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Vice Chancellor addressing the UNESCO event

UNESCO in Northern Ireland

Colloquium at Queen's University

In January, representatives from UNESCO sites and projects across the UK gathered at a reception at Queen’s University to celebrate the work of UNESCO in Northern Ireland and to highlight the region’s two UNESCO Chairs, one of whom is SSESW academic Professor Joanne Hughes.  Joanne, who is also the Director of our Centre for Shared Education, was awarded UNESCO’s first Chair in Globalising a Shared Education Model for Improving Relations in Divided Societies in 2016. 

Through a programme of research and collaboration around shared education with international stakeholders and partner institutions, the objective of this role is to promote intergroup contact and intercultural dialogue in education, thereby contributing to peacebuilding.

Following on from the reception, Queen's hosted a colloquium at its Riddel Hall complex where UNESCO Chairs from across the UK and Ireland, along with colleagues from UNESCO's UK National Commission, explored the UN Sustainable Development Goals and related policy issues.  This colloquium also provided an opportunity for Chairs to exchange best practice and learn about Northern Ireland’s world-leading research on education, peacebuilding and human rights.  The UNESCO colleagues considered the colloquium to be a huge success.  Participants were extremely complimentary about the welcome and facilities they experienced at Queen's University and looked forward to future opportunities to return to Northern Ireland.

For more information email Professor Joanne Hughes or tel +44 (0)28 9097 5934 or see the video at

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studio photograph of Professor Joanne Hughes

conference - peace and beyond

Peacebuilding and Reconciliation

To mark the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Peace Agreement and to encourage new thinking and research in peacebuilding and reconciliation, the British Council ran a conference in Belfast on 10-12 April entitled Peace and Beyond.  Over 200 international delegates attended a programme of events across seven locations in Belfast with input from multiple organisations, a range of themes and numerous international speakers.

Presentations from the Northern Ireland perspective involved individuals who have been prominent in peacebuilding in Northern Ireland and internationally, including Senator George Mitchell and Professor Monica McWilliams.

Professor Joanne Hughes, Director of our Centre for Shared Education, chaired a conference session at Titanic Belfast on the inter-generational impact of conflict.  Her session explored the effects of conflict on a new generation of young people, particularly those born in the years after ceasefire and peace agreements.  Panellists included those who had personal and professional experiences of the conflict in South Africa, Lebanon and Northern Ireland.

Key themes that emerged during the session related to the relationship between disadvantage, marginalisation and the ongoing impact of conflict, and the need to find creative and constructive ways to tackle the negative legacies of the past which are manifest in risk behaviours such as substance abuse and anti-social behaviour, mental health issues, high levels of suicide and ongoing low-level sectarianism.

For more information email Professor Joanne Hughes or tel +44(0)2890975934

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Student-led awareness event

Human Trafficking Awareness Raising

Student-led event | 26 November, 2018

Organised by Zoe Burke (pictured above), level 3 social work student, and supported by Danielle Mackle and Karen Winter, guest speakers from No More Traffik and Barnardo’s Independent Guardian Service worked with a group of students for the day.

Lanyon building at night

Portland Scholars Reunion

1 October, 2018

DfC Summer School Delegates and Speakers

Social Welfare Summer School

11 September, 2018

Front of SSESW building at 69 University Street

making a difference

Connecting Local and Global Expertise

In addition to our wide ranging seminar series, (see SSESW colleagues lead important network activities in their respective fields, contributing to improving practice in local and global arenas.  The following are a sample of just a few events over recent months:

  • Ibrar Bhatt and Tess Maginess welcomed visitors to Queen's University for a fascinating Society for Research into Higher Education event entitled Digital University, Social Justice and the ‘public good’.
  • As the newly elected General Secretary of the International Society for Sociology of Religion, SSESW academic Veronique Altglas hosted their Council meeting at Queen's University, to plan the next international conference in Warsaw in 2019.
  • Our Trauma Research Network hosted a lecture with guest speakers from University College London.  Eamon McCrory presented on 'Childhood maltreatment, latent vulnerability and the shift to preventative psychiatry: Understanding the link between trauma and long-term mental health risk'.  Essi Viding presented on 'Maltreatment and conduct problems: What have we learned?'.
  • Gemma Carney gave a talk to retired workers at an Irish Congress of Trade Unions seminar in Dublin.  Co-authored with SSESW colleague Katy Hayward, ‘What is the impact of Brexit on Older People?’ was compiled under our ARK network’s remit to share social and political information.
  • Stephen Coulter and Suzanne Mooney facilitated a very successful training day with John Burnham for tutors, lecturers, recent alumni and current students in Systemic Psychotherapy, one of the major evidence-supported psychotherapeutic approaches recognised within the public health services.  John Burnham (Parkview Clinic, Birmingham Children’s Hospital) is internationally recognised as the progenitor of some of the most useful practice orientated frameworks for Systemic Practice.  His training course, entitled ‘Problems, Possibilities, Resources, and Restraints Framework for systemic practice’, involved a mixture of didactic teaching, small group work and whole group demonstration.  See for details on Systemic Practice courses.
  • Michael Duffy has been elected to the Board of Trustees for the British Association for Behavioural & Cognitive Psychotherapies, the accrediting body for our Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) programme.  Michael is a specialist in mental health linked to trauma and conflict and the development of evidence-based interventions.  Read more about Michael’s teaching and research at and find about our postgraduate CBT courses at
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SSESW international ambassadors 2017/18

