Outdoor Leadership SCQF 6 (Fort William) NQ

What is special about this course?

Do you enjoy spending time outdoors and love the exhilaration and challenge of taking part in outdoor adventure activities? Do you also have a desire to turn your hobby into a career? If you've answered 'yes' to both then our Advanced Outdoor Leadership course is certainly for you.

You will cover many different activities – from paddle sports and mountain biking to rock climbing - during your course, learning everything you need to know to be a professional activity instructor.

You have the added bonus of studying at a college that is home to the fastest growing School of Adventure Studies in the UK. Come and experience the thrill of outdoor sports in the Outdoor Adventure Capital of Scotland.

The course contains a number of theoretical (SQA units) and practical elements (National Governing Body Awards).

There is also a work experience placement from April to early June (8 weeks) with opportunities to gain a placement with major adventure companies, including the possibility of an international placement with UK organisations. Your exact placement will depend on your achievement of awards. Students may have the opportunity of a paid work placement overseas.

During your course, we introduce you to using a range of digital technologies, which will help you get the most from your course and at the same time develop your digital skills.  Find out more about key computing skills and essential student skills

Entry requirements

Students must be 18 years of age by the 1st April in their year of study in order to take up an industry work placement which is a core part of the course and ideally 18 at the start of the course to be eligible to enrol on NGB awards.

You should have at least 3 National 5s or have completed our NQ Outdoor Adventure or equivalent.

  • Candidates should demonstrate competence in the relevant outdoor disciplines equal to those gained in NQ Outdoor Adventure – if not then candidates should consider this course first
  • Students will be required to complete an 8 week work placement. Students must be 18 years of age by the 1st April in their year of study in order to take up an industry work placement which is a core part of the course.
  • Mature students will be considered on merit. 
  • We’ll be inviting you by email to attend course information sessions between now and the start of your course. We’d urge you to come along if at all possible.

Please note that you are required to have a satisfactory Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) check to enable participation in work placement. This will be provided as a mandatory part of your course. Further information can be found here at mygov.scot

Areas for study include:

  • adventure sport performance and coaching
  • leadership and personal development
  • guiding and interpretation
  • industry experience
  • research skills
  • environmental conservation
  • expedition and residential experience
  • work experience and employability
  • embedded development of core and essential skills

The majority of SQA units in this course are at SCQF level 6.

You will also work towards these awards:

  • British Canoeing: Paddlesport Instructor
  • British Canoeing: Personal Performance Awards: Open Canoe, White Water or Sea Kayak
  • BC Paddlesport Safety and Rescue Course
  • BC Personal Performance – Stand Up Paddle Boarding
  • British Cycling: Mountain Bike Leadership Award Level 1 or Level 2 Training
  • Climbing Wall Instructor Training
  • Environmental Awards
  • Customer Care and Guide Training
  • Outdoor Specific First Aid Certificate 
  • Pre requisites for Mountain Leader Training

Entry to awards is subject to obtaining the required performance standard and log book days.

More than just your subject

Imagine coming out of college with your subject qualification PLUS a portfolio of skills endorsed by employers. That’s exactly what you will get with us. Our skills+ portfolio is part of your full-time course. You will develop skills in digital literacy, entrepreneurship, metaskills, work-readiness, net-zero, wellbeing, and the skills you need for your future aspirations. Our skills+ portfolio becomes your portfolio to take away with you. Whilst studying your subject you will build your skills+ portfolio and gain confidence and resilience along the way.


Internet connection and a suitable device with headphones, microphone and camera (minimum spec) is required. Please email us if you have any concerns about connectivity or equipment.

If students are in receipt of bursary, course PPE will be purchased for them through the bursary.
If a student is not eligible for bursary, they will be required to supply their own at their own cost.
The required personal protective equipment is:

  • Suitable hard shell waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Hill walking boots (B1 are adequate)

We can provide advice on this if required.
No other equipment needs to be purchased prior to the course starting. During the course all the major and essential items of equipment are provided, but it is helpful, if possible, to set aside a budget for purchasing your own accessories such as thermal underwear or gloves.


How will I study my course?

  • Full Time

You normally need to commit to 18 hours per week (2-3 days) of blended learning time consisting of timetabled learning and personal study.

For the practical elements of your course, some of your timetabled learning will take probably place in and around our Fort William College Centre.

How long will my course last?

34 Weeks

Where can I study my course?

    • Fort William

Start date

Early September


Find out more about fees, fee waivers and funding options.


Students may qualify for bursary funding.

What can I do on completion of my course?

On successful completion of this course, you may be eligible for any of our four degrees or other related course. You could also consider a career as an outdoor activities instructor or adventure guide.

Is there more information available online?

QR Code - scan to visit course page

You can use the above QR code to connect directly to the course details.

After I finished Outdoor Leadership, I went straight into employment with Vertical Descents working as a Canyon Guide. After the season ended I completed Mountain Leader and Climbing Wall instructor certificates.  
Due to the skills and qualifications I gained from SOAS, I've managed to do a fair bit of freelance work for a few different companies instructing and guiding locally.  
Since January 2023, I've been lucky enough to be employed full time as an Outdoor Instructor at Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre. I instruct groups on multiple activities e.g hillwalking, gorge walking, abseiling, canoeing, indoor climbing, archery, and many others. 
I'm loving my life as an outdoor professional and know there is no way I'd ever go back to working in an office. I'm absolutely certain that I wouldn't be doing a job I love without the experience I gained from my time at UHI.

Owen Connelly

I chose to study Outdoor Leadership as I enjoy the outdoors and wanted to explore making it a career.  This course was a chance to gain qualifications in an area I was passionate about, as well as make the transition back into education. 

I am really enjoying it. It is very practical, and our lecturer and instructors are fantastic. I have seized  all the opportunities on offer, allowing me to gain experience and qualifications, which will give me a brilliant start as an instructor in the outdoor industry. 

I have decided to stay on for the Adventure Education degree, developing my outdoor skills, building qualifications and making the most of being in Fort William. 

I have a particular interest in how transformative the outdoors can be for people who have or are experiencing difficulties, having seen how much it has helped me personally, and so the ultimate dream would be to be able to deliver outdoor therapeutic sessions. 

Ishbel Lapslie

Apply for Outdoor Leadership SCQF 6 (Fort William) NQ

I want to start in 2024/25

We are delighted that you are thinking about studying at UHI North, West and Hebrides. UHI North, West and Hebrides operates a fair and open admissions system committed to equality of opportunity and non-discrimination. We consider all applications on merit and on the basis of ability to achieve, without discrimination on grounds of age, disability, gender identity, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity status, race, religion and/or belief, sex, sexual orientation or socio-economic background. We welcome applications from all prospective students and aim to provide appropriate and efficient services to students with disabilities.