Graduates praised during Abertay Winter graduation ceremony

News release:

For immediate release:  Friday 25 November 2011


Hundreds of University of Abertay Dundee students graduated today in the University’s winter graduation ceremony, launching their careers in a wide range of industry-relevant subjects.

Almost 300 graduands had their degrees formally conferred during the ceremony. Most were expected to attend in person, watched by hundreds more family members and friends.

Two honorary degrees were also awarded to Neil Oliver (Honorary Doctorate of Letters), presenter of the TV series’ Coast and A History of Scotland, and Stuart Wall (Honorary Doctorate of Business Administration), founder of the Opal Property Group.

In his welcome address, Professor Nicholas Terry, Acting Principal and Vice-Chancellor, thanked the graduands and their fellow students for their support and dedication to the University during recent months.  Professor Terry said: “This year, in particular, you and your fellow students who have yet to graduate have repaid the University’s faith in you many times over.  I am referring of course to the vigorous and determined campaign waged by your elected representatives in the Students’ Association over the past two months, in partnership with the staff representative bodies at Abertay, and with staff and student colleagues at Dundee University, and with the backing of the wider Dundee community.”  

The campaign culminated in last week’s joint declaration by both universities together with Dundee College and the Scottish Funding Council, confirming that all three institutions will remain independent.

Professor Terry continued: “I would like to express the University’s lasting gratitude to both students and staff for the huge vote of confidence in Abertay expressed by your collective efforts.  It was and is a remarkable demonstration of the strength and unity of our academic community.”

Professor Terry then told graduates that “armed with an attitude of curiosity, independence and commitment to applying what is known to new contexts, and to testing and challenging the boundaries of what is known, there is really nothing to stop you now:  the world is at your feet, with opportunities at every turn.”

He concluded by pledging the support of the University in helping the graduates secure employment or further study


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Honorary Graduands Biographies

Neil Oliver

Neil qualified as an archaeologist in 1988, since when he has excavated everything from early Stone Age sites in Scotland to World War II coastal fortifications in Kent and Northern France.

Neil trained as a journalist with The Scotsman, The Herald, The Guardian, The Edinburgh Evening News and The Daily Record, and in 2002 made his television debut with the literally ground-breaking “Two Men in a Trench” battlefield archaeology series for BBC2 – bringing the human stories, tragedies and dramas lying hidden in the soil of Britain’s iconic battle sites vividly back to life.

Since then, Neil has become a familiar face as the lead presenter for the last four series of BBC’s award-winning “Coast”, in which the landscapes, history, natural history, geography – and most of all the people of Great Britain and Ireland, past and present – are placed centre stage in a continuing voyage of discovery, remembrance and reminiscence.  He has also made historical documentaries for Channel 4, BBC1 and BBC2, as well as taking part in “Time Team”, “The History Detectives”, and “The One Show”.  More recently Neil has been seen on BBC1 and BBC2 as the presenter of the acclaimed “A History of Scotland”, “A History of Ancient Britain”, and “A History of Celtic Britain”.

Neil’s books include A History of Scotland (2009); Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys (2008); Coast From the Air (2007); Not Forgotten (2005). He also co-authored Two Men in a Trench II (2003) and Two Men in a Trench (2002).

Neil lives in Scotland with his wife and three children.

Stuart Wall

Born in Manchester, in 1951 post-war Britain, Stuart was one of a family of five living in a two-bedroom dwelling with neither bath nor inside toilet. Experiencing a “slum-clearance” move at the age of nine gave him an early introduction to housing issues.

He left school at 16 with no qualifications, but through his own efforts he eventually gained the qualifications for university entry and spent six years as an undergraduate and post graduate at Edinburgh and Stirling.  He spent the next eight years working in and around Glasgow, mainly in the area of child behavioural assessment but also in providing appropriate residential facilities for troubled young people.  He then returned to Manchester, working in the field of drug addiction in the 1980s.

His experience with property had already begun in the 1970s, buying a house in Manchester jointly with two other students – a house he owns to this day.  But in 1990, he launched a project to develop purpose-built care homes for young people with mental health issues.  This venture stalled before it really got going, and by default Stuart became a developer of private apartments which in turn led to developing student accommodation and eventually to founding his company, Opal.

Today, Opal runs more than 20,000 student bedrooms throughout the UK employing over 700 staff, plus an associated construction company, comprising a group valued at about £1.4 billion.  Stuart prides himself on Opal’s strong shared culture, based on ethical behaviour, caring and delivering value for money, and above all valuing and understanding the importance of customer satisfaction.


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