international students

New Ambassador Role

At a Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences event in February, a number of our international students were officially recognised as trained International Student Ambassadors.  They are Mohammad Naji Alyamani (Doctorate of Education: TESOL), Salwa Ahmed Khan Mohamed Akbar (MSc TESOL) and Rui Ma (TESOL), pictured above at the Faculty event.

There are 90 ambassadors across the University.  They are a very enthusiastic group of students who are all very positive about their experiences of studying at Queen’s and living in Northern Ireland. 

Welcoming the ambassadors to their new roles, Aisling O’Boyle, Acting Director of Internationalization noted: ‘We are incredibly fortunate in the School of SSESW to have a very active international student body who, alongside all our students, seek to make a social difference here in Northern Ireland and everywhere.  With their experience and expertise, our new International Student Ambassadors will be able to offer a real insight into life and study at Queen’s.’

The University’s ambassador programme involves working in varied roles to support and promote Queen’s University through activities such as leading campus tours, meeting agents, writing blogs and making videos.  The Student Ambassador role includes access to free professional development courses, networking opportunities for career planning and experiences that help students to develop transferable skills.  For many Student Ambassadors it brings opportunities to represent the international study body at significant University events.

Mohammad, from Saudi Arabia (back row, left), commented on his new role: ‘Being an International Ambassador for Queen’s University Belfast has opened up a lot of opportunities for me, such as being trained professionally and getting to know Queen’s staff members and colleagues from other Schools.  I am confident that such a programme will have a great reflection on both international students and the University in terms of internationalisation and promoting the University all over the globe.’

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Jerusalem principals visit

Shared Education

Jerusalem Principals' Visit to Northern Ireland

SSESW colleagues Tony Gallagher, Gavin Duffy and Gareth Robinson hosted a visit in March of Arab, Jewish and Orthodox Jewish principals from Jerusalem who visited Queen’s University and Northern Ireland schools to learn about the Shared Education model and its practical operation in schools.

Tony, Gavin and Gareth have been working with the Center for Education Technology (CET) in Tel Aviv for five years on school collaboration. During that period a number of school partnerships involving Jewish and Arab schools in Israel have been supported by CET, working with an adapted model of the Shared Education approach developed in Northern Ireland.  

For the past four years the SSESW colleagues have been working collaboratively with the Education Authority in Jerusalem to support school principals from Arab, Jewish and Orthodox Jewish schools who are interested in exploring opportunities for working together.

The visit in March was the third cohort of principals from Jerusalem who have taken part in a week-long visit to Northern Ireland to learn more about the Shared Education model and visit school partnerships to see Shared Education in practice.  They visited primary and post-primary schools in Derry/Londonderry, Limavady, Antrim and Ballynahinch.  They also had a tour of Belfast and of Queen’s University, and heard presentations from our Centre for Shared Education and the Education Authority.  Our Jerusalem visitors say they always draw inspiration from the example provided by principals, teachers and students in Northern Ireland and our local schools, in turn, find inspiration in this international interest in their work.

For more information email Dr Gavin  or tel +44(0)2890975260

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CBA delegates

Disseminating Expertise

CBA colleagues at Paris conference

A large contingent of staff and students from our Centre for Behaviour Analysis (CBA) attended the 9th conference of the Association for Behavior Analysis International in Paris, France.  It was a great opportunity for them to catch up with our significant number of distance learning PhD and MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) international students and to outline the highlights of our courses to new potential students among the 500+ delegates.

Many of the Centre’s presentations and posters focussed on using applied behaviour analytic procedures to support children with autism and their families.  For example, research fellows and doctoral students reported on the use of technology in Ireland to help children with severe intellectual disabilities learn to read and, in Scotland, how to be safe around water.  They reported on methods to get non-verbal children in India to speak for the first time, as well as the application of behaviour analysis in China and a study carried out in Canada on the use of parent training to support toddlers. 

