Embracing your differences

Paul Boag

In what is often a ‘me too’ culture, it was refreshing to work with the University of Highlands and Islands because they were willing to celebrate their differences.

Like many sectors, universities have a habit of looking to their competition for inspiration. Unfortunately this means their websites are largely interchangeable, with every institution putting the same emphasis on rankings, research and facilities.

In such a culture, with such well established norms, it can feel brave to take a different approach.

The University of Highlands and Islands (UHI) is not your average university. Made up of 13 colleges and research centres, as well as over 70 local learning centres, they do not conform to the normal campus structure.

It would have been easy for them to hide their differences, trying instead to appear to be a ‘normal’ university.

We believed that UHI should be brave and embrace their differences. They shouldn’t hide what they are, but use their website to stand out from the crowd. We believed they should celebrate what made them unique and fortunately the web team at UHI agreed.

The result is a site unlike any other university in the UK. From their first line on the homepage “we’re a little bit different…” to the unconventional design, the UHI website screams their unique approach to education.

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They take perceived negatives such as their lack of central campus and demonstrate the unique opportunities it affords. What other institution could have a testimonial such as this on their homepage…

From the excitement of uncovering the remains of a monumental Neolithic site at the Ness of Brodgar to climbing to the top of the Brough of Deerness every day to reveal more of a Viking Age settlement; these are my memorable experiences and the highlights of doing the archaeology course at the University.

Instead of trying to conform, learn from the story of UHI and embrace what makes you unique. Ultimately it will enable you to stand out and draw people to your brand.

“One fish swim in opposite direction, dare to be different concept” image courtesy of Bigstock.com