Northern Ireland news

Queen's University's £50 million plan to become ‘global leader'

Queen's University Belfast vice-chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston

QUEEN'S University Belfast has unveiled details of a £50 million investment it hopes will secure its position as a "global leader in education and research".

The university senate agreed this week to approve a controversial `size and shape' review that will see schools merged and entry grades for courses increased.

Academics are critical of much the plan which, they fear, will see some single honours courses come to an end and degrees put beyond the reach of many local students.

Since September last year, the university has been making cuts to degree places and staff.

Academic staff are also angry at "unreasonable and crude" revenue targets that demand some senior staff raise £100,000 for research. They also claim the university is putting research ahead of teaching.

Queen's said the approval of the size and shape review included investment that signalled "a major step change in growth and