Our MScABA students presented their work on addressing public health concerns in France and on the use of Response Interruption and Redirection to reduce vocal and/or motor stereotypy and to enhance appropriate vocalizations as well as using behaviour analytic principles to toilet train children with autism. In addition, staff took part in a discussion about the use of behaviour analytic processes to support military veterans in the United States, particularly in Alaska, who experienced post-traumatic stress. 

The conference offered a great opportunity to showcase the international nature of the Centre’s research, Master’s courses and PhD programmes, and their continued significant real-life impact across the globe.  

For more information email Professor Karolla Dillenburger or tel +44(0)2890975985

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Drugs and Alcohol Research Network

social impact

Responding to Injecting Drugs Use

An international seminar entitled ‘Responding to Injecting Drug Use Conference – an exploratory conversation’ was organised by our Drug and Alcohol Research Network (DARN), the Extern charity and the Belfast Drugs and Alcohol Coordination Team Connections Service (BDACT). The conference was hosted at Queen’s University in February and was created in response to the rise in injecting drug use occurring in public spaces and facilities in cities, including Belfast.

Featuring leading global experts, the event explored ways in which to manage and respond to the issue of public injecting.  Speakers included Professor Pat O’Hare of Liverpool John Moore’s University and Harm Reduction International (Chair) and Dr Magdalena Harris, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, both of whom have expert understanding and knowledge of the subject of drugs use. 

The keynote speaker was Professor Carl Hart (pictured) of Colombia University in New York.  His research focuses on the behavioural and neuro pharmacological effects of psychoactive drugs.  He is particularly interested in social and psychological factors which influence the self-administration of drugs.  He uses his research as a scientific basis for his worldwide presentations on the importance of decriminalizing drugs. 

Anne Campbell and Kathryn Higgins, co-directors for our Drugs and Alcohol Research Network, are currently working with the Extern Drug and Alcohol Consultancy Service to create a PGDip/Master’s in Substance Use Disorders.  Carl Hart is working with our academic team to create an international perspectives module and will contribute to online teaching as part of the new programme. The programme, which will utilise a blended learning approach, will be available to local national and international candidates who are interested in working with substance use.

For more information email Dr Anne Campbell or tel +44(0)2890975990

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Ian Collen

Staff Profile

Ian Collen

Ian Collen is a Lecturer in Education and convenes our Postgraduate Certificate in Education in Modern Languages.  He is also Director of the Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT), funded by the Department of Education and based at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW).

I remember, aged 12, sitting in Miss Conn’s German class at Lurgan Junior High School and thinking to myself ‘I love languages and this is what I want to do for the rest of my life’. I believe passionately in the value of languages on the school curriculum and the opportunities afforded to young people through exposure to other cultures.

After a Master’s degree in French and German at the University of St Andrew’s in Scotland and a year teaching as a language assistant in Germany, I was appointed to a post as Teaching Fellow at the University of Paris III, Sorbonne Nouvelle.  I taught English language at all levels of the undergraduate degree programme.  Living in the centre of Paris was one of the most formative times of my life.  The wine wasn’t bad either!  I then moved back to Northern Ireland and completed a Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE) at Queen’s University.  I did a Master of Teaching degree at Stranmillis whilst teaching full-time at Ballyclare High School.  I took up my lectureship at the School of SSESW at Queen’s in 2015.

I loved the classroom and people often ask me why I left school teaching.  I don’t see it that way.  I see myself as a school teacher who is interested in research and, through my roles in the School of SSESW, I have a wonderful opportunity to influence policy and practice for modern languages teaching in this part of the world.  Every day is different, from lecturing at Queen’s to visiting student teachers on placement in schools to attending and presenting at international conferences.  My PGCE Modern Languages students are excellent linguists with infectious enthusiasm, a real pleasure to work with, and I know that the future of language teaching is in good hands.

My research and scholarly activity focuses on languages education, teacher identity and early professional development.  I have, to date, received external funding to undertake research in primary to post-primary transition in languages and pupil leadership programmes in schools.

In my spare time I am learning Spanish, I enjoy travelling around Europe and I spend a lot of time entertaining Spencer, my German miniature Schnauzer!

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NICILT event


Celebrating and rewarding language learning

Our Northern Ireland Centre for Information on Language Teaching and Research (NICILT) is funded by the Department of Education to enhance and support language teaching and learning in Northern Ireland. In February NICILT hosted a simulated trade fair for over 120 Key Stage 3 pupils of French.  The event, ‘Francofest’, was the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and entailed pupils from over 30 post-primary schools selling products or marketing a French-speaking town in French to their peers and independent judges. 

