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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 May 2006, 17:09 GMT 18:09 UK
Kirk coup for Highlands institute
Dingwall (Picture by Undiscovered Scotland)
Dingwall is the setting for UHI's theology college
The first new provider of training for Kirk ministers in 77 years has been approved by its general assembly.

The Church of Scotland has awarded the Highlands and Islands higher education institute, UHI, the status.

UHI's Highland Theological College (HTC) joins Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen universities in training Kirk recruits.

It is the first approved provider of academic training for the ministry since 1929.

The status was approved by General Assembly of the Church of Scotland on Wednesday.

'New status'

HTC principal, the Reverend Professor Andrew McGowan, said: "This is a great step forward for the churches in the Highlands and Islands since, up until now, students for the ministry had to leave the area to go to the cities in the south and east.

"This often meant that the churches would lose these students and their families.

"HTC's new status is the first change which the church has made to the number of its ministry training providers since 1929.

"It is also the first time since 1560 that training has been made available outside the cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, St Andrews and Aberdeen."

The Church of Scotland said one of the advantages of HTC was that its training focuses on distance learning.

It means recruits do not have to relocate to the college's base in Dingwall, Ross-shire, but can learn from their places of work.

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