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Vice-Chancellor's Update - September 2019

The start of the new academic year is always an exciting time for our new and returning students.

This year is particularly exciting with the news that our application for planning approval for our new Student Centre, including a new Students' Union facility, was successful after proceeding very smoothly through the planning process.  The expertise of our estates team was a key factor in this. Last week, Belfast City Council Planning Committee endorsed the decision of planning officers to approve our planning application to demolish the Students’ Union building on University Road / Elmwood Avenue and construct the new Student Centre and Students’ Union.  The planning decision notice is expected to be issued next month, which will allow us to begin planning the preparatory works required to facilitate the demolition of the SU building, early next year.

The new facility is due to be completed in 2022 and will provide Queen’s students with a wide range of student facing University services, currently delivered in the Student Guidance Centre, as well as an enhanced Students’ Union, which underlines our commitment to student support and development. We are bringing together this range of student services to improve accessibility and student interaction in the heart of the Campus.  

Supporting and developing our students will remain a key priority and the new facility will provide further opportunities for students to engage with and benefit from professional support services including Careers and Employability, Student Counselling, Student Registry Services, International Student Support, as well as representation, advice, student volunteering and entrepreneurship services.  The new building will include vibrant social and commercial spaces such as the SU shop, the SU Bar, a Mandela Hall entertainment venue, and state of the art facilities for our clubs and societies.  For more information and to view visuals on the new Student Centre and Students’ Union, please visit 

As the academic year gets underway, we are also starting to plan for the development of our new Strategic Plan. While our existing strategy and Plan remain relevant, their context has been changed by developments such as the Belfast Region City Deal and the possible consequences of Brexit. Our new Strategic Plan needs to reflect these changing factors as well as new opportunities and challenges.

The development of our new Plan will take place over the course of the academic year and I would like all staff to be involved in the process. Building on my School and Directorate visits from last year, I intend to hold a number of all-staff sessions with each Faculty and Professional Services before the end of 2019. These sessions will be an opportunity for me to share my reflections of my first year at Queen’s and to outline the development of the Plan.  I will email you when the dates have been confirmed and look forward to seeing as many of you at these sessions as possible.

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet with some of our technical staff at the University’s first Technician Showcase in the Ashby Building and School of Biological Sciences.  Part of our ongoing support of the Technicians Commitment, the aim of the event was to increase the visibility of our technicians and their work, both across the technical community and to the academic community. There is tremendous work taking place as part of the Technicians Commitment and my congratulations and thanks to all those involved.

I would also like to thank staff who organised and participated in the recent Open Days which were attended by over 13,000 students from across Northern Ireland and GB. A significant amount of work goes into the planning and delivery of an event of that scale, so my congratulations to all those who made it such a success. I would also like to recognise the real team effort that went into admissions and clearing over the summer and to thank everyone involved for their vital contribution.

In recent weeks, I had the pleasure of welcoming the President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins, to announce the Ireland Chair of Poetry for 2019-22 who is Queen’s graduate Frank Ormsby. The Ireland Chair of Poetry Trust was set up in 1998 to mark the award of the Nobel Prize of Literature to Queen’s alumni and former staff member Seamus Heaney and to celebrate the exceptional contribution of Irish poets to the world of literature. Jointly held between Queen’s, Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Arts Council, it is a great example of collaboration and highlights the importance of relationships in the literary heritage of this island.  Ireland boasts a rich and expansive literary heritage and I am proud of the role that Queen’s has played in this. At the end of October, we will be showcasing some of the literary talent and work of the University's Seamus Heaney Centre at an event in New York which I look forward to including details of in next month's Update.

Professor Ian Greer