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Strategic Advisory Group



Professor Janice Carruthers (Chair)
QUB Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Janice Carruthers is Dean of Research in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. She is Professor of French Linguistics and works on language variation and change in French, the structure of oral French and on language policy in France, the UK and Ireland.  

From 2017-2021 she was Priority Area Leadership Fellow for Modern Languages with the Arts and Humanities Research Council, a role which involved working with RCUK, policy makers, communities and the languages sector around the UK. She recently led the Queen’s strand of the MEITS project on Multilingualism, with partners in Cambridge, Edinburgh and Nottingham (, as well as a Marie Curie Horizon 2020 project on French and Occitan.  

Kara Bailie
QUB Strategic Programmes

Kara has 15 years’ experience in senior leadership in higher education, working in a diverse range of roles including quality assurance, space management, student wellbeing and postgraduate student experience, across HE institutions in England and Northern Ireland. She is a Fellow of the Chartered Management Institute and Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy. Engagement with community, business and health has been a constant theme to her work, building partnerships to enhance outcomes. Her interests include social innovation, developing collaborative and innovative environments and skills development that drives new ways of working.

Since November 2021 she has been the Deputy Director for the £200m innovation programme being delivered by Queen’s as part of the Belfast Region City Deal.

Aileen Cummins
Queen's Public Engagement

Aileen Cummins has been a member of the Public Engagement Office at Queen’s University since December 2016.  She is the Community Impact Officer, responsible for promoting the work, research and values of the University to the community, voluntary and political sectors.  Aileen has previously worked as Queen’s University Public Affairs Manager.

Aileen is the former Head of Community Development at Ulster GAA with responsibility for Community Development, Club and Volunteer Development.  She previously served as Community, Health and Wellbeing Manager during her 11 years at the sporting body.  

Aileen is a qualified teacher with three years teaching experience gained before leaving the profession.

James Dillon
QUB Research Policy

James Dillon is the Senior Research Impact and Engagement Manager at Queen’s University. James's role, and that of his team, is to provide support for researchers in identifying potential engagement opportunities with external, non-academic partners, developing clear evidence for the impact of Queen’s research on society, and supporting public engagement and communication in relation to the University’s research impact and engagement agenda.  

James has held a number of communications and public engagement roles posts prior to joining Queen's, working within and with government departments and political leaders in Northern Ireland. He has experience working with multiple international Non-Governmental Organisations, assisting academic research groups working on education and conflict around the world to communicate with various state and non-state actors. 

Kevin Fearon
QUB Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences

Kevin Fearon is the Business Alliance Manager for the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences Faculty at Queen’s University Belfast. Kevin supports research and academic staff with funding and engagement opportunities involving external partners and also manages the Queen’s Policy Engagement initiative.


Prior to joining Queen’s, Kevin managed a number of EU funded projects such as the Honeycomb Programme at Dundalk Institute of Technology and the International Network on Peace Building with Young Children at Early Years – the organisation for young children.



As a language graduate from Queen’s, Kevin speaks Irish and Spanish and began his career working in the European Commission, both in Brussels and Belfast.

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Prof Tony Gallagher outdoor portrait, at Markets
Professor Tony Gallagher
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Tony Gallagher is Professor of Education and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences.

Between 2005 and 2010 he was Head of the School of Education and between 2010 and 2015 he was Pro-Vice Chancellor for Academic Planning and External Affairs.

His main research interests lie in the role of education in divided societies, collaborative school networks, and in the democratic and civic role of higher education. He has worked on education issues in a large number of divided societies and currently has projects in Israel, Lebanon, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Cyprus, and the cities of Los Angeles and Jerusalem.

He is a member of various working groups of the Council of Europe; a Deputy Board Member of the European Wergeland Centre, Oslo; a member of the Steering Group of the International Consortium for Higher Education, Civic Responsibility and Democracy; and a Board Member of the Maze Long Kesh Development Corporation; Fighting Words NI; and the Wave Trauma Centre.

Andrew Grounds outdoor portrait at Markets
Dr Andrew Grounds
School of Natural and Built Environment

Andrew Grounds is a Senior Research Fellow with an established track record for delivering high impact research in areas that include urban regeneration, social economics and finance, peace-building and community planning.

To date he has completed a series of University collaborations and community action research projects with a host of partners that include The Executive Office, The Strategic Investment Board, the Department for Economy and Innovate UK. At the Innovate UK KTP awards 2020 he was nominated as a national finalist in the Future Innovator category.

Prof Kathy Higgins outdoor portrait, at Markets
Professor Kathryn Higgins
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work; Programme Director

Professor Kathryn Higgins (PhD) is a Professor of Social Science and Health at Queen's. She has published widely in the areas of adolescent development as well as programme evaluation/implementation science and methodological innovation. She is an experienced research leader having directed two multi-disciplinary research centres at Queen's - the Institute of Childcare Research (2007-2019) and the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation (2019-2021).

Her recent appointment as Director of Queen’s Communities and Place consolidates her extensive experience in leading research consortiums around community health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations, particularly children and young people.

She has attracted funding from prestigious sources such as the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Northern Ireland Public Health Agency (PHA) and the Northern Ireland Executive and individual Ministerial Departments of the Executive. She has led the longitudinal Belfast Youth Development Study (BYDS) over the past two decades, tracking the development of young people’s substance use, alongside mental health, educational outcomes, family and peer relationships and criminal behaviour.

