Aircraft Engineering lecturer achieves 25 Years' Service

Robert Kay gained his Mechanical Engineering degree from Glasgow University and then went on to gain a post graduate secondary teacher’s qualification.

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Robert Kay, Margaret Cook and Nicky Inglis

Robert wanted a bit of adventure so instead of teaching in this country, he went to teach in Zimbabwe for a number of years and then on to Yemen for a few more years. Ideal places for a motorcycle enthusiast, driving on dirt roads while dodging the wild animals.

He came back to this country when it was time to settle down after he got married.

25 years ago, Robert came to ‘Perth College of FE’ to interview for the position of an engineering lecturer mainly to teach workshop classes. He didn’t have the workshop experience, so he didn’t get the job…it went to a colleague - Nicky Inglis!

Robert made such an impression at the interview that Bob Smith and Stewart Duncan put their heads together to ensure he didn’t get away. The following day Robert was offered a part-time lecturer’s job working two days a week at the college and became a full-time lecturer by the start of the following session.

Robert is a versatile teacher, he can teach electrical, electronic, maths, computing or mechanical engineering and became more involved in teaching Aircraft Engineering as the new degree became more established.

Robert eventually started to specialise in Electronics and Computing and also took over the degree leadership for the Aircraft degree after Zheng Chen left.

He also taught outside the engineering department, as an example he was asked to deliver the science course to the beauty therapists.

To keep himself up to date he did another Hons degree through the OU and went on to do an MSc in Electronics Glasgow University gaining a First Class PG degree. All of this was done in his own time which demonstrates his awareness and desire to keep abreast of his subject areas.

He became a key player within the college and UHI in developing aircraft engineering for students from India. While he was involved in this partnership it grew to be a key part of the funding stream used to help develop aircraft resources at the college.

Robert was an obvious candidate to take the lead role in developing UHI’s Engineering (Mechanical and Electrical) degrees in China. This role gave him the opportunity to use his personal skills to build strong relationships with staff and students in China and also with staff from around the Engineering Subject Network who supported him in the teaching and assessment in China. This venture has grown from 50 students doing Electronic and Mechanical degrees at Hunan Institute of Engineering (HIE) to something between 250-350 students per year including other institutions like Henan University of Urban Construction (HUUC). These international student numbers would be the envy of many other more established universities in the UK and make up 50% of all engineering students studying degrees within UHI.

Robert is a very quiet and reserved person and being an introvert means he sometimes has to be pushed to give his opinions or views. Despite this, Robert has proved himself to be very intelligent, a great thinker with a distinct personality where he always looks on the positive side of things. Bob Smith who went on the lead Engineering at UHI unashamedly developed the ‘Kay Test’, that is, whenever he was thinking about making a change or developing a new area he would sit down and run the idea past Robert, if Robert thought it was OK, Bob would take it forward, if it wasn’t OK then Bob would either scrap the idea or take it back to the drawing board and do more work on it.

Very few staff have gained the respect Robert has within the college and across UHI’s Executive Office - but to gain the respect of his peers across the Subject Network is very rare. He is an amazing lecturer who has an abundance of empathy which accompanied with his ‘hard work’ ethic makes him unique. As you would expect from an introvert like Robert, he doesn’t think he is anything special, to him ‘he has a job and he just gets on with it, doing the best he can’.