Centre celebrates 20 years of shaping global mountain knowledge

This August, the Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS) at Perth College UHI celebrates its 20th anniversary.

Established at Perth College UHI in 2000, the objective was to create a centre of excellence for work in mountain areas within the emerging University of the Highlands and Islands.

The Centre for Mountain Studies has enjoyed a number of highlights since its inception. Notably, the centre’s unique online MSc in Sustainable Mountain Development has attracted over 100 students, over half from Scotland, and the others from across the UK and Europe, as well as North America and Africa. Recognition of the innovative nature of this course was a key reason for the designation of the first UNESCO Chair in Scotland - in Sustainable Mountain Development – in 2009.

Professor Martin Price, Centre for Mountain Studies Director explained: “We are proud of our many achievements over the last 20 years. We have played important roles in many projects, conferences and publications, and the outcomes have been widely used in practice and policy in Scotland, Europe, and globally.

“We have been active in many projects funded by European organisations, and led two large multi-national projects in northern Europe. The first was Clim-ATIC, on community adaptation to climate change. The second was SHAPE, on ecotourism in UNESCO biosphere reserves.

“Since 2002, we have coordinated four studies of Europe’s mountains, successively increasing the range and depth of knowledge of the environmental and socio-economic characteristics of these mountains. The outcomes of the projects have been widely used for policy-making by European institutions.

“The CMS has also been active on a global scale. During the International Year of Mountains in 2002, I facilitated a global summit which led to a resolution of the UN General Assembly and, in turn, to the declaration of 11 December every year as International Mountain Day.

“Knowledge exchange is a key element of the CMS. We have organised three global conferences with international partners, and have worked with many organisations in Scotland since 2002, when we were involved in meetings convened by 48 different organisations. We have continued to work with a wide range of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) from the recreation, tourism and conservation sectors, as well as The Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Cairngorms National Park Authority

“Centre staff and PhD students have worked on projects and Knowledge Exchange events that have focused on Scotland’s uplands, land reform, tourism, social innovation, biodiversity, the values of mountain water, and climate and wider environmental change – contributing to the sustainable development of our mountain regions – one of our key aims.”

Dr Margaret Cook, Perth College UHI Principal added: “The Centre for Mountain Studies has had over 3,000 people from around the world attending their meetings, forged vital connections across the world and played a key role in undertaking valuable mountain research and publications. It’s a credit to the team’s dedication that the centre is recognised for its activities not only in Scotland, but globally.”

To celebrate this significant landmark, the Centre for Mountain Studies team have been planning a forum on ‘Challenging Upland Futures’, rescheduled (due to Covid-19) for 19-20 January 2021 at Perth Theatre: It aims to represent the wide diversity of stakeholders living in, and concerned with, the uplands of Scotland. 

Professor Michael Rayner, University of the Highlands and Islands Dean of Research explained: "The Centre for Mountain Studies has been a hugely important part of the research landscape of the University since its inception, and it has been led by a genuinely world-renowned expert in the person of Professor Martin Price FRSE. The Centre has contributed to a wide range of truly influential research-based reports, policies, and academic outputs, and its influence is both broad and deep, even extending to a recently secured award to help support the doctoral level studies of staff in the University of the Free State and the University of Venda, in South Africa."