November 2014 releases

Be informed, be inspired with a postgraduate degree at Queen’s

Queen’s University Belfast is offering graduates the chance to ‘be informed and be inspired’ with one of its postgraduate degrees.

From food safety to computer science, a suite of post-graduate degrees will be on offer at the University’s Postgraduate Open Day on Monday 1 December 2014.

The Open Day entitled ‘Be Informed Be Inspired’ runs from 1pm to 8pm in the Whitla Hall and visitors can drop in to meet staff and students, learn about the range of courses available and get an insight into what life as a postgraduate student is really like. Career consultants will also be on hand to offer advance on how to connect study to future career prospects.

Tours of Queen’s dedicated postgraduate accommodation – Willow Walk, the International and Postgraduate Student Centre, Queen’s world-class sports facilities and the award-winning McClay Library will also be on offer.

Talks on the day, to be held in the Great Hall and a number of lecture theatres, include advice on applying for funding, student finance, courses, careers and life from a PG student’s perspective.

Admission is free and anyone interested in attending can find our further information and register online at

Media inquiries to Andrew Kennedy on 02890975384

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New Queen’s research suggests UK honey bee parasite linked to climate change

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have found that the spread of an exotic parasite that threatens the UK’s honey-bee population could be speeded up by global warming.

The gut parasite Nosema ceranae – which originates in Asia but can now be found worldwide – is likely to cause increasing damage to UK bees as the Earth heats up through climate change.

The new finding that this parasite not only has a superior competitive ability, but that its numbers could rise with climate change, has been published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Co-author of the study and Adjunct Reader at Queen’s School of Biological Sciences, Professor Robert Paxton said: “This emerging parasite is more susceptible to cold than its original close relative, possibly reflecting its presumed origin in east Asia. In the face of rising global temperatures, our findings suggest that it will increase in prevalence and potentially lead to increased honey bee colony losses in Britain.”

Co-researcher Myrsini Natsopoulou, from the Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg in Germany said: “Our results reveal not only that the exotic parasite is a better competitor than its original close relative, but that its widespread distribution and patterns of prevalence in nature depend on climatic conditions too”.

The research compared pathogen growth in honey bees that were infected with both the exotic parasite, Nosema ceranae and its original native relative, Nosema apis.

Experiments showed that, while both parasites inhibit each other’s growth, the exotic Nosema ceranae has a much greater negative impact on the native Nosema apis than vice versa. By integrating the effects of competition and climate into a simple mathematical model, the researchers were better able to predict the relative occurrence of both parasite species in nature: Nosema ceranae is common in Southern Europe but rare in Northern Europe.

This study was funded by the Insect Pollinators Initiative, a joint venture of the UK’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Defra, the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the Scottish Government and the Wellcome Trust, managed under the auspices of the Living with Environmental Change (LWEC) partnership.

The full paper can be read at: Natsopoulou ME, McMahon DP, Doublet V, Bryden J, Paxton RJ. (2015) Interspecific competition in honey bee intracellular gut parasites is asymmetric and favours the spread of an emerging infectious disease. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. 20141896.

For further information, contact the Communications Office on 028 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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Queen’s research bursts myths surrounding demise of De Lorean

Dr Graham Brownlow

Research from Queen’s University Belfast has shed new light on what went wrong with the De Lorean Motor Company and the business lessons that can be learned from the failure of the iconic car manufacturer.

John De Lorean’s firm and the demise of the Northern Ireland produced gull-winged car in the 1970’s is often presented as a story of irrationality, involving either greed or stupidity. One popular version highlights De Lorean’s limitations as an entrepreneur, while another says the mistake lay in the UK government’s industrial policy.

But research conducted by Dr Graham Brownlow, from Queen’s University’s Management School, is correcting these popular but misleading interpretations by improving understanding of the economic and political issues at the time. The research will help local businesses learn from the mistakes of the past and improve opportunities to boost economic growth.

Dr Brownlow, a Research Associate at Queen's University Centre for Economic History, whose research is based on a combination of recently released documents and government reports, said. “The rise and fall of businesses needs to be better understood if we are going to learn lessons and nurture economic progress. Bad incentives rather than irrationality best explains what occurred and why it continues to matter.

In a series of new papers, Dr Brownlow shows that inward investment into Northern Ireland had dried up after the escalation of violence in Northern Ireland in 1971 and government money was made available to reduce unemployment and civil unrest. Consequently, official monitoring was weaker and the subsidy package was more generous than elsewhere in the UK.

Dr Brownlow said: “John De Lorean entered this institutional environment and negotiated an initial master agreement that suited his ends, at the expense of the taxpayer. This contract enabled him to hire ever more workers, despite the growing commercial realisation that the project was never going to succeed.

“John De Lorean was willing and able to pursue this strategy because he rationally calculated that the more workers the firm hired, the more generous his subsidy package would be and the more politically difficult it would be for the authorities to close the project.