The event aimed to increase students’ confidence and motivation for French, highlight the usefulness of language skills in business today and foster closer relationships between schools, higher education and business.  The team from Bangor Academy (pictured) won the top prize for their trade stand which sold crêpes and chocolate cups and stemmed from their study of the poem, ‘Déjeuner du Matin’, by Prévert.

In February and March NICILT organised the Northern Ireland A-level Spanish, German and French Debates which were attended by over 200 pupils from 28 post-primary schools.  These competitions are supported by the Cercle Français de Belfast and the Spanish and German embassies in the UK and are especially designed to support AS and A2 language studies.  Pupils gain enhanced speaking and listening skills in their chosen language as well as social skills and public-speaking experience, which, in turn, improve their employability.

In March NICILT ran a continuing professional development event for principals of 20 post-primary schools.  The event was organised in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut London, the UK-German Connection and the German Embassy, London, and focused on how to support and sustain German in post-primary schools.  Principals gained insight into new initiatives and cross-curricular activities between schools and young people in the UK and Germany that can be introduced into their curricula.

For more information visit the NICILT Facebook page or website

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ICARE award - Alison MacKenzie


Staff Excellence

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW) academic Alison MacKenzie (second left) was the recipient of a surprise award at this year’s Queen’s University Staff Excellence Awards.  The ICARE award (inspired by Queen’s Core Values: Integrity, Connected, Ambition, Respect and Excellence) was awarded to Alison as recognition of her ambassadorial embodiment of these values as a work colleague and as an inspiring leader of and advocate for her students.

Speaking of her award, a very shocked Alison acknowledged the warmth of feeling behind the nominations, adding: 'Words to express my gratitude and sense of humility elude me but I’m very, very honoured, and simply stunned, to receive this award.'

In addition to being Director of our Postgraduate Certificate in Education (PGCE), Alison teaches on our Masters in Inclusion and Special Needs Education, where she applies philosophical approaches to understanding questions of social justice.

Head of the School of SSESW, Professor Carl Bagley, commented on Alison’s award on behalf of School colleagues: ‘I am absolutely delighted that Dr Alison MacKenzie was the recipient of the special ICARE Award at the Staff Excellence Awards.  It is always gratifying when a colleague, who many in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work know to professionally embody Queen's key core values, is given institutional-wide recognition of this kind.’

You can read more about Alison MacKenzie’s teaching, research and publications at

For more information email Dr Alison or tel +44(0)2890975930

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Stormont building

Research Impact

Disability Research Network

The Disability Research Network (DRN) is delighted to be involved in three grant awards in Northern Ireland as part of the DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) programme, a £5 million scheme led by disabled people and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. 

In March, the DRN welcomed Professor Vicki Graf, Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, and Kristin Wright, the California State Director of Special Education. They took part in a round table discussion aimed at sharing knowledge and best practice on education for children with disabilities in both California and Northern Ireland.  In attendance were academics, school representatives, policymakers and representatives from NGOs working in the area.

Bronagh Byrne gave an invited presentation at Stormont Buildings in January, on the implications of the recommendations from UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities following its examination of the UK. Also in attendance was Coomaravel Pyaneandee, Vice Chair of the UN Committee.

Doctoral student David Jackson-Perry presented a paper entitled 'Challenging Behaviour? Autism, Sexuality, and the Mythical Norm' at the 3rd International Disability Studies Conference in Amsterdam.  David is also co-organising a conference at Birmingham University, entitled ‘Intimate Lives? Autism, Sex/uality, Gender and Identity’. 

Disability Research Network

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two post-primary pupils from different schools wearing different school uniforms standing against a brick wall covered in graffitti

Research Impact

Centre for Shared Education

In February, the Centre hosted Dr Dafna Yitzhaki from Tel Aviv University/Kibbutzim College, who is involved in research and development of shared education projects in Israel.  Dr Yitzhaki’s visit provided opportunities to share research and practice from Northern Ireland and Israel, develop future collaborative projects, and visit shared education initiatives in Fermanagh.

In February, Centre Director Joanne Hughes attended a UNESCO event at Queen’s University where UNESCO Chairs from across the UK and Ireland heard about Northern Ireland’s world-leading research on education, peacebuilding and human rights.  See more at UNESCO colloquium article above.

In March, Joanne Hughes was an invited participant at the Salzburg Global Seminar on Climate Change, Conflict, Health and Education.  This event brought together academics, development agencies and philanthropic organisations to consider how to address current priorities for research, policy and communications in these areas.

April saw the final meetings of the ESRC-funded Education in Divided Societies project in Sarajevo and Vukovar.  Led by the Centre for Shared Education, this project involves stakeholders from five countries - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia and Northern Ireland – in sharing learning and developing plans for shared education initiatives in each country.

