Orkney’s Neil Ackerman Awarded The Prestigious Robertson Medal From The Carnegie Trust

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Neil Ackerman receiving the Robertson Medal from Professor Dame Anne Glover

Orkney’s Neil Ackerman has been awarded the prestigious Robertson Medal from the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland for academic year 2019-20.

The silver medal is awarded each year to the scholarship candidate judged to be the most outstanding for that year’s competition. Neil is a PhD student at the Archaeology Institute of the University of the Highlands and Islands. He is the  university’s first postgraduate student to receive this honour. 

His research, entitled ‘Scotland’s earliest built environment: halls, houses and big houses’, looks at the earliest buildings of Neolithic Scotland.

This period reveals a settled farming architecture for the first time, and also a growth in the size of public meeting halls. Studying the Neolithic period from the perspective of both monumental halls and domestic architecture will uncover a new understanding of the earliest Scottish Neolithic period.

Developing an insight into this varied architecture across Scotland, as well as producing a precise chronology, will also revolutionise the knowledge of the Neolithic in Scotland and wider contacts at the time.

Originally from Edinburgh, Neil  left school at 16 with few formal qualifications. After working at different jobs  he enrolled in Orkney College UHI where he graduated with a first-class degree in BA (Hons) in archaeology, in 2016. He worked  at Aberdeenshire Council’s archaeological historic environment team for nearly three years.

Neil moved back to Orkney in 2019 to set up his own company, Ackerman Archaeology Limited, and to continue with his academic studies. He is undertaking his postgraduate degree through the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute with the aid of the Carnegie scholarship funding.

The prestigious Robertson Medal is only awarded to those whose work is outstanding. Neil said:

“This means so much to me. I have not always had a straightforward path to get to this stage. I left school at 16 with few qualifications and worked in various service jobs, before returning to education. I never thought I would go to a university, far less study at this level.

“To have received a Carnegie Trust scholarship was a massive achievement and to now be awarded the Robertson Medal on top is a huge honour.  It helps to confirm all the decisions made to be where I am now.

“I have a highly supportive supervisory team and together we have put a lot of work into developing a subject that we feel is very important. It is heartening to see our efforts rewarded.”

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Professor Jane Downes, director of the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute said:

“I am delighted that Neil has been recognised for his exceptional work. His undergraduate research supported by a Carnegie Trust vacation scholarship has contributed to our understanding of roofing technology from the Neolithic period.  His original thinking has advanced understandings of the extraordinary site of the Ness of Brodgar on Orkney and has had international recognition.”

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Neil was presented with his award on Thursday 23rd January 2020, at Orkney College UHI, by chair of the Carnegie Trust for Universities of Scotland Professor Dame Anne Glover and its chief executive chair Professor Andy Walker, Professor Neil Simco, vice-principal (research and impact) at the University of the Highlands and Islands with Professor Edward Abbott-Halpin, principal of Orkney College UHI.

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(Left to right) Prof Jane Downes, Prof Andy Walker(Carnegie Trust), Neil Simco, Neil Ackerman, Prof Dame Anne Glover (Carnegie Trust), Prof Edward Abbott-Halpin, Prof Colin Richards


Neil Ackerman is an inspiration with his dedication and hard work. His achievements go to show that there is no wrong path and with such a supportive family he will no doubt go on to achieve even more.

You can watch a video of the presentation here:

The Carnegie Trust also operates a vacation scholarship scheme for students undertaking a degree course at a Scottish university. In 2019, four students from the University of the Highlands and Islands were successful in receiving awards. Applications for this year’s scheme is open until 31 January 2020. For more information visit the study with us page on our website www.uhi.ac.uk

For more information about the Archaeological Institute and courses at the University of the Highlands and Islands, visit www.uhi.ac.uk

Click on this link to access : The Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland



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