Update from the Vice-Chancellor
This is the first of my regular updates aimed at keeping you informed about the latest news from my office and key issues for the University.
Over the past couple of months, I have enjoyed meeting with staff, students and stakeholders. I believe that it is important for me, and all members of the University Executive Board (UEB), to engage with staff and students. So as well as following up with more School and Directorate visits, I will also be setting up a series of regular lunchtime discussion meetings between UEB and different groups of staff. Our Open Days earlier this month gave me the chance to meet prospective students, and now that term has started, I am looking forward to further engagement with our current student body, including regular meetings with the SU Executive team.
Since I joined Queen's in August, I have also been engaging with stakeholders across Northern Ireland, including colleagues in Ulster University. In the first collaboration of its kind between our two universities, Queen's Graduate School and the Doctoral College at Ulster University recently co-hosted an interdisciplinary event involving doctoral researchers.
Our two universities also announced our commitment to work together to support innovation and drive economic growth as part of the Belfast Region City Deal. The City Deal is a once in a lifetime opportunity to press the ‘fast forward’ button on our economic development and, together, we have developed integrated projects in the Digital, Creative Industries, Advanced Manufacturing and Health sectors. These projects, currently costed at several hundred million pounds form the majority of the innovation component of the City Deal, which can bring up to £1bn of investment into the city region economy. We have just finalised our project bids for submission to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. We expect to hear the outcome in November in relation to the next steps when projects that proceed will be refined and further developed following assessment and feedback from Government.
Last week, I had the opportunity to meet with some of our international partners when I visited Dubai, Jordan and India over six days. Queen’s has been in a highly successful strategic partnership with the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences (MBRU) for the past three years, so I was delighted to be able to get to know their leadership team, who are passionate about the education of their students, and to deliver the 2018 ‘White Coat’ Ceremony opening address during my first international experience as Vice-Chancellor. I also delivered the plenary opening lecture of an international conference on Disruptive Innovation in Healthcare which MBRU were hosting. There were some fascinating presentations from the application of blockchain technology to healthcare to new models of value based care enabled by digital innovation. The University has been developing further opportunities for education and research collaborations with MBRU, I will update you on these as they progress.
In Jordan, we engaged with several University partners, including University of Petra and The Hashemite University, who have impressive facilities and an outstanding position on sustainability, being self-sufficient in electricity through their own solar energy facilities. Both universities have staff who are Queen’s graduates. We are exploring opportunities to enhance our collaborations in Jordan through joint research programmes and specific undergraduate and postgraduate student recruitment initiatives. We were able to meet with the Prime Minister and the Education Minister of Jordan, amongst other leaders, to discuss opportunities for the University to impact on their economy through research, innovation, education and skills. James McElnay and I appeared on the TV show, Good Morning Jordan to discuss the longstanding collaborations with Jordan and the opportunities for the future.
In India, our delegation explored opportunities for international student recruitment. This is an important objective for the University. We have made substantial progress in India, albeit from a low base, however, we believe that there is much potential for greater success. I also attended a Queen’s alumni and stakeholder event in Delhi, where the strong support for and standing of Queen’s in India was remarkable.
In news from UEB, I am delighted to announce the appointment of Professor Stuart Elborn as Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Medicine, Health and Life Sciences. Stuart will take over from Professor Chris Elliott who has held the post since 2015. Chris will remain in the Faculty to develop his exciting research agenda with major new local and international opportunities. Further details on Stuart’s appointment are available here.
Finally, as many of you will be aware, UCU at Queen’s are currently balloting members on potential industrial action in relation to the pay awards. We fully understand why staff would consider industrial action, but are hopeful that the issue can be resolved and industrial action avoided. I will keep you informed of developments.