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researchers round a table with close ups of research publications in education

Research Impact

Centre for Children's Rights

The Centre for Children’s Rights has developed five short videos which provide an introductory overview of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).  The videos, nine minutes in total, are targeted at professionals.  They highlight: what the UNCRC is, and why it matters; where it came from; who rights-holders and duty-bearers are; what the UNCRC says; and how it is made ‘real’.

Laura Lundy was invited by the Taiwanese government to sit on an expert panel that reviewed Taiwan's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Katrina Lloyd, Michelle Templeton, Laura Lundy and Bronagh Byrne presented their work at the 2018 bi-annual conference of the Children´s Rights European Academic Network (CREAN).

Laura Lundy gave an invited presentation at an international conference on ‘Measuring the Effectiveness of Children’s Rights’ in Belgium.

Laura Lundy is now Co-Editor in Chief of the International Journal of Children’s Rights.

We have continued to host a range of engaging speakers: Professor Jonathan Todres, Georgia State University, USA, presented on ‘Human Rights Discourses in Children’s Literature’; Professor Phil Jones, University College London, presented on children’s experiences and perspectives on disadvantage; and Professor Daniel Monk from Birkbeck College, University of London, spoke on the theme of ‘School Dress Codes’.

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Two primary school aged boys playing with toy cars.

Research Impact

Centre for Behaviour Analysis

The annual Seminar Series started with Catherine Storey outlining her work on reading ability for disadvantaged children, using the Headsprout programme.  Ger McCaddock (Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, Dublin) explained how a universal design approach can improve services, access and inclusion across education, government and industry.  Lucie Procházková (Masaryk University, Czech Republic) discussed the importance of employment for persons with disabilities. 

Two MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis students published research from their Master’s theses with their supervisor, Katerina Dounavi.  At the 12th ABAI Autism Conference in Miami, USA, Margaret Kirk presented their study on evidence-based behavioural strategies to improve the feeding habits of children with autism, while Emma Delemere published an article comparing parent-implemented bedtime fading and positive routines to support children with autism who have problematic sleep patterns.

A Multiplier Event took place in Łódz, Poland, organised by the Erasmus+ funded Job Coach for Persons with Disabilities project.  Tracey Steele and Briege McGillian attended on behalf of the Centre and enjoyed a week learning together with other job coaches from France, Netherlands, Poland, and Germany.


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Ruth Leitch

International Collaboration

Norwegian University

School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work academic Ruth Leitch spent time in April on a teaching and research visit to Western Norway University of Applied Sciences (WNUAS).  With 16,000 students, the University is the result of a recent merger of five campuses on the west coast and is one of the largest higher education institutions in Norway.

Ruth holds a part-time Professor II position at WNUAS that involves her making several visits a year where she contributes to Master’s teaching on qualitative research methods and mentors research groups.  She is joined in this endeavour by two other internationally recognised Professor II academics - Professor Anna Sfard (mathematics education: University of Haifa, Israel) and Professor Liora Bresler (music/arts-based research: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, USA).

Together, they are working with colleagues from the Stord campus at WNUAS and Karlstad University, Sweden, on a research application to the Norwegian Research Council that will aim to close the theory-practice gap. 

For more information on Ruth’s areas of teaching and research expertise, see

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ARK logo

ARK surveys

Marking anniversaries

Many anniversaries are being marked in Northern Ireland in 2018, including the 20th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the 50th anniversary of the student protests and civil rights movements.  This year is also significant for ARK, Northern Ireland’s social policy hub co-hosted by the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work at Queen’s University and Ulster University.  ARK is particularly known for its three annual attitudes surveys, providing robust and independent data on public opinion to key social and political issues which feed into policy and public debate.

In 1998, the first Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) survey took place, asking adults about issues such as community relations and politics.  We recognised that children and young people often lack a voice in the decisions directly affecting them, so we launched two further surveys.  The first, Young Life and Times (YLT), was launched in 2003 and explores the lives of 16 year olds.  In 2008, we ran the first Kids' Life and Times (KLT) which asks 10-11 year olds about their opinions.

So 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of NILT, the15th anniversary of YLT and 10 years since the first KLT!  Data from all three surveys are freely and publicly available, providing valuable snapshots of how the lives and attitudes of people of all ages in Northern Ireland have changed over time.

Our website ( provides access to all our survey data, as well as information about events and publications to mark these anniversaries. 

