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Vice-Chancellor's Update - August 2022

The campus has remained busy over the summer months with preparations ongoing for the new academic year, and the University playing host to a number of events.

Last month, the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics hosted the 2022 European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) biennial conference in Belfast, which attracted 1800 delegates, from 83 countries. Attracting conferences such as this to the City is important, for our reputation both as a University and for Belfast and NI. Congratulations to all those involved in making the conference such a huge success. A few weeks ago, we also held our first Pride Picnic with many staff and students enjoying the wonderful hospitality on offer, superbly organised by our colleagues in Diversity and Inclusion and PRISM, our LGBT+ staff network.

This week sees the publication of A-level results, and so marks an extremely busy period for colleagues in MRCI and Faculties, as they work to provide expert support and advice to all our prospective applicants and offer holders.  My sincere thanks to them, and to all the staff volunteers, who are operating the two Call Centres during the busy Clearing period. Over the course of the past year, I have continued to meet with School Principals and colleagues in Further Education in planning for admissions this year. We have ensured access to a wide range of information for applicants, particularly for those who are not successful in securing their first choice, as they seek to make informed decisions around future options.

The new academic year sees us moving forward with the implementation of Strategy 2030. This brings an annual recurrent investment of £30m, approved by Senate in June, to support delivery. This investment will fund up to 100 new academic posts, grow our international student population, enhance our international reputation and strengthen our professional services.

There have been some changes in the senior leadership team over the summer months. Charles Darley, who has joined us as Interim Registrar and Chief Operating Officer, is taking forward the portfolio of work in Professional Services, working with Directors and the senior leadership team to ensure our structures and functions are optimised to support the delivery of Strategy 2030.  Anne McLaughlin has been appointed Interim Director of Finance and Maria Lee appointed to the role of Interim Director of Academic and Student Affairs. We are currently finalising interim arrangements for MRCI, with Isabel Jennings set to leave the University at the end of August to take up a new role with our partner organisation in Dubai. Scott Rutherford is also taking up a new role in Dubai from the start of September, with Wendy McLoone taking on the Interim Director of Research role and Brian McCaul taking on the Interim Director of Enterprise role, responsible for QUBIS and Innovation.

Pictured at the Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT) are: David Quinn, GII Executive Director; Professor Máire O’Neill, Director of ECIT; Professor Ian Greer, Vice-Chancellor; and Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi.

The Belfast Region City Deal is a major project for our University, Belfast and Northern Ireland, and last week, we had the opportunity to highlight its significance to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Nadhim Zahawi, when he visited ECIT to celebrate Northern Ireland’s exceptionally strong cyber security sector. The Chancellor met with Professor Máire O’Neill, Director of ECIT, and he joined me in a roundtable discussion with senior representatives from the University and the new Global Innovation Institute (GII), one of the three Queen’s-led BRCD innovation projects, with new facilities on course to open in 2025. The expansion of ECIT through the new £58m GII will see more than 550 multi-disciplinary experts on site, building on our core expertise across cyber security, advanced wireless technologies, data science/analytics.

The new term will mark our first academic year since 2019 with no COVID restrictions in place.  We look forward to welcoming our students back to campus, and to delivering an outstanding in-person student experience, whilst building on many of the lessons we learned through the pandemic.  One Elmwood, our new Student Centre and Students’ Union, which opens its doors in a few weeks time, will mark a major development of our student services and the broad student experience. My thanks to colleagues across the University and the Students’ Union in the delivery of this major project, which I know will make a considerable impact on the university experience for our students. Staff will have the opportunity to tour the building during the ‘thank you’ events taking place from Tuesday 6 to Thursday 8 September.  I hope to see as many of you as possible at these events which we are hosting to say thank you for all your efforts over recent months and years. If you haven’t already signed up to attend, you can do so by using the online form.

Professor Ian Greer