Students get on track and bring fresh talent to regions
Much has been written about the economic benefits of the reopening of the Borders Railway to the local economy but higher education is also reaping the rewards of the new transport link.
The new line gives many potential students the option of attending one of the four higher education institutes located along the corridor from Borders College, Heriot-Watt University, Napier University and Queen Margaret because of the ease of travel.
It’s helped to create new study options in the area, and is another great example as to how the Borders Railway is making such a positive impact across the entire region. As well as providing students with greater choice for their future development, the skills and career paths provided by better access to higher education providers are essential for strengthening the local economy.
Borders College in Galashiels for example has reported an increase in applications of 74 per cent in 2016/17 compared to the previous year from people living in the mid and east Lothian areas.
College staff are now liaising with an increased number of Schools and Careers advisors in the area and have attended 14 events to promote the range of courses on offer from Borders College.
Cameron Reith who is the College’s marketing manager said at least 66% of their students are making use of the railway and that they are expecting this number to increase as more people become aware of just how accessible the college is since the re-opening of the Borders Railway.
Eighteen year old Scott Brown from Gorebridge travels by train to Borders College where he is studying for a National Progression Award (NPA) in Carpentry and Joinery.
A keen skateboarder, he is often seen travelling the final mile to the campus on his skateboard with the whole journey taking under fifty minutes.
Studying in the borders has been such a positive experience for Scott that he has now applied for and been accepted for the City and Guilds Carpentry and Joinery course at the College, which he will start in August 2017. He is currently working with Ecosse Bespoke Joinery in Newbattle as part of his course.
‘More Connected’ to new talent
As well as an extensive range of academic courses, ranging from astrophysics to zoology, the universities and colleges offer specialisms in local growth industries, including life sciences, food and drink and textiles. Some of the more unique courses Borders College offers are Mountain biking and Gamekeeping.
Queen Margaret University is making in-roads with businesses, particularly SMEs and have established a reputation for high quality accredited training that has an emphasis on entrepreneurship.
They are helping develop a talented pool of graduates who are going on to launch their own businesses especially in the food and drink sector.
For example, Cuddybridge Apple Juice is an artisan company based in the Borders which produces hand-pressed apple juice. Owner, Graham Stoddart, was keen to develop a distinctive new juice product that was natural, tasty, highly nutritious and that would appeal to a Scottish market.
Dr Mary Warnock, Senior Lecturer in Microbiology at QMU, had been conducting research into Sea Buckthorn and believed it had the potential to be heralded as the new Scottish superfruit.
Dr Warnock’s research showed that the addition of Sea Buckthorn to the apple juice results in the product having a high antioxidant content which can prevent or slow oxidative damage to the body. The combination of the apple counteracts the slightly bitter taste of the Sea Buckthorn and results in a delicious, highly nutritious freshly squeezed fruit drink.
Cuddybridge Apple Juice not only benefitted from QMU’s specialist nutritional expertise, networking opportunities presented to him by the University resulted in the company’s increased sales growth.