The UHI Institute for Northern Studies content

The UHI Institute for Northern Studies

The UHI Institute for Northern Studies is a unique interdisciplinary institute preserving, rediscovering and interpreting the cultural heritage of Scotland and the wider Northern world.

The institute combines world leading area studies research, award winning teaching, business consultancy, and community engagement activities and was rated first in Scotland for research impact and fifth equal with the University of Oxford across the UK in the Research Excellence Framework Exercise in 2014.

Internationally renowned for innovative postgraduate teaching and research programs in Orkney and Shetland Studies, Highlands and Islands Literature, Viking Studies and Islands Studies, the institute has also just launched a brand new online only MLitt in Scottish Heritage.

Established in 2007, all programs are delivered using a mixture of online and video-conferencing, with students studying from Australia, North America, the UK and the rest of Europe.

As well as teaching, staff also supervise postgraduate students researching various aspects of the history and culture of the regions of Scotland, with specialisms in archaeology, medieval history, literature and art, placename studies and with the history and culture of the North Atlantic regions.  Students can register with the institute for a taught research degree program on a full-time or a part-time basis, for the award of Master by Research and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Expert staff are able to offer interdisciplinary and subject specific supervision in a wide range of topics including the following:

  • Viking Studies
  • Medieval and modern history and culture of Scotland
  • Links between Scotland and the Nordic world
  • The history and culture of the Scottish islands within the North Atlantic region
  • Highlands and Islands Literature
  • Island Studies
  • Scottish heritage
  • The languages and dialects of Orkney and Shetland
  • Pictish studies 



UHI Institute for Northern Studies buildingA unique building

The Orkney home of the institute is Scott’s House which was originally the main office, Hatston aerodrome, in World War II, where many American servicemen were based. Orkney’s population went from 20,000-60,000 in the war and it was known as Fortress Orkney.

Sited in historic royal burgh of Kirkwall in Orkney, this original Art Deco structure has now been fully refurbished and until now has provided a perfect and iconic location for the Institute for Northern Studies.

We are currently fundraising for the institute with a $200,000 campaign to secure Scott’s House as the home of the Institute for generations to come.

To find out more about the work of the institute you can read our Annual Report 2020 to 2021.


Professor Donna Heddle MA

Professor Donna Heddle MA (Hons), PhD, FHEA, FSA Scot, FRSA
Director of UHI Institute for Northern Studies