Studying archaeology ‘was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made,’ says Gerry

Gerry Gillies (front row, right) with some fellow UHI Archaeology Institute students and excavators/students from around the world during the operation to extend Trench X at the Ness of Brodgar in 2019.

Perth-based Gerry Gillies on his time as a mature student with the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute.

My name is Gerry and I’m a (very) mature student in my third year of a B.Sc. (Hons) in Archaeological Science. I went to university when I was just turned 17 and made a bit of a mess of it. Some young students take to it straight away, but I was a bit rebellious and not really interested in the subjects I’d chosen.

Many years later I saw this course and thought: “If only this was around when I was young” and then “Why not now?”

It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Gerry taking levels at the Ness of Brodgar excavation in Orkney.

Because of family commitments, I couldn’t move to Orkney so I’m studying out of Perth, which has been fine, especially seeing my fellow students during the week for a bit of mutual support. I’ve missed that this year but hope we’ll be back to normal in 2021-22.

Comparing this time around to when I was young the two main differences I’ve found are how friendly, approachable and supportive the teaching staff are and the enthusiasm of the students for the subject. It’s been a breath of fresh air. There has also been plenty of that on the field trips and field schools and I’ve been lucky enough to be on digs at both The Cairns and the Ness of Brodgar in Orkney.

Excavating Trench X at the Ness of Brodgar, Orkney.

I’ve become especially interested in landscape archaeology and the Scottish Mesolithic and there is flexibility and encouragement here to pursue your own passions while still getting a good grounding in all areas and eras.

I’m loving my time so far and I’d strongly encourage anyone who missed out or messed up when younger to go for it. You won’t regret it.

Why should the young have all the fun?

If you want to know more about studying archaeology at the University of the Highlands and Islands Archaeology Institute, email  or see our website