“Legal factors and political commitments rather than any serious economic arguments kept the firm in business as long as it did. My archival evidence demonstrates that De Lorean eventually overplayed his hand and it was this miscalculation that enabled the firm to be closed down.”

Dr Graham Brownlow is a Lecturer in Economics at Queen’s University Management School, and a Research Associate at Queen’s University Centre for Economic History. His first research paper on his De Lorean project is being published in the upcoming edition of the journal Business History. Working papers of his research can be downloaded from the website of Queen’s University Centre for Economic History.

For media inquiries please contact Andrew Kennedy, Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 5384 or email

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Queen’s researchers prove that ash clouds can cross Atlantic Ocean

Dr Sean Pyne-O’Donnell

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have led the discovery of a volcanic ash cloud that travelled from Alaska to Northern Ireland and beyond – overturning previously held assumptions about how far ash deposits can drift, with major implications for the airline industry.

The discovery, which was made in partnership with an international team of academics and has been published in the journal Geology, is the first evidence that ash clouds can travel across the Atlantic Ocean, confirming Queen’s as a global leader in research. This particular ash, found in sites across Europe, including Sluggan Bog near Randalstown, Co Antrim, has been traced to an eruption from Mount Bona-Churchill in Alaska, around AD 847.

The discovery has significant implications for the aviation industry as well as environmental science, illustrating Queen’s impact on a global scale. The plumes spewed out by the volcano Eyjafjallajokull, in Iceland in 2010, caused major disruption and grounded over 100,000 international flights, costing airlines more than £2 billion.

With volcanoes like Mount Bona-Churchill – much more volatile than Eyjafjallajokull – scheduled to erupt on average every 100 years, another ash-cloud drama could be imminent, this time with consequences for trans-Atlantic as well as European travel.

Lead researcher Dr Britta Jensen from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Paleoecology at Queen's University, said: “The ash, or tephra, is from Mount Bona-Churchill where it is called the White River Ash and occurs as a thick white layer spreading eastwards into Canada. Using chemical ‘fingerprinting’, the team has matched it to a tephra layer which occurs in Ireland, Norway, Germany and Greenland, where it is called the AD860B. For the past 20 years or so, European researchers assumed that AD860B came from a relatively nearby volcano in Iceland, which is the source of most ash in Europe, including that from Eyjafjallajokull in 2010. However, the AD860B never quite fitted with what researchers knew of volcanoes in Iceland.”

Co-researcher Dr Sean Pyne-O’Donnell, from School of Geography, Archaeology and Paleoecology at Queen's University, said the discovery was also significant in advancing knowledge across other disciplines, particularly in the area of climate change: “The layer was deposited very quickly after eruption, probably within a matter of days and can be used to precisely date and compare the relative timing of any environmental or archaeological events associated with it by tephro-chronology. This makes the layer very useful for researchers wanting to link together how climate behaved in distant parts of the world at this time. Such information is vital for climate scientists attempting to explain how climate worked in the past compared with the present. The team also speculates that other tephra layers from similar trans-Atlantic eruptions may yet be uncovered in other Irish sites.”

To read the full paper, click here:
For further information, contact the Queen’s University Communications Officers Una Bradley on +0044 (0)28 9097 5320 (Mon-Wed) or Michelle Cassidy on +0044 (0)28 9097 5310 (Thurs-Fri) or email

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New course aims to help secure the future of family businesses

Left to right: Catherine McKeever, co-owner of the McKeever Hotel Group, Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Eugene McKeever, co-owner of the McKeever Hotel Group and Maybeth Shaw, Family Business Partner, BDO NI.

While 77 per cent of businesses are family owned in the Republic of Ireland, and 74 per cent in Northern Ireland, statistics today show that only 3.2 per cent survive past a third generation.

To help combat this fall-off, Queen’s University Belfast has announced details of its latest leadership programme designed specifically for family businesses, which begins on Tuesday 9 December 2014.

The Family Business Programme: Preparing the Next Generation of Leaders has been developed by BDO and the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s to help prepare future leaders of family businesses for their unique role as owners, manager and entrepreneurs.

The only course of its kind on the island of Ireland, it offers a unique opportunity to create the best platform for a family business to grow and evolve from one generation to the next.

Challenges faced by family businesses include the readiness of the next generation, the complex nature of family relationships and roles in the business and shareholding dilemmas.

Anne Clydesdale, Director of the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, said: “Family businesses are important to society not just in financial terms but because of the genuine commitment they have been able to demonstrate to the wider community beyond simply creating and sustaining employment.

“The family business sector is the backbone of our economy and providing its next generation of leaders with the unique support and development it requires is at the core of our new Family Business Programme.”

