UHI Inverness reveals graduation guest speakers

A PUBLIC health expert who became a household name during the pandemic and a MasterChef finalist from Inverness will be the guest speakers at the UHI Inverness Graduation and Celebration of Success and Achievement on Friday, 6 October.

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Sarah Rankin and Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam

Professor Sir Jonathan Van-Tam will address the afternoon ceremony after he graduates with the Postgraduate Certificate in Leadership and Management he studied part time and online at UHI Inverness. Additionally, he will be awarded an honorary doctorate by UHI in recognition of his leadership, communication and service during the pandemic.

Sarah Rankin, a marketing agency owner, embarked on her latest career as a food writer and broadcaster in her late 40s after making it to finals week in the BBC food show MasterChef. She is a firm believer in the value of lifelong learning and will be the guest speaker at the morning ceremony.

Approximately 900 people will attend the event at the Free North Church in Bank Steet, Inverness.

Sir Jonathan Van-Tam is an expert on respiratory viruses and pandemics and is currently the Senior Strategy Adviser to the University of Nottingham School of Medicine, having been Pro Vice-Chancellor before that. His career has taken him to Public Health England, the World Health Organization and the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries.

As Deputy Chief Medical Officer, he became well-known for his leadership role during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly his no-nonsense communication style from the podium at No.10 Downing Street, and for the rollout of vaccines and antiviral drugs. He received a knighthood in 2022.

Sir Jonathan began studying with UHI Inverness in 2016 because it offered him the flexibility to gain a formal qualification in leadership and management. He believes UHI Inverness is a ‘special kind of university’ because the supportive staff encouraged him to continue his studies when he considered withdrawing due to the pressures of his work during the pandemic.

Sir Jonathan said: “These days, I am used to being on the platform at graduation ceremonies. To sit among the student body as a genuine student, and formally graduate at UHI Inverness is going to be a very special moment indeed, which at one point, I thought might simply never come.”

A passionate home cook, Sarah took the plunge and entered the BBC’s cooking show MasterChef in 2022 and made it all the way to Finals Week. She now juggles her busy marketing business with a new life celebrating Scotland’s larder and it’s artisan producers in her food writing, broadcasting, chef demonstrations, private dining supper clubs and food festival appearances. Her first cookbook, Kith, will be published in early 2024.

Sarah said: “I am humbled to have been invited to speak to graduating students at UHI Inverness in my beloved Inverness. To be able to offer them my warm congratulations for their hard work and for overcoming the many challenges that learning has faced in recent years, is a real honour.”

Professor Chris O’Neil, Principal and Chief Executive of UHI Inverness, said: “Friday will be a very special day for our students, their friends and family. The joyful event is a reminder to us all at UHI Inverness of our purpose and the important role we play within the Highlands and Islands. Our communities need educated and skilled people like our students who have the vision and the qualities to make our world better.”

The graduation ceremony will be followed by a celebratory reception at the Inverness Campus.