of the Year.
Crisdean Saunders, aged 27, who lives in Stornoway, completed a horticultural employability programme. He was nominated for the Further Education Student of the Year award by his tutor, David Bell.

David explained: “Crisdean approached us in 2016 as he was looking for something to do following a period of inactivity. He decided to join the horticulture course to enhance the possibility of securing employment.
“Crisdean proved to have a great interest in horticulture, always asking questions to further his knowledge. He would take in seeds and cuttings and grow them with great success and was happy to help others and take on leadership roles.
“He has now secured a job setting up allotments in a village not far from where he stays and helping older people to grow vegetables - a fantastic achievement!”
Crisdean said: “When I was told I won this award I was very surprised. I started the course as something to do and didn’t expect to find a job or to win any awards.”
Rhea Kay, 23, from Whalsay, completed the university’s BA (Hons) in contemporary textiles. She was nominated for the Student of the Year award in recognition of her exceptional academic achievement, professional attitude and creativity.
Contemporary textiles programme leader, Faye Hackers, said: “Rhea has been an excellent student - she is hard working, good in a team, has strong creative ideas and is focused on contemporary design trends. She’s been recognised in national competitions, secured placements with commercial companies and represented the university at the New Designers Graduate Fair in London.
“She is also a great example of progression within the college, showing the opportunities available in Shetland, having come through our vocational programme while still at school, progressing onto our NC art and design course then graduating with a first class honours degree.”
Rhea said: “I feel quite overwhelmed, but also very grateful to have been awarded with these two awards. As a creative, the chance to explore and develop my skills within such a supportive and inspiring place as Shetland has been really important to me both personally and professionally. A huge thank you to everyone who has helped me throughout the years!”
James Ellsmoor, 25, from Shropshire graduated from UHI's island studies MLitt. He completed the course as a distance-learning student enrolled at Orkney College UHI’s Institute of Northern Studies and was commended for this academic and entrepreneurial abilities.
Dr Andrew Jennings, a lecturer at the Institute, said: “James has been an excellent student who achieved high grades while travelling the world pursuing his career. Despite being only 25, he is the co-founder and director of Solar Head of State, a non-profit organisation which works with small island communities to promote solar energy. He partnered with the Jamaican government to install solar panels on government buildings in Kingston and has spoken at conferences in Hawaii, Bermuda, Japan, Haiti and Mallorca. James is a high-flyer destined to achieve great things.”
James said: “I am delighted to have won this award! It has really been an honour to represent the university’s academic programme at international events and tell people about the importance of both the island studies programme and the university’s unique distance learning methods.”