For more information email Dr Paula Devine or tel +44(0)2890973034


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Bronagh Byrne

Staff Profile

Bronagh Byrne

Dr Bronagh Byrne is a Lecturer and Programme Director in Social Policy.  She is also Co-Director of our Centre for Children’s Rights and Co-Chair of the Disability Research Network at Queen’s.  Her research expertise is in the rights of children and young people with disabilities.  She tweets at @BronaghByrneQUB

Academia was never my anticipated career destination.  Following a first degree in Economics at Queen’s University, I decided to pursue a career path in the business arena. However, in light of what seemed like endless job applications and either not being shortlisted when I declared my disability, or being shortlisted when I did not declare, but not being offered the post, I decided it was time for change. While I reject the idea that being deaf makes me different from others, it has undoubtedly been an inextricable part of my journey.

My interest in research emerged during my time as a research assistant with the then Royal National Institute for Deaf People, examining issues such as educational transitions and what deaf people wanted from the Northern Ireland Assembly.  This spurred me to undertake a PhD at Queen’s University exploring the barriers to further and higher education for young deaf people and young people with visual impairments.  I became increasingly passionate about the rights of young people with disabilities and this found a home in the community and voluntary sector where I worked for three years as Research and Policy Officer for Disability Action’s Centre on Human Rights.  Lobbying the UK government to ratify the new United Nations treaty protecting and promoting the rights of people with disabilities, and participating in the first treaty Committee session at the UN in Geneva, was a real turning point in determining the research area I wanted to focus on.

I returned to Queen’s in 2009 as a Research Fellow on Children’s Rights, becoming a lecturer in social policy in 2012.  During this time I consolidated my human rights knowledge base by undertaking a Master’s degree in Human Rights Law.  Social policy is a vibrant, hugely relevant topic that impacts on all of us on a daily basis. This means keeping abreast of the latest policy developments in areas such as education, welfare reform, law, health, and the impact these have on the rights of children and young people and of people with disabilities.  I have carried out research on some of these issues for organisations such as Council of Europe, Unicef, Action on Hearing Loss, and the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People, to name a few, with the aim of making a difference to people’s lives.

Outside of academia I am a trustee of Action Deaf Youth and enjoy immersing myself in Scandinavian crime fiction.

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Parklife outdoor learning

ParkLife Education Programme

Learning Outdoors

Belfast City Council commissioned SSESW academic Karen Kerr to undertake an evaluation of the schools' aspect of its ParkLife education programme.  Karen’s research background is in science education, assessment in science and outdoor learning.  She leads the OPAL (Open Air Laboratories) citizen science project at Queen’s, training teachers to deliver outdoor learning.  Her evaluation of ParkLife identified the programme as 'best in class'. 

ParkLife, run by the Council in conjunction with Ulster Wildlife, is an education programme which uses and promotes parks and open spaces across the city as a resource for outdoor learning.  It encourages children and their families to get outdoors and explore their local parks.  The ParkLife programme has three main elements: schools, Saturday Clubs and community groups.

The study by Karen Kerr found that, as a result of taking part in ParkLife:

  • more children visited their local park more often or took part in a wider range of outdoor activities;
  • more children expressed a closer connection to nature, and a sense of responsibility for the natural environment;
  • an increased number of children showed an interest in environmental sustainability and issues such as littering, animal welfare and pollution; and
  • more children were more positive about their energy levels, and felt that learning outdoors helped them pay better attention in school.

Commenting on the outcome of the evaluation, Karen Kerr said: 'As a result of the positive findings from this evaluation, it is apparent that learning outdoors in local parks through the ParkLife Education Programme is a very positive experience for children across all the primary and secondary outcomes measured'.

For more information email Dr Karen Kerr or tel +44(0)2890975945


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DRILL logo

Disability Research

DRILL Grants Success

The Disability Research Network at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work (SSESW) is delighted to be involved in three grant award successes in Northern Ireland as part of the DRILL (Disability Research on Independent Living and Learning) programme, a £5 million scheme led by people with disabilities and funded by the Big Lottery Fund.

More than £1 million has been awarded to 10 new research and pilot projects across the UK, of which £450,000 has been allocated to three projects in Northern Ireland involving SSESW colleagues.  Each research or pilot project will be led by people with disabilities or long term health conditions.  They will be developing approaches and questions, working alongside academics and policy makers.  The projects involving our colleagues are:

  • The Mental Health Foundation has been awarded £149,657 for their pilot project on supporting people with mental health problems to get involved in physical activity.  They will work in partnership with South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, the Northern Health and Social Care Trust alongside SSESW colleagues Gavin Davidson and Paul Best.
  • The British Deaf Association has been awarded £149,947 and will explore access to justice for deaf people, working in collaboration with SSESW academic lead Bronagh Byrne and with Syracuse University College of Law and Rowan University (both USA).
  • Positive Futures has been awarded £149,997 for their project on supporting people with learning disabilities who have experienced violence.  Positive Futures is working in collaboration with SSESW colleagues Berni Kelly and Rebecca Irvine and with the Public Prosecution Service, Police Service for Northern Ireland (PSNI) and Nexus NI.