She is a member of several policy advisory committees such as the North South Advisory Committee on alcohol and is currently appointed as co-opted member of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) Young People’s Recovery Committee advising on young people’s drug use and treatment across the UK.

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Professor Ruth Hunter
QUB Centre for Public Health

Professor Ruth Hunter, Professor of Public and Planetary Health, Centre for Public Health, Queen’s University Belfast. Ruth is particularly interested in research at the intersection of public health and planetary health, and in particular exploring the co-benefits of urban environment-based interventions.

Her work involves using a range of approaches including natural experiments, systems-thinking and complexity science. 


She leads the ESRC SPACE project ( and UKPRP GroundsWell Consortium ( which work at the intersection of public and planetary health re: the urban environment and NCD prevention.

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Dr Emma Loudon
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Emma Loudon is a research fellow in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work. She recently completed her PhD on the experience of families living with parental mental illness. Her key research interests include mental illness and wellbeing and innovative methodologies for participatory research with children, young people, families, and communities. She has a particular interest in conceptual frameworks addressing multiple perspectives. 

Emma has also engaged in teaching in SSESW and the School of Nursing and Midwifery focusing on the complexity of mental illness over the lifespan and the impact on families and carers. 

Emma is currently working on the CLIP study with our partners in Children’s Neighbourhood Scotland. 

Nikki McKnight outdoor portrait, at Markets
Niki McKnight
Programme Manager, Queen's Communities and Place

Niki McKnight has worked in various administrative roles in Queen’s University since 2008. Notably, Niki worked in the Sharing Education Project at QUB from 2011-2015. From 2017-2021 she was Centre Manager in the Centre for Evidence and Social Innovation overseeing the operational function of the Centre along with business development.

She is currently the Programme Manager for Queen’s Communities and Place and led the inception and development of the Community Engagement Charter at Queen’s University.

Gavin McWilliams
Queen's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT)

Gavin McWilliams is the Multidisciplinary Programmes Director of the ECIT Institute.  He leads the Institute's drive towards collaborative research and engagement with other QUB schools and institutes.  As part of the Belfast Region City Deal, ECIT will transition to a 'Global Innovation Centre' focussed on delivering digital innovations for a range of strategic challenges across the One Health continuum.

Gavin has 25 years of commercial R&D experience and software product development gained in BT Labs, Nortel Labs, Openwave Systems and a local technology start-up Mobile Cohesion.  He joined ECIT's cybersecurity centre in 2009 where he managed the engineering team, drawing through raw research ideas into proof-of-concept technology demonstrators.  He initiated and co-ordinated a series of EU research projects with mixed consortia made up of academic and industrial partners.

Professor Brendan Murtagh portrait
Professor Brendan Murtagh
School of Natural and Built Environment

Brendan Murtagh is a Professor of Urban Planning and chartered town planner who has researched and written widely on social economics, contested cities and urban regeneration, including his recent book on Social Economics and the Solidarity City (Routledge, 2019).

His current research projects include commercialising the social enterprise sector (Innovate UK 2019-); the social economy after peace (Swedish Research Council, with the University of Uppsala 2020-); Marine Coastal Heritage (EU Horizon 2020 led by Dr Wesley Flannery 2018-); and Car Dependency and Public Health (Medical Research Council led by Dr Ruth Hunter 2020-).

Brendan chairs the EPS Faculty Research Ethics Committee and sits on the university’s Research Governance and Integrity Committee as well as a number of external advisory committees and boards.

Dr Gareth Robinson
School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work

Gareth Robinson is a researcher at the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work whose primary focus is the transformative potential of education in divided societies. He is a member of the Centre for Shared Education and has been involved in supporting interschool collaboration, both locally and internationally, for a number of years. His portfolio of research explores the relational structures that support teacher collaboration, how teachers navigate challenges in contexts of conflict and division, systemic and organisational change, and school improvement.

His academic contributions are framed by relational sociology and his interests include school networks, complexity theory, systems thinking, and social network theory.

Dr Ian Shuttleworth
Lecturer, School of Natural and Built Environment

Ian Shuttleworth is a population geographer with research interests in migration, spatial mobility, urban form, and inequalities. He has published widely in these areas and has a track record of using official data, mobile phone records, and quantitative methods to research them.  He has a history of research leadership and facilitation as director of the ESRC-funded Northern Ireland Longitudinal Study Research Support Unit (NILS-RSU), and supervising through his career 15 post-graduate research students and post-doctoral research fellows in total. 

Since starting at QUB he has attracted research funding of over £4 million from UK research councils and government. He has also served on ESRC research commissioning panels and is an experienced reviewer for UK and international research councils.  Shuttleworth currently advises UK statistical agencies on the develop and use of the Census and other official data. In this work strand, and under his NILS remit, he is interested in democratising and widening the use of official data and using them to solve problems. 

Alistair Stewart outdoor portrait
Alistair Stewart
Queen's Public Engagement

Alistair Stewart is Head of Public Engagement at Queen's University.

The Public Engagement team implement the University’s Social Charter, which commits Queen's to:

  • Providing leadership locally and globally
  • Promoting a positive impact on society through our research and education
  • Pursuing equality and social justice