Cities like Oxford, Cambridge and London have their universities. Kilchoan, as anyone who knows the village would expect, also has its university. Ours occupies an extensive, recently-built campus next to the Community Centre, with wonderful views across the Sound to the Isle of Mull and ample free parking for its students.
This afternoon, fourteen people - that's nearly ten percent of the resident population of the area - attended an excellent short course run by Jim and Linda from Lochaber Deaf Care. While some of the time was spent analysing the problems faced by hearing-impaired people, particularly the difficulties which society as a whole has in comprehending the scale and severity of the problem, much of the time was given to an introduction to lip-reading.
The course, organised by Kilchoan University's equivalent of a Vice-Chancellor, Pat Glenday, is one of several which Pat has arranged in the short time she has been in charge, including bee-keeping, chicken-keeping, food hygiene and stone-wall building. But, like all modern administrators, Pat's biggest problem is sourcing the money to preserve and expand what she is offering.
The university has one full-time undergraduate student who is following a distance-learning course through Kilchoan's parent university, the University of the Highlands and Islands. The Further Education side of its work is funded through Lochaber College which, in its turn, draws funds from the North Highland College in Thurso, which, being a full FE College, accesses funds directly from the Scottish Funding Council. To complicate matters further, short courses such as lip-reading attract funding from Highland Council.
The village is extremely lucky in its Vice-Chancellor. The lip-reading course ran because Pat encourages local people to tell her what they would like and need. She then, in the nicest possible way, drums up support from other potential students, and finds the funding. But Pat's post is only funded for two years. For our University to continue in the village we need more people to attend courses, particularly in Higher Education, and support Pat's hard work. Pat can be contacted at Pat.Glenday@lochaber.uhi.ac.uk, and the university website is here.
To put it bluntly: we either use Kilchoan University - or we lose it.