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Vice-Chancellor's Update - December 2018

Queen’s Graduations took place last week with almost 2,000 students graduating over the course of two days and five ceremonies.

Joining them were our Honorary Graduates: Rev Fr Gary Donegan, who was recognised for his outstanding contribution to peacebuilding and community work in North Belfast; Professor Dame Janet Beer, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and current President of Universities UK, who was recognised for distinction in education; Dr Owen Brennan, Executive Chairman of the Devenish Group, honoured for services to business and commerce; and former Chief Executive of Belfast Harbour Commissioners, Roy Adair CBE, who was also recognised for services to business and commerce.

This was my first Winter Graduation as Vice-Chancellor and like all the events I have attended at Queen’s, I was struck by the excellence of the occasion.  I know that this reflects the sheer amount of teamwork, professionalism and effort that goes into organising an event of this scale.  It was organised to perfection, which I know is a hallmark of Queen’s.  I would like to sincerely thank all those staff who ensured that Graduation was such an outstanding success.

Our new graduates have joined the ever growing number of Queen’s alumni who are making an impact across the world. Our biggest alumni network outside the UK and Ireland is in China where we currently have about 2,000 graduates. During my recent visit to China, I had the pleasure of launching a China Alumni Association Group at another really successful Queen’s event in Shenzhen which was attended by over 160 of our alumni and some of the University’s key partners such as Shenzhen University, Guangdong University of Finance and Shandong Yingcai University as well as some key agents and industry links, including Invest NI.

 

This was my first visit to China as Vice-Chancellor and as well as launching the new Alumni Group, I met the Presidents of the E9 Excellence League of top engineering universities at their conference in Nanjing. In Shenyang I hosted an event for our staff involved in the China Medical University – Queen’s University of Belfast Joint College (CQC). I have spent the past few months engaging with as many staff as possible, so it was great to be able to meet CQC staff to recognise their ongoing commitment to this important strategic initiative and to personally thank them for their work and contribution towards the success of CQC. I was impressed not only by their commitment but also by the high level of attainment of their first cohort of undergraduates, some of whom are pursuing postgraduate programmes here in Queen’s and also with other leading Russell Group Universities.

Following my return from China, I welcomed Prime Minister Theresa May to Queen’s for a community event and roundtable discussion on Brexit attended by students, academics, business leaders and community and religious representatives. It was particularly relevant for these discussions to take place at our University, given our significant impact on the local and national economy and the leadership role our academics have played in informing the Brexit Debate.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have had the opportunity to celebrate the achievements and successes of staff.  The recent Vice-Chancellor’s Research Prizes recognised the quality and diversity of research taking place at Queen’s, but, more importantly, they celebrated the individuals who spearhead this research.  My congratulations to all the winners and those who were shortlisted for this year’s awards. 

Creating a positive culture that celebrates and rewards achievement is a key priority for our University. The professorial gender pay gap has been an issue for us for a while. In June 2017, Senate approved a set of actions with the objective of reducing the gap to below 10%. I am pleased to confirm that we have now exceeded this target and will keep it under regular review. 

Last month, we learned of the death of one of Northern Ireland’s most eminent scientists in early November.  Professor James Stirling had recently retired as Provost of Imperial College London - he was one of the most outstanding particle physicist and academics of his generation and one of the few people from Northern Ireland to become a Fellow of the Royal Society (FRS).  A link to Professor Stirling’s obituary can be accessed here. Following my appointment early in 2018 Professor Stirling was personally very supportive.  I know that he was very interested in our achievements and progress here at Queen’s. 

As we approach the end of 2018, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your hard work during the year. Wishing you all a relaxing Christmas break and best wishes for 2019.