Maybeth Shaw, BDO Family Business Partner said: “The BDO Centre for Family Business is delighted to be working in partnership with the William J Clinton Leadership Institute at Queen’s on this key programme.  Developing leaders is one of the most challenging tasks for any business and even more difficult for a family business as it faces additional complexities from converging business and family systems, generational  challenges and increasing demands as the business and family grow and mature together.”

Participants on the course get the opportunity for personal and reflective insights, coupled with peer support and structured learning from experts across the family business and leadership field, helping them to develop skills and align personal and business aspirations for the long term success and growth of the family business.

Eugene McKeever  owner of the McKeever Group, a family hotel business group represented in both north and south of Ireland said: “Preparing the next generation of McKeevers is at the core of our succession and growth plans.  We recognise the heightened responsibilities and complexities that leading the McKeever family business will present as it prepares for the businesses and the family’s next generation. We are delighted that we can now take advantage of the right level of support, development and challenge provided in this new Programme from Queen’s and BDO.”

Further details and information on enrolling for the programme are available online at or Tel: 048 9097 4394 (ROI)/ 028 90 97 4394 (NI) or email:

Media inquiries to Queen's Communications Office on or 028 9097 3087

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Queen’s success at Green Gown Awards

Dr Katherine Lawrie collecting the award from Simon Kerridge (ARMA) and Simon Reeve(R)

Technology developed by Queen’s University Belfast which has the potential to transform million of lives overnight has won a national sustainability award.

Researchers in the School of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering won the Research and Development category of the EAUC Green Gown Awards for their project which will enhance the solar disinfection of water (SODIS).

Over 5.6 million people in 30 countries use the SODIS method, but lack any UV indicator technology necessary to ensure 100 per cent success. Research led by Professor Andrew Mills and Dr Katherine Lawrie from Queen’s, and funded by Invest NI, has developed UV dosimeter labels which change colour when the disinfection is complete.

Professor Mills said: “Our UV dosimeter labels use inexpensive sustainable materials, contributing little extra cost per SODIS bottle (< 0.1p), making them far cheaper than the currently available, electronic-based technologies.  The key benefits are the simplicity, ease of use and inexpensive nature of the technology.

“The labels will enhance the uptake of the SODIS method by the 768 million people that still rely on unimproved water supplies, significantly improving their quality of lives.”

Vice-Chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said: “This project is yet another example of the life-changing research taking place at Queen’s. It further illustrates our position as a global leader in research and our commitment to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Now in their 10th year, the Green Gown Awards, sponsored by the CISCO and BT education partnership, recognise the exceptional sustainability initiatives being undertaken by universities and colleges across the UK. 

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World Press Photo exhibition arrives in Northern Ireland for the first time ever

Queen’s University Belfast is bringing the World Press Photo exhibition to Northern Ireland for the first time next week

The prestigious exhibition, organised in partnership with School of Law at Queen’s, and the Journalism, Law and Rights Forum, showcases the most inspiring and high quality photojournalism in the world.

The 2014 exhibition comprises the 150 winning images chosen from over 98,000 images submitted by 5,754 photojournalists in 132 countries.

On display at the exhibition includes the World Press Photo of the Year.  This year’s winner, selected by the international jury of the 57th annual World Press Photo Contest, is an image by American photographer John Stanmeyer of the VII Photo Agency. The picture shows African migrants on the shore of Djibouti city at night, raising their phones in an attempt to capture an inexpensive signal from neighbouring Somalia—a tenuous link to relatives abroad. Djibouti is a common stop-off point for migrants in transit from such countries as Somalia, Ethiopia and Eritrea, seeking a better life in Europe and the Middle East. The picture also won 1st Prize in the Contemporary Issues category, and was shot for National Geographic.

Also on display are the prize winning images from nine themed categories belonging to 53 photographers of 25 nationalities from: Argentina, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, China, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Finland, France, Germany, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Mexico, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Russia, Serbia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. 

Speaking ahead of the exhibition launch, Head of the School of Law at Queen’s University Belfast, Professor Sally Wheeler, said: “As a truly international University we are absolutely honoured and delighted to host the World Press Photo exhibition at Queen’s.  This global event celebrates the best in photo journalism around the world and we look forward to welcoming media and the public from around the world to Belfast and to Queen’s.”

The week-long exhibition will be complemented by a series of evening and weekend events exploring journalism, law and rights. Award-winning photojournalist, Robin Hammond will explore his work on mental health. Anna Lo MLA, the first ethnic Chinese person elected to a legislative parliament in Europe, will reflect on racism in Northern Ireland, Philippe Sands QC, author of Torture and Lawless World, will speak about developments in international criminal law and Professor Kevin Heller, Human Rights Watch’s external legal advisor on the trial of Saddam Hussein, will be speaking about amnesties. The event will be chaired by Brian Gormally of the CAJ.

