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UHI North, West and Hebrides has rejected claims that the NC Art and Design course – which is delivered at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Uist – is being downgraded.

This followed claims from local residents and artists. 

In a statement, UHI North, West and Hebrides said they had "delayed the start date of our NC Art and Design, which is delivered at the Taigh Chearsabhagh Museum and Arts Centre in North Uist, to explore options due to low student numbers.

"We contacted students last week to confirm that the NC Art and Design will start on Monday 18 September.

"We have revised the structure of this course due to low numbers, meaning it will be delivered in a condensed timescale of 18 weeks.

"This does not impact on the qualification and students will still receive a National Certificate on successful completion.

"We are committed to meeting the needs of our local community in Uist and will be undertaking wider consultation in the coming weeks to ensure our future offer meets the needs of the local community, whilst being sustainable.”

Earlier, the Uist Arts Association claimed that UHI was backtracking on earlier commitments to long-running art and design courses at Taigh Chearsabhagh.

The arts association called on the public to help save the National Certificate and safeguard other art courses for the future.

Peter Ferguson of the Uist Arts Association said: “There is some level of urgency required to let UHI know and understand the importance of these courses and to understand the impact of their presence on the local population and economy of Uist.

"The NC course acts as an important stepping stone for local school leavers, many of whom have gone on to study art further and create successful careers and working lives in the creative industries, and it also is a great introduction for returning learners both locally and as a draw to encourage people to move to Uist,” comments Ferguson. 

“The NC course also acts as an important feeder into the successful BA course, which has also led to Master and other research opportunities.

"There is a high risk that if the NC course is discontinued, it will jeopardise the potential for UHI to be able to deliver the BA or other Higher Education Art from Taigh Chearsabhagh.”