Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner. Facebook Messenger An icon of the facebook messenger app logo. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Facebook Messenger An icon of the Twitter app logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. WhatsApp Messenger An icon of the Whatsapp messenger app logo. Email An icon of an mail envelope. Copy link A decentered black square over a white square.

Head of Highlands university forced to apologise after hailing end of ‘vanity courses’

UHI principal and vice chancellor Todd Walker.
UHI principal and vice chancellor Todd Walker.

The principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) has apologised following an interview in which he said he wanted to see the end of “vanity courses”.

Todd Walker made the U-turn after facing criticism for the comments.

Mr Walker recently moved to Inverness from Australia to take up his new role at the university.

In his first interview since arriving in Scotland, he said the focus of the university’s teaching should be related and limited to sectors that are currently growing in the economy.

So-called “vanity courses” refer to subjects that do not relate to any direct emplyoment.

He told the Inverness Courier: “One of the biggest focuses over the next five years will be to make sure that courses and training we provide are aligned to growth in the economy.

“I’d go on the record as saying the days of having a vanity course, unit or subject are over. We’re not here to study something for which there is no direct employment, growing market or sector.”


Mr Walker received backlash on social media following the interview, with many academics in the targeted sectors feeling that his words discredited their area of expertise.

Academic Richard Irvine took to Twitter to say: “As an academic who collaborates with brilliant staff at UHI, and has developed projects that have won funding for UHI, the shocking attitude betrayed in this article leads me to worry that collaborations with UHI for future funding are likely to be undermined by senior management.

“The vice chancellor has fatally undermined the institution he has set out to lead – not only in the face of his staff and students, but also in the face of academics at other institutions who will now look at UHI and question the viability of future research partnerships.”

Current students at the university studying so-called “vanity courses” spoke of the positive impact that choosing to do so has had on their lives.

One said: “I too I am studying a ‘vanity course’ at UHI, and it’s been the most positive career/life move I’ve made in years. It’s things like Gaelic and archaeology courses that make UHI so special, and to deny anybody access to that should outrage us all.”

Another also shared their opinions on social media, stating that university is for more than making money.

They said: “That statement from the new UHI boss is shocking. What is a ‘vanity’ course? Gaelic courses? Cultural courses? Drama and the arts? Forestry and agriculture? Basically anything in vocational studies and the arts?

“Universities aren’t for boosting the economy; they’re for learning.”

“I am sorry for any confusion”

Following criticism, Mr Walker has issued an apology on the UHI Twitter page.

In it he says he feels that his words were not correctly portrayed and apologised for any harm done through this misconception.

He also addressed the fact that some had expressed worries that there was some form of “hidden agenda” to cut courses.

He said: “I understand the concerns of some students and staff following the article in today’s Inverness Courier – especially the headline focusing on ‘no more vanity courses at UHI.’

“The tone of the article is at odds with my thoughts and hopes. I am sorry for any confusion or distress this has caused, that was never my intention when I agreed to give the interview.

“There is no hidden agenda, or message in this article from me that some courses or subject areas are more important than others.

“As you know, we lead the field and have flagship courses in a wide variety of subject areas, including those in arts, humanities, social science as well as engineering and health.

“Our curriculum review will examine what our students and communities want and need in the future – that is the mission of our university. It will be a transparent process and will take two or three years to complete and will involve staff and students throughout its implementation.

“Learning in all its forms is transformational and our university has a responsibility to continue to provide education to our communities. I look forward to working with you all as we develop and grow our university.”

This article originally appeared on the Evening Express website. For more information, read about our new combined website.