A secondary schools outreach program is also available offering students the opportunity to explore various aspects of journalism, press photography and visual communication. Pre-booked secondary school groups accompanied by their teacher(s) will benefit from free admission and access to a package of learning tools. Free pre-booked school tours can be booked here:

Further details about the exhibition visit:

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University on 02890975391 or

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Queen's researchers raise awareness of planning for pregnancy on world diabetes day

Healthcare professionals are encouraged to improve their understanding of the needs of women with diabetes in relation to planning for pregnnacy for World Diabetes Day. Babies born to women with diabetes are more likely to be affected by congenital anomalies, including spina bifida, heart and kidney anomalies. However, it is well established that good blood glucose control before and during pregnancy can reduce this risk!

Developed by researchers at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland, in conjunction with the South Eastern and Belfast Health and Social Care Trusts, the new website is aimed at women with diabetes and those who care for them. As well as a website helping women to prepare for pregnancy, the resource has an evidence based e-learning component aimed at all healthcare professionals who care for women with diabetes- GPs, pharmacists, practice nurses etc. The resource offers a unique opportunity to educate women and healthcare professionals on the importance of planning for pregnancy and also provides a direct link to local pre-pregnancy care clinics in Northern Ireland for those who are actively seeking to plan for pregnancy.

The project was preceded by a DVD “Women with Diabetes: Things you need to know but maybe don’t!” funded by Diabetes UK in 2010. Women who viewed the DVD resource were more likely to plan for pregnancy and to take folic acid. This online website adaption ( aims to reach a larger audience of both women with diabetes and the healthcare professionals who care for them, and was supported by a Knowledge Transfer Award from the HSC R&D Division of the Public Health Agency.

Dr Valerie Holmes, Senior Lecturer at the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences, Queen’s University Belfast who led the study, said:

“It is important that women with diabetes are aware of the importance of planning their pregnancy. Almost all women with diabetes can have healthy babies if good pre-pregnancy blood glucose control is achieved. Similarly, it is important that healthcare professionals have a better understanding of the risks to women with diabetes during pregnancy and be able to relay that information to their patients.”

Dr Aisling Gough, Women with Diabetes Champion, added: “World Diabetes Day is a global opportunity to raise awareness, and improve education about the importance of planning for pregnancy. By ensuring women with diabetes are aware of the risks of not planning for pregnancy, we can work together with women and healthcare professionals to reduce the number of unplanned.”

Dr Michael McBride, Chief Medical Officer, said: “The rate of diabetes is increasing in our population, including among women of childbearing age. It is therefore essential that women with diabetes are aware of how important it is to plan for pregnancy, and that healthcare professionals feel confident to respond to women’s requests for advice. If we can empower ourselves as healthcare professionals to discuss pregnancy planning and care with women who have diabetes, we can empower the women themselves to seek advice and support and to take ownership of their condition.”

Professor David McCance, Consultant Endocrinologist at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, added: “Improving health and healthcare experience requires that healthcare professionals have access to education which is evidence based and clinically relevant so that we can continue to provide the best level of care for our patients.”

Every GP and pharmacy in Northern Ireland has received DVDs, posters and flyers about the resource. Find out more on our website- or follow us on twitter-











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Queen’s University astronomers in first ever comet landing attempt

Astronomers at Queen’s University Belfast have been assisting the first ever landing by a spacecraft on an icy comet tomorrow, Wednesday 12 November.

At 8:35am (GMT) on Wednesday 12 November a robotic lander called Philae will be released from the European Space Agency Rosetta spacecraft, and spend the next 7 hours descending to the comet. A successful touchdown signal will hopefully be received on Earth about 4:00pm (GMT), along with the first pictures from a comet’s surface.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University and colleagues have spent over a decade studying comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko from Earth and measuring its properties. Professor Fitzsimmons has just returned from Chile, where he used the worlds’ most powerful telescopes to perform a final reconnaissance of the comet. Some of his colleagues include former Queen’s students now working on the mission.

The 1.3 billion euro Rosetta spacecraft was launched in 2004, and has spent a decade manoeuvring to rendezvous with the comet. Performing 3 flybys of the Earth, one of Mars and also passing close to two asteroids, it finally reached comet 67P on 6 August this year.

European and American scientists have spent the time since then making sensitive measurements and taking spectacular images of the comet in preparation for the landing attempt.

Professor Alan Fitzsimmons from the Astrophysics Research Centre at Queen’s University will wait with everyone else on Earth, hoping for a successful landing. He said:  “We have waited over 10 years for this day, but with the comet being over 317 million miles away, all we can do now is cross our fingers and hope.”

“The Rosetta mission realises the ambition of mankind to explore our origins, and discover what is out there. It demonstrates that the European Space Agency plays a major role in the scientific exploration of our Solar system, and Queen’s is part of that effort.”

“This mission further illustrates Queen’s University’s position as an global leader in research and its commitment to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Professor Fitzsimmons will further explain what the mission has told us so far about comets on BBC4 on Sunday at 9:00pm, in a Sky at Night Special programme.

