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“As soon as I started that course I knew it was the right field for me,” explains Ealasaid Nicleòid, aged 27, who is currently in her 4th year of a BEng (Hons) Mechanical Engineering at Lews Castle College UHI.

For years women have been underrepresented in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) university courses and careers. This is a trend that is starting to change though. According the recent UCAS data, 35% of STEM students in higher education in the UK are women.

Lews Castle College UHI are celebrating these figures with a 6 year on year growth in STEM enrolment and dedication projects to promote this continued growth.

More than 70 students and staff members from around the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership will attend an online event to mark International Women’s Day on Monday 8 March. 

Staff have organised a conference to discuss gender equality in education, to celebrate the achievements of women across the university partnership and to investigate what else can be done to address challenges female staff may face. It will be the university’s fourth annual International Women’s Day event and the first to be held wholly online.

The free conference, which is open to anyone working in the education sector, will feature a range of staff, student and guest speakers. Ash Morgan, Vice-President for Further Education at the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, will open the day with a presentation about challenging the status quo to ensure all women are included in International Women’s Day celebrations. Dr Lois Gray, the university’s Academic Lead Developer for Engineering, will speak about women in engineering and Dr Natalie Jester, from the University of Gloucestershire, will deliver a keynote address on ensuring marginalised communities are represented in college and university curricula.

The university’s event is part of a wider campaign to mark International Women’s Day, which will include social media activity and the production of an e-book. The e-book, which will be published in May, will share the ways the University of Highlands and Islands promotes and supports gender equality and balance in education.

Alex Walker (pictured above) from the university’s Learning and Teaching Academy, is organising the conference. She said: “It has been great to see our International Women’s Day event evolve over the last four years. Each year the organising group considers a focus for the programme, with this year exploring our own learning and teaching practices, professional development and research in relation to gender equality.

“We are delighted to welcome Dr Natalie Jester as our keynote speaker who will explore the urgency of a representative curriculum in tertiary education. Recognising the potential for the topics to be of benefit to others, we are also working with colleagues to produce an e-book which will be openly published and which we hope will provide a useful resource for the sector. It is also important that we acknowledge the wider significance of International Women’s Day as being a day to celebrate women across the globe and critically reflect on what we can all do to challenge ongoing inequalities in and beyond education.”

International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating gender parity. This year’s theme is #ChooseToChallenge, which highlights the importance of challenging gender bias and inequality and celebrating women's achievements.

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The University of the Highlands and Islands has announced the appointment of Dr Beth Mouat as its first islands' strategy director.

This new post will lead the delivery of its islands' strategy which sets out the university partnership's plans to enhance its activity for the benefits of staff, students and communities across Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles.

A native Shetlander, where she is joint head of marine science and technology at NAFC Marine Centre UHI, Dr Mouat says she is excited to have the opportunity to take forward such an important islands-focused project: