Webinar on the changing role of universities in sparsely-populated regions

The first EPRC webinar of 2022 was held March 9th (11:00 – 12:00 UK) over Zoom. EPRC’s PhD candidate Linda Stewart presented on the topic “The Changing Role of Universities in Sparsely-Populated Regions”.

Stewart delved on the role of universities in regional development and the challenges and opportunities within more remote and sparsely-populated regions, which has not received as much attention. Universities, traditionally, have been located in urban, more densely-populated regions. The advent of communications technology, and its application to the delivery of higher education, facilitated a change in this situation. New universities are now being established in more rural regions and they can play a highly significant role in supporting their region’s economic and social development.

Specifically, the presentation looked at the case of the University of the Highlands and Islands and its role within the development of this Scottish region, comparing it with other northern examples in the University of the Arctic network – and what lies ahead in a changing global context.


Linda Stewart graduated with an MA (Hons) in Italian from Edinburgh University and began a career in lecturing in business studies and modern languages at Dumfries & Galloway and Inverness Colleges.  This brought her into the realms of EU projects and funding programmes and in 1998 she took on the new post of developing European engagement for the University of the Highlands and Islands Project. 

In the years that followed, Linda established a strong and distinctive European and international dimension for the fledgling institution, working with key regional partners on European Structural Funds, as well as with other higher education institutions across Europe and beyond.  She served on Programme Monitoring Committees and was Chair of the Board of the Highlands & Islands Partnership Programme. She was also heavily engaged in various INTERREG and other EU educational programmes, resulting in considerable support – financial and developmental – being drawn down for UHI.  This was a significant factor in the institution eventually achieving university title in 2011.

Linda left her role as Director of European and International Engagement in December 2020 to focus on her PhD with EPRC.  In May 2021 she undertook an internship with the Nordic and Arctic Unit at Scottish Government and subsequently joined the unit for a further 4 months to carry out specific project work on Scotland’s Nordic and Arctic engagement.

She has now returned to student life, based in Inverness – and is taking advantage of the increased online provision that has become accessible since lockdown!


Stewart’s presentation can be accessed here, and the recording of the webinar can be viewed on the EPRC’s YouTube page here.

Future EPRC webinars will delve on topics of sustainability, regional policy and development. Please see the present schedule for this year here.

If you would like to attend, watch out for updates and registrations by following @eprc_eu on Twitter, or register for our webinar mailing list through marie.c.devine@strath.ac.uk.

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