An important measurement is of the water ice making up most of the comet. Astronomers believe that comets like 67P may have delivered all of Earth’s water after its formation, 4.5 billion years ago. Rosetta and Philae will test that theory.


Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University on 02890973087 or

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Public invited to meet life changing researchers at Queen’s

Members of the public are being invited to Queen’s University this evening (Monday 10 November) to meet and hear from the people behind some of the biggest scientific, medical and technological breakthroughs of recent times.

From health to education, engineering to the arts, researchers at Queen’s are advancing knowledge and changing lives in Northern Ireland and around the world. Visitors to the showcase will have the chance to see examples of the range of impact Queen’s research has, and to speak directly to the academics about their groundbreaking work. 

The free event, Advancing Knowledge, Changing Lives Research Showcase, brings together some of the University’s researchers who are profiled in a new publication, ‘The DNA of Innovation, Vol IV: Our Global Impact on Society’, which will be launched at the event.

Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s, and whose team has managed the event and new publication, said: “We often read the headlines about the ground breaking research that is taking place at Queen’s which is changing the lives of people around the world.  This is a fantastic opportunity to meet those who are behind the headlines and hear more about the ground-breaking work they do.

The DNA of Innovation, Volume IV: Our Global Impact on Society’ profiles the work of 32 internationally-acclaimed academics and their teams. Among those profiled, who will be in attendance at the showcase are: Professor Jean Allain of the School of Law who is spearheading the fight against human trafficking, Professor Weiru Liu of the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences, who is developing big data analytics and intelligent robotic systems, and Professor Manuel Salto-Tellez, Deputy Director of the Northern Ireland Molecular Pathology Laboratory at Queen’s, whose innovative cancer diagnostic work involves collaboration between academia and healthcare.”

The Showcase is part of a series of events aimed at highlighting Queen’s University’s impact on society. Events held earlier in the year included: Energy for the Future that highlighted energy-themed innovation work and Cancer Research Advancing Patient Care.

The Queen’s Advancing Knowledge, Changing Lives event is free and open to the public, taking place in the Whitla Hall at Queen’s University, 4 - 7pm on Monday, 10 November.  Short presentations by several leading academics will be given at 5.15-5.45pm.

For further information visit:

Media inquiries to Claire O’Callaghan, Senior Communications Officer, Queen’s University on 02890973087 or

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Queen’s further develops international reach with course in south-east Asia

Queen’s University Belfast has announced a new addition to its portfolio of international initiatives with a post-graduate certificate in education (PGCEi) based in Malaysia.

The PGCEi is a collaborative venture between Queen’s, Stranmillis University College, Belfast and Tenby Schools, Malaysia. Teaching will be delivered online with facilitation and support on the ground across two sites in the cities of Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh. The post-graduate teacher qualification will be accredited by Queen’s.

The development is the latest in a string of international collaborations by Queen’s, which now has a presence in parts of the US, India, China, Brazil and across Europe, enhancing its growing reputation as a world-class university.

Dr Karen Kerr, PGCEi co-ordinator at Queen’s, said: “Tenby Schools have ambitious plans to develop and grow their network of schools both nationally and internationally. Their need to establish a PGCEi and their commitment to professional development for their teachers is therefore a big priority. They have chosen to work with Queen’s and Stranmillis because of our strong track record in beginning and continuing teacher professional development. The spirit and vision of this collaboration is to work with Tenby Schools and their teachers while they grow their network to offer the PGCEi and further taught and research-based post-graduate qualifications.

“At present, the PGCEi course is a blend of in-class supported practice as well as targeted, online learning. Along with colleagues from both Queen’s and Stranmillis, I visited Malaysia earlier this term, to induct the new students and begin the teaching on each module for the first cohort on the course. This was a very successful start and the enthusiasm and excitement among the students and staff was palpable.”

Head of the School of Education at Queen’s, Professor Paul Connolly said: “We are delighted to be launching this new international programme. The initiative reflects our strong reputation internationally in teacher education and will contribute to our ambitious plans to further our international work. It’s another example of Queen’s offering a world of opportunities to students and investing in global society.”

Dr Anne Heaslett, Principal of Stranmillis University College said: “Stranmillis University College values the relationship it has built with Tenby Schools over the past seven years and is delighted with the new partnership involving Queen’s University which has led to the development of the PGCE International. We believe this will further strengthen our relationship and opens up the possibilities for further developments.”

For media inquiries please contact Queen’s University Communications Office on 028 9097 3091 or email

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Northern Ireland economy to suffer as a result of higher education cuts

By Professor Patrick Johnston, Vice-Chancellor, Queen’s University Belfast and Professor Richard Barnett, Vice Chancellor, Ulster University

One of Northern Ireland's greatest natural resources is our skilled, talented people. People who are the lifeblood of local and international businesses, the research base and ultimately, our economy.

