Sir Michael Palin backs new geography course at Scottish university

Actor, explorer and comedy legend Sir Michael Palin has shown his support for a new geography course at a Scottish university.

Lews Castle College University Highlands and Islands (UHI) is launching an online BA (Hons) in Geography – one of just two courses in the UK where the subject is taught solely online, with the other being available through Open University.

In response to news of the course, Sir Michael, who is the former president of the Royal Geographical Society, wished future geography students at the university good luck.

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He said: “To all on the geography course at Lews Castle College UHI, geography is the subject of the moment.

Sir Michael Palin is President of the Royal Geographical Society and has previously described Geography as, “a living, breathing subject, constantly adapting itself to change. It is dynamic and relevant. For me geography is a great adventure with a purpose." Picture: PA/Ian West

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"As the most basic concerns about our continued existence on the planet are being raised at the highest level, the relevance of geography becomes more important than ever.

“Geography asks the questions we need to answer.

“The more you know about Geography the more you know about the future.”

The new BA (Hons) will look at areas such as land use, climate change, planning and development, globalisation, energy and tourism, from a social science perspective.

Programme Leader Dr Eilidh MacPhail said offering an online-only course in geography will open up the subject to a wider range of students.

Speaking to The Scotsman, she said: “The flexibility of this course will make it more appealing to a range of different people at different stages in their life as it can all be done from home.

“Our new course will complement UHI’s existing BSc Geography degree, which is designed to be studied face to face at our Inverness campus; this new BA course will allow people to study geography from home if they can’t or don’t want to relocate.

“The course will also focus a lot more on social sciences rather than just hard, scientific data and cover many different elements of climate change topics from renewable energy development to tourism, from climate change to migration, all of which will be crucial to our communities’ futures.”

Speaking about Monty Python comic Sir Michael’s support, she added: “It’s great to have someone with such influence and experience with geography endorsing this new course.

"Sir Michael Palin has so many strings to his bow in this subject area and has seen so many parts of the world, so it’s wonderful to hear his support.

"His comments will help draw attention to this course which is really important for future students to help them understand and discuss many of the issues facing us locally in Scotland and the wider world.”

Donna Gillies, teacher of geography and psychology, The Nicolson Institute in Stornoway, said: “This course provides an excellent opportunity for our pupils to continue their geography studies into Further Education while living, and potentially working, at home. The local area right on our doorstep provides endless opportunities for fieldwork and research at a time when career options in geography related fields are developing rapidly.”

The degree is delivered entirely online by tutors teaching at a distance and can be studied from anywhere in the world, full or part-time to suit a student’s living circumstances.

Known for his around-the-world travel shows, Sir Michael has previously described geography as, “a living, breathing subject, constantly adapting itself to change. It is dynamic and relevant. For me geography is a great adventure with a purpose”.

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