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Orkney academics recognised by university

Three academics based at Orkney College UHI have been recognised for their contribution to the University of the Highlands and Islands. Professor Donna Heddle and Professor Jane Downes have been awarded personal chairs (professorships) by the institution and Dr Alexandra Sanmark the title of Reader.

Professor Donna Heddle is director of the interdisciplinary Centre for Nordic Studies based in Orkney and Shetland. With a particular passion for research looking at communities from within and how they interact – her interests also include: Scottish and Northern Isles cultural history; small island studies; language and literature and Old Norse. She is also the author of a number of publications in these areas and is currently leading several national and international research and cultural tourism projects involving the North Atlantic rim.

“I am delighted and proud to receive this honour and professional recognition,” said Professor Heddle.  “I would like to thank my trusty Centre for Nordic Studies team for all their support. In a few short years and starting from scratch we have created an interdisciplinary research and teaching centre of national and international significance. The richly deserved award of a Readership to my colleague Dr Alexandra Sanmark emphasises the quality of our hard working staff.”

Professor Jane DownesProfessor Jane Downes is academic leader of archaeology, head of the archaeology department at Orkney College UHI, and director of the Orkney Research Centre for Archaeology. Since joining the university in 1999, she has established the innovative graduate and latterly undergraduate programmes in archaeology. With an international reputation for her research in prehistory, burial archaeology and heritage, Jane is presently involved in fieldwork in Orkney and Easter Island, and in international research collaborations around the North Atlantic.

I am very proud to be awarded this professorship,” said Professor Downes, “and would like to thank staff and students in the Orkney College Archaeology Department for their support and encouragement thus far. This award will enhance the reputation of archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands further still, and is a major step towards the development of the Archaeology Institute.”

The university has also awarded Dr Alexandra Sanmark the title of reader in recognition of her distinguished international reputation in research and scholarship.  Dr Sanmark is currently a post-doctoral research associate at the Centre for Nordic Studies. She has a strong research interest in Iron Age Scandinavia, and currently collaborates on The Assembly Project, a three-year international project funded by the Humanities in Europe Research Area.

University of the Highlands and Islands principal and vice-chancellor, James Fraser, said: “These awards are a historic first for Orkney College UHI and demonstrate the presence of academic excellence across the whole university partnership. They are also fitting recognition of the major contributions which Professors Heddle and Downes have made in their areas of expertise.”

Orkney College UHI principal, Bill Ross, explained the significance of the awards: “I am delighted that the work of three staff at Orkney College UHI has been recognised.

“The award of a Personal Chair to Dr Jane Downes recognises the enormous contribution that Jane has made to archaeology over many years and her role in establishing Orkney College UHI as a significant player on the archaeology scene in Scotland and beyond.

Professor Donna Heddle and Dr. Alexandra Sanmark"The award of a Personal Chair to Dr Donna Heddle recognises her vision in establishing the Centre for Nordic Studies and the award-winning role that Donna has taken in the innovative development of blended learning, including a Times Higher Educational Supplement award in 2005 for her undergraduate degree in cultural studies.

“The award of the title of Reader to Dr Alexandra Sanmark recognises Alex’s significant academic achievement and further demonstrates the enormous contribution that staff at Orkney College UHI are making to the on-going development of the university.”

Councillor Janice Annal, chair of Orkney College Management Council added: “Orkney Islands Council is thrilled that the expertise in learning, teaching and research of these three Orkney College UHI members has been acknowledged with these accolades.

“I am delighted that their contributions have been recognised in this way, and am proud that Orkney College UHI has been able to facilitate such high quality and significant academic achievements.”

Media contact
Alison Lochhead
Communications and external relations manager
Tel: 01463 279222
Email: alison.lochhead@uhi.ac.uk

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