Higher education contributes £1.5 billion annually to the local economy, and is a key economic driver providing 8,000 high-quality graduates each year who are sought after by investors and indigenous businesses.

The budget agreed by the Executive has imposed one of the biggest cuts on the Department for Employment and Learning and, in consequence, the budget to higher education could potentially be cut by at least 10.8%.

The effects of this cut will be immediate: next September Queen's and Ulster University will accept up to 1,100 fewer students. Most of them are still likely to go to university, but they will be forced to leave for England or Scotland where they will pay tuition fees of £9,000.

Past experience suggests that the majority of our young people who are forced to leave will never return. And the irony is that the Northern Ireland Executive will still have to cover a significant part of the cost of educating these students. In effect, the Executive will be encouraging local talent to leave Northern Ireland whilst subsidising universities in England and Scotland.

The strategic implications for Northern Ireland are worrying.

Over the past twelve months Invest NI has attracted 11,000 new jobs, a significant proportion of which are quality jobs paying well above the NI Private Sector Median.

Everyone who is involved in selling Northern Ireland abroad, and trying to attract inward investment, knows that one of our biggest selling points lies in the quality of our universities and the steady supply of high quality graduates. Reducing the number of graduates will affect the skills base and ultimately have a devastating impact on this region’s investment proposition.

As well as attracting inward investment both universities play a crucial role in supporting local businesses and creating new employment. Queen's and Ulster have run over 550 Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) with local companies, connecting them with university expertise to help grow and develop their businesses. Our local universities have created over 110 spin-out companies, with a combined annual turnover exceeding £310 million, and several thousand high value jobs.

More than this, our university sector is a major economic actor in its own right. Higher Education is an investment, not an expenditure line. Northern Ireland is already under-investing in Higher Education.

Over the past four years both Ulster University and Queen’s University have had to make major efficiency savings as their budget has already been cut by some 18 per cent, including 4 per cent in the current year. If Queen's and Ulster were located in England they would have an additional £45 million per year to spend on students and services. Further cuts just cannot be absorbed. They will have a significant and long term impact.

The devastating impact of cuts on skills levels and FDI is clear. Harder to predict is the consequence of the cuts on our world-class research. From improving survival rates for cancer patients to engineering new materials that aim to revolutionize the global aerospace industry, our universities are at the heart of internationally leading research.

Some of the world’s greatest advances have been pioneered by our universities and Northern Ireland has the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK. The decision to cut the higher education budget places this achievement, and our future, at risk.

We are now entering a period of consultation on the draft budget accepted by the Executive. As we begin the process of how we will manage the damaging consequence of these cuts, we will at the same time urge the Executive to think again, to think of the strategic importance of higher education to our economy, to investment and to the future opportunities for our young people.

In 2011 the Executive faced a similar, stark range of options, and decided to restore a large part of the public investment in higher education. That's part of the reason why we now have the second fastest growing knowledge economy in the UK, and are more successful than ever in attracting jobs and investment to Northern Ireland. We cannot put these achievements at risk.

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Queen’s launches major celebration of the life and legacy of John Stewart Bell

Queen’s University is today leading the celebrations of a landmark in modern science, made 50 years ago by John Stewart Bell, a Queen’s University graduate and Nobel Prize for Physics nominee.

Commemorative events to mark the anniversary of ‘Bell’s Theorem’ include the floodlighting of Belfast City Hall, a groundbreaking exhibition at the Naughton Gallery at Queen’s and the naming of a Belfast building after Bell. There will also be a series of free, public lectures at Queen’s.

Bell’s Theorem, more formally known as ‘On the Einstein-Podolsky-Rosen paradox’, was first published on November 4, 1964 and resolved a decades-old dispute involving Albert Einstein. It ultimately demonstrated that Einstein’s views on quantum mechanics were incorrect. The Theorem also laid the foundation for a fast-developing area of modern physics – quantum information technology – which is having a revolutionary impact on computing and cryptography with particular application in the financial-services and cyber-security industries.

Bell was born into a working-class family in Tates Avenue, Belfast in 1928 and, after failing to secure a scholarship to grammar school, left education at 16 to work as a lab technician at Queen’s. It was there that his talent was noticed and he was encouraged to resume his studies. He was nominated for and widely believed to be a front-runner for the Nobel Prize before his sudden death in 1990. Dubbed one of the top ten physicists of the 20th century by the Institute of Physics, Bell is considered by some scientists to rank alongside Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein.

Professor Tom Millar, Dean of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Queen’s said: “Bell’s story goes to the heart of the Queen’s experience – it’s the story of how world-class education continues to advance knowledge, change lives and impact the world around us. It is great to see the Northern Ireland scientists of today, whose work is inspired by John Bell, leading the UK's national academic centre for internet security at Queen’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies situated in the Northern Ireland Science Park.”