Our Disability Research Network is a multi-disciplinary initiative aimed at enhancing collaboration between academics, policymakers, practitioners and community and voluntary sector organisations with an interest in disability studies and research.  It provides unique opportunities for members to share knowledge and disseminate a growing body of disability research, stimulate debate about disability issues and develop collaborative partnerships for future disability research and further development of disability policy and practice.

For more information email Dr Bronagh Byrne or visit the Disability Research Network

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Dr Joe Duffy

Innovative New Book

Social Work Education

SSESW colleague Joe Duffy co-edited a new book entitled Service User Involvement in Social Work Education with a team comprising academics and service user experienced colleagues.  Launched in March this year, this Routledge published book contains a special collection of contributions from Australia, Israel, Italy, Norway, Slovenia, the Republic of Ireland and Sweden, as well as all four nations of the United Kingdom. 

Its chapters offer important examples of how service user involvement has been approached in the international context of social work education.  It is the first time that a collection has been solely dedicated to this particular focus.  Many contributions in the book are jointly written with service users and carers, highlighting the innovative practices which challenge social work academics, students, social workers and managers to think how all can benefit from learning with, and from, service users and carers.   

Service User Involvement in Social Work Education     ISBN-10 0815378300

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Anna Savage, graduate profile

Graduate Profile

Anna Savage

Tell us a little about yourself
I graduated with a BA in Sociology in 2017.  I am currently working for the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency as a Statistical Officer.

Why did you choose this particular programme?
I chose the BA Sociology as I was good at A-Level Sociology.  More importantly, I was totally captivated by the subject and it made me question basic concepts like gender and religion that most people take for granted.  My teachers at Down High School were extremely supportive and encouraged my learning.  I knew I wanted to further my sociological studies and, from a young age, I wanted to study at Queen's University.

What did you enjoy about the course?
Overall the course was interesting and challenging.  I enjoyed the pace of the course.  First year was a more in depth look into concepts I studied for A-Level.  Having this background knowledge helped me to keep up with introductory modules, whilst allowing me to settle into university life and learn the ropes!  I actually enjoyed writing my dissertation and I was proud of myself for having written my own high quality piece of work.  The dissertation also sparked my interest in quantitative research methods, which helped me get the job I am in now.

What was your experience of the facilities at Queen’s University?
Before starting university I expected it to be very different from school, not only as a learning environment but in a support capacity too. I thought pastoral care was not a feature of the university experience, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. My personal tutor provided emotional as well as academic support.

What did you enjoy about the course?
Overall the course was interesting and challenging. I enjoyed the pace of the course. First year was a more in-depth look into concepts I studied for A-Level. Having this background knowledge helped me to keep up with introductory modules, whilst allowing me to settle into university life and learn the ropes! I actually enjoyed writing my dissertation and I was proud of myself for having written my own high quality piece of work. The dissertation also sparked my interest in quantitative research methods, which helped me get the job I am in now.

How did you find the student experience?
This goes out to all prospective students and current students – enjoy the university experience! Join all the clubs, get involved in as much as possible and push yourself to go outside your comfort zone. I was the Vice Chair of the Mind Your Mood mental health campaign at Queen’s, and it felt so good to be making a difference and promoting positive mental health around campus. I only wish I had got involved in more clubs and societies sooner. I used to be a little timid but I gained skills and confidence at university and now I don’t shy away from taking on a new challenge. Make the most out of Queen’s!

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Summer 2018

Lead Article

Enhancing Child-Centred Approaches to Protecting Children

Our Centre for Children’s Rights has been awarded funding from the European Commission to lead a project aimed at enhancing child-centred approaches to victims of violence, and raising children’s understanding of reporting mechanisms and support structures.

Participation for Protection’ (P4P), led by SSESW academic Siobhán McAlister, involves partners from Austria, Belgium, Germany, the Republic of Ireland, Romania and the UK. It adopts a child rights-based approach to developing training and resources for children and young people, and those working with and for them.

Two children and young people’s advisory groups based in Belfast (St Ita’s Primary School and Include Youth) are informing key aspects of the project. This includes: the design of consultation tools for use with children across the partner countries; the information to be provided to children; training resources for professionals; and a multi-media resource for children and young people.

Over two years the project will consult with over 1000 children and young people across the partner countries on the theme ‘what makes good support and service responses?’.

This consultation includes school children and specific groups at risk of violence, or already experiencing violence, including: children in care, children in detention/in conflict with the law, Roma children, children living in high conflict communities, child migrants and refugees, and child victims of domestic violence.

