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Vice-Chancellor's Update - January 2020

The New Year started with the announcement that Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton is our new Chancellor.

This is a significant appointment not just for Queen’s, but for Northern Ireland and we are delighted that Secretary Clinton has accepted the position.  It is important that our University has a Chancellor that reflects our global impact and ambitions and Hillary Clinton is undoubtedly someone whose international standing and experience can really deliver that impact for us across the world. The announcement of her appointment has received a significant amount of media coverage, particularly in the US where the news attracted over 240 pieces of coverage.  The University has also received a very large number of congratulatory communications from our partners across the globe.

The Chancellor role is ceremonial, but also has an ambassadorial element. We hope Secretary Clinton can help us develop relationships around the world, not just with other universities, but with governments and industry. Our new Chancellor will be officially installed later this year and we look forward to working with her over the next five years as the University continues to pursue its strategic ambitions.

As well as the new Chancellor, just before Christmas, Senate approved the appointment of our new Pro-Chancellor, Dr Len O’Hagan.   A leading business figure and honorary graduate of Queen’s, Len has extensive national and international experience in both the private and public sectors and we are delighted that he has joined our existing Pro-Chancellors Stephen Prenter and Dr Stephen Kingon.  We wish him much continued success in his new role.

During 2020, the terms of office for two of our Faculty Pro-Vice-Chancellors – Professor Mark Price and Professor Adrienne Scullion – will be coming to an end. We are now in the process of taking forward the recruitment of these key leadership positions for both Faculties. I would like to place on record my thanks to Mark and Adrienne for their valued leadership of the Faculties, and their commitment to Queen’s over these past number of years.

In my last Update, I mentioned that I would be undertaking a series of School and Directorate visits as we continue to develop our new Strategic Plan.  I held my first visit last week to the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics. We enjoyed the opportunity to explore and discuss some of the key themes and issues that have emerged from the all-staff sessions held before Christmas. It was a very valuable and useful meeting. A consistent theme emerging from staff feedback is around civic responsibility and sustainability, which aligned well with our discussion at HAPP, where there is significant expertise and experience of sustainability issues. 

As a University, we are committed to playing a leading role on sustainability in the Region. Just a couple of weeks ago, we launched, in partnership with Belfast City Council, the Climate Change Commission to drive action on climate change. The Commission, which is one of three city-based climate commissions across the UK,  will play a key role in place-based climate action necessary to achieve the UK Government’s target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2050. Co-chaired by Professor John Barry, Professor of Green Political Economy at Queen’s and by Grainia Long, Commissioner for Resilience, the Commission is made up of members of a range of organisations from across Belfast. The work of the Commission is supported by Dr Amanda Slevin, PCAN Policy Fellow at Queen’s who chairs the Community Climate Action working group.

Sustainability is also a key strand of the New Decade, New Approach Deal which was endorsed by our political parties as the basis for restoring the Executive. The University welcomes the extensive and well-balanced proposals outlined in the Deal and has submitted a response to the Northern Ireland Office. We look forward to working with all partners to use this as the basis for developing the Programme for Government, which will deliver for all of our people.

In recent weeks we have also launched an exciting new initiative at the University to support the next generation of research leaders. The Queen’s Fellowship Academy aims to support Fellows in reviewing, planning and undertaking their professional and career development activities.  It will include a Fellows Network and a bespoke mentoring programme.  Fellows will also be supported through individual guidance from their Schools, leading academics and professional support services. We were delighted that Professor Andy Hopper, Vice-President of the Royal Society and a good friend to Queen’s, was able to attend the launch event as well as Dr Jennifer Anderson from the Medical Research Council. We look forward to seeing the Academy develop and hearing about the many successes of our Fellows.