A new degree course that opens up primary teaching careers to students from the most remote parts of Scotland is heavily oversubscribed, TESS has learned.
Despite no advertising campaign, 80 applications were received for the 20 places on the one-year postgraduate diploma in primary education through the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), starting in August.
The vast majority of applicants - who will learn next month whether they have been successful - come from the Highlands. The 20 places will be spread between bases in Elgin, Inverness, Orkney and Stornoway.
"For me, having a PGDE running through the university is a great thing, as many of the teaching enquiries I handle come from places where teacher education may otherwise be hard to come by," said UHI careers, learning and development adviser Rosie Alexander.
"Many of our students would find it difficult, if not impossible, to move to take part in a PGDE, especially where they have partners and families to support. So, having an opportunity to train and stay in their local community is really the only way they could progress to a career in teaching."
She said that enquiries to the UHI careers centre about teaching "far outweigh" those around any other occupation: 25 per cent between July 2012 and May this year have been about primary teaching.
Although a previous programme, run by UHI with the University of Strathclyde from 2003 to 2012, enabled 141 people to qualify as primary teachers - including 33 who took a Gaelic-medium option - the new course has some important differences.
"Residentials" at the start and end of the course will take place in Inverness rather than Glasgow. There will also be more face-to-face contact with tutors and other students; although the course will rely on video conferencing, at least one member of staff will be based at each centre.
Ian Minty, UHI education subject network leader, stressed that the new course would not have come about without the support of the University of Strathclyde, and its previous education dean Iain Smith, over 10 years.
He said that after the Donaldson report on teacher education, the new programme had an advantage over other courses: "All PGDE courses are changing in light of Donaldson - it's just been a bit easier for us to design these changes into a brand new programme."
Mr Minty added: "There's a very heavy emphasis on the partnership with local authorities. We're also putting quite a lot of emphasis on critical reflection so that students will be expected to maintain electronic portfolios as part of their assessment."
Orkney head of schools Peter Diamond said the popularity of the new course was "encouraging".
"The changes in initial teacher education, and in particular the way in which schools and existing practitioners are to be increasingly involved in the process, could have meant that places such as Orkney became isolated," he said.
"Instead, through UHI, Orkney practitioners and new aspiring teachers will have the opportunity to learn together. This is an exciting development that will strengthen the idea that schools are places where everybody is learning."
The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), which gained full university status in 2011, combines 13 colleges and research institutions. Some are relatively large colleges in Perth, Elgin and Inverness; others are smaller, including some whose primary focus is research. There are more than 50 "learning centres" in all.
Some 8,000 students are taking undergraduate and postgraduate courses, with many others involved in research. Every UHI course belongs to one of two faculties: arts, humanities and business and science; or health and education.
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Original headline: PGDE course is oversubscribed despite no advert