As part of the consultation stage, the P4P project team is looking for two P6 or P7 classes and two year 10 or year 11 classes by the end of May, to help run a survey. If you can help, please contact Siobhán McAlister.

For more information contact
Email Dr Siobhán McAlister  tel +44 (0)2890975918 or visit the project website.

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international summer school students 2017


New International Summer School

The School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work is hosting a brand new International Summer School: Education for Transformation.  It is one of only three distinctively tailored programmes running for four weeks this summer at Queen’s, designed to inspire students from around the world to view learning as a catalyst for transformation.

Drawing on experiences and research within Northern Ireland, the UK and from around the world, our academics will provide students with a unique opportunity to study a society emerging from conflict and a chance to learn about its many distinct school sectors, including faith schools, Irish language schools, religiously integrated schools and schools involved in the internationally renowned Shared Education Programme.

Over four weeks students will attend lectures on Education through Evidence and Social Innovation, Education Studies and Leadership and will participate in sessions on Curriculum in Divided and Conflict-Affected Societies.

Having welcomed students from around the world to previous summers schools at Queen’s, Claire McLoughlin, International Summer Schools and Study Abroad Coordinator, is looking forward to the new Education for Transformation Summer School and the positive impact it can have on students:

‘Never underestimate the power of a summer abroad experience to light a fire of inspiration.  The highlight for me is seeing the personal development of our students over the four weeks and also seeing their delight at the opportunity to apply their learning in the classroom, outside the classroom, with a range of historical and cultural field trips.’

The Education for Transformation International Summer School runs from 25 June-20 July 2018. 

For more information contact    

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Diana Jones Prize winners with Dr Anne Campbell

Congratulations to all our Winter Graduates and Prize winners

Winter Graduation 2017 | 14 December, 2017

RCT Book Cover 1600x747

Researchers Share RCT Expertise with Launch of Major New Textbook

27 July, 2017

A major new research methodology textbook has been launched this week, based upon the expertise of researchers within the School and the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI).

Queen's Q-Step banner sowing coloured bar chart on grey background

Q-STEP Bursary

Postgraduate Funding | 12 June, 2017

The Queen’s Q-Step Centre is offering a number of fees-only bursaries for full-time students undertaking the MRes in Social Science Research in 2017/8.

photograph of Oscar Bladas Marti Queen's University),Daniel Tackage (Queen's University),two international applicants, and Prof James McElnay (Queen's University)

TESOL Academic Visits South East Asia

International News | 25 January, 2016



17 February, 2017

The Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (CESI) is to partner with UNICEF, Yale, Harvard and New York University in leading a new global research network.

Lanyon Building at Queen's University Belfast

Leadership Excellence Award

8 February, 2017

photograph of exterior of Parliament, London.

Sociology academic gives evidence to NI Affairs Committee on effects of Brexit

30 November, 2016

Dr Katy Hayward gives evidence to Westminster committee on the effects of Brexit on Northern Ireland

World-Map_Global Collaborations_Banner

Shared Education update

9 November, 2016

two young boys playing with cars

Part-Time Teaching Fellow in Applied Behaviour Analysis

Job Opportunity | 10 November, 2016

The School is seeking to appoint two Part-Time Teaching Fellows who will contribute to the delivery of a high quality Master's programme in Applied Behaviour Analysis between January and September 2017.

Dr Bronagh Byrne - Education awards winner 2016

Queen’s Students’ Union Education Awards 2016

9 May, 2016

Dr Bronagh Byrne was delighted to receive the Most Involved Teaching Staff Award at the Student’s Union Education Awards. Bronagh was commended for her work in supporting students with disabilities in the School.

Portrait Paul Connolly 1600x747

Professor Joins Prestigious National Panel to Review Educational Research

14 September, 2016

Professor Paul Connolly, Director of the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation, has joined the joint Royal Society-British Academy Working Group on educational research.

photograph of Professor Tony Gallagher taken in the Quadrangle, Queen's University

New book by Professor Tony Gallagher

Book Published | 1 February, 2016

photograph of some of the delegates who attended a BERA event at Queen's University.

BERA poverty and attainment nexus event

Research News | 10 March, 2016

photograph of the School of Education building at 69 University Street

PGCE students raise huge sum for charity at their formal

Student Fundraising | 24 March, 2016

photograph of four primary school aged girls holding signs with the words 'We' 'Are' 'All' 'Equal' written on them.

Children's participation in budgeting processes

RESEARCH NEWS | 15 April, 2016

group photograph of students and Queen's University, Stranmillis University College and Tenby Schools staff at the PGCE certificate presentation ceremony in Malaysia in September 2015.

PGCE International Students Graduate in Malaysia

International News | 25 January, 2016