Scientists from Queen’s have joined forces with the Royal Irish Academy, the Northern Ireland Science Park, W5, the Institute of Physics, Belfast City Council, Titanic Quarter and Belfast Metropolitan College to call for November 4 to be known as ‘John Bell Day’ each year. They have also secured the go-ahead to name the building on Belfast’s College Square East that once housed Belfast Metropolitan College – where Bell attended as a teenager – the ‘John S Bell Building’. This is in parallel with an ongoing campaign to have the street that runs around the new campus of Belfast Met, in Titanic Quarter, named ‘Bell’s Theorem Crescent’.

Professor Mary Daly, President of the Royal Irish Academy, said: “The Royal Irish Academy wants John Bell to be the best-known scientist in Northern Ireland and to be acknowledged as one of the most important scientists in the world.”

A ground-breaking exhibition, Action at a Distance: The Life and Legacy of John Stewart Bell previews at the Naughton Gallery in Queen’s University Belfast today before opening to the public tomorrow. It includes photographs, objects and papers relating to Bell’s work alongside videos exploring his science and legacy. The exhibition also includes artistic responses to Bell’s Theorem including one of the most significant, contemporary artworks from Australia – Bell’s Theorem – on show in Europe for the first time. Curator Shan McAnena said: “This exhibition combines both Bell the man and Bell the scientist. Although he was a physicist dealing in highly complex theories of quantum mechanics, Bell was also a philosopher, and we have tried to reflect some of that duality in this show.”

Belfast City Hall will be lit in rainbow colours from midnight-dawn this morning and dusk-midnight this evening while Bell’s image will be projected onto the big screen in City Hall grounds. A series of public lectures at Queen’s and a schools programme at W5 will complement these civic commemorations.

Further details on the Naughton Gallery exhibition, which runs until November 30, and the lecture series can be found at

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office: Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email

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Queen’s University win £2.2 million bid to carry out the largest ever study in to the impact of prostate cancer

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast and the University of Leeds have been granted £2.2 million by the Movember Foundation in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK, to lead a pioneering research project named ‘Life after prostate cancer diagnosis’. Announced as millions of people across the globe start sprouting the annual Movember campaign moustaches, the project will commit up to £2.2 million to identify what life is really like for the 250,000 men living with an beyond the disease in the UK, and what steps can be taken to improve it.

The largest study of its kind in the UK, researchers will analyse the experiences of more than 100,000 men who have been diagnosed with prostate cancer between one and three years ago. They aim to identify how a diagnosis of prostate cancer impacts a man’s daily life, and work out which factors lead to poorer outcomes for some. By highlighting any gaps in support and care services, the results will help shape changes to improve prostate cancer care in the future.

The award has been granted to Dr Anna Gavin at Queen’s University Belfast and Dr Adam Glaser at the University of Leeds, who will be working with other researchers at Oxford Brookes University, the University of Southampton and Public Health England. Dr Anna Gavin is Director of the Northern Ireland Cancer Registry and Clinical Reader in the School of Medicine, Dentistry and Biomedical Sciences at Queen’s University Belfast. An expert in this type of investigative research and data analysis, Dr Gavin comments: “I am excited to be involved in this project which promises to shine a spotlight on what men are really experiencing throughout their journey with prostate cancer, and how they feel about it. Every man invited to take part in this study will have valuable information that they can share, whatever their experience, background or stage of treatment. Maybe even after the cancer is gone, some men have problems dealing with the side effects of treatment and don’t know who to talk to, or are embarrassed about doing so – they may not even know if they’re the only person feeling this way. By responding to this research they will be helping bring those issues into the open so that they can be effectively addressed for years to come. This research continues Queen’s commitment to advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

The ‘Life after prostate cancer diagnosis’ project will build on a pilot study led by the English Department of Health in 2012, which showed significant variation in how men were affected by prostate cancer, the level of impact of the disease on their lives, and how they coped with it. It will take the form of a confidential postal survey sent to men across all four UK nations. Questions will cover topics such as wellbeing and attitude towards their illness, impact of the cancer and its side effects on every day life, reflections on choice of treatment and impact of other long term conditions. The project itself is also part of a much wider global Movember initiative, with similar studies planned so far in Ireland and Australia. All the information will eventually be pooled to enable the teams to learn from men’s experiences across different countries.

Paul Villanti, Director of Programmes at The Movember Foundation said: “Right now we simply do not know enough about how prostate cancer is impacting on the lives of men following their diagnosis and treatment. We urgently need to know more if we are to ensure every man returns to feeling just as well as they did before their prostate cancer diagnosis and for the first time this unique initiative should enable us to discover the answers we need. It is thanks to the thousands of Mo Bros and Mo Sistas who raise funds every year that we are able to launch the project in partnership with Prostate Cancer UK today, and start the road to bringing about real change for the future.”

Dr Sarah Cant, Director of Policy and Strategy at Prostate Cancer UK said: “This exciting study is going to investigate the full range of issues that could affect a man after he’s been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It will also look to see if men of different ages, locations, ethnicities and socio-economic groups have different experiences. We will use the results to make sure all men in the UK can get the support they need, and help men and their doctors make the best decisions about treatment and care. Ultimately, we want to improve the lives of men with prostate cancer, and this research should help us do just that.”

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First ever Belfast Festival of Social Sciences is launched

The first ever Belfast Festival of Social Sciences, which offers a fascinating insight into some of the country's leading social science research, is being launched this week (Saturday 1 November).

The week-long Festival, which is a partnership between Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University and is part-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), includes public debates, conferences, workshops, interactive seminars, film screenings and virtual exhibitions.

The Festival aims to highlight how social science research makes a difference and influences our social, economic and political lives - both now and in the future.  Some of the events include: I’m a psychologist get me out here!, an interactive workshop for 12-15 year olds to look at understanding emotion; Outdoor Scientists, a programme introducing school children to nature; and So you think you know about poverty?, an event to tackle myths around the nature and extent of poverty.

Scott Rutherford, Director of Research and Enterprise at Queen’s University Belfast, said: “At Queen’s we are committed to making a positive impact on society.  This festival serves to illustrate how social science research makes a difference by shaping public policy, making the economy more competitive, as well as giving people a better understanding of 21st century society. This festival allows the public the chance to see and experience how our social science research is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, Director of the Institute for Research in Social Sciences (IRISS) at Ulster University, said: “At Ulster University Social Science forms an integral part of our approach to shaping futures through both teaching and practice. From big ideas to the most detailed observations, social science affects us all everyday – at work, in school, when raising children and within our communities. We are delighted to jointly bring a week of valuable events that is open to everyone to come and discover, discuss and celebrate the diversity and contribution social sciences make in society.”

The festival runs from Saturday 1 November until Saturday 8 November across various locations in Belfast and Derry.

For a full programme of events, visit:

Media inquiries to Queen’s University Communications Office on and 028 9097 3087.

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Queen’s University researchers call for earlier diagnosis of autism

Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have called for earlier diagnosis of autism on the back of increasing evidence that earlier interventions have more positive outcomes.

Professor Karola Dillenburger, from Queen’s School of Education, led a three-year research project which analysed early behaviour interventions in children with autism. The research found that professionals were reluctant to diagnose autism early out of fear of labelling young children with what has traditionally been viewed as a lifelong condition. Many children are put on waiting lists rather than offered early diagnosis.

Professor Dillenburger argues that early behaviour analytic interventions were not only more medically hopeful – arguing that early support can improve quality of life for children with autistic spectrum and their families – but more ethical. Professor Karola Dillenburger from Queen’s School of Education said: “What our research has shown is that autism could – and should – be diagnosed much earlier than is common practice. International evidence shows that early applied behaviour analysis-based interventions are effective and can change the trajectory of autism for a significant majority of children.

“Early diagnosis does not only take advantage of the plasticity of the brain during early development, it is also a prerequisite for social and financial supports for families affected by autism. Our findings were that children with autism and their families were at higher risk of poor mental health, poverty and social exclusion than other families.

“What we also discovered is that the prevalence of autism is higher than previously thought – parents of 3.5 per cent of 11-year-olds were told their child has autism.”

The Queen’s researchers based their findings on a secondary analysis of data collected by the University of London for the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a longitudinal general population survey of 18,522 children born in the UK in the year 2000.

Professor Dillenburger and her team found that by the time these children were three years of age, physical difficulties such as walking on level ground were ten times higher in children later diagnosed with autism than in other children. Speech and language difficulties as well as hearing problems were four times more prevalent for these children. Very early indicators included difficulties at birth and problems with verbal and motor behaviours during the first year of life.

The research also found that behaviour problems were significantly more widespread in these children and the gap widened considerably over time; children with autism were significantly more unhappy with their lives and reluctant to attend school. Behavioural challenges can be addressed and prevented much more easily in younger children, argue the researchers, preventing these poor outcomes.

In conclusion, Professor Dillenburger said: “Our key finding was that children later diagnosed with autism showed early health problems, indicating that early diagnosis is both possible and necessary.”

Nichola Booth of the charity Parents, Education and Autism Therapists NI (PEATNI) welcomed Queen’s findings, saying: “The findings of this research further cement the importance of early diagnosis. When we focus on the individual early we can provide relevant support and design tailored interventions to ensure that individuals with autism and their families can have a better quality of life.”

The full research, which was supported by the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister (OFMDFM) can be read at:  

For more information contact Queen’s University communications officers Una Bradley (Mon-Wed) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5320 or Michelle Cassidy (Thurs-Fri) on 00 44 (0)28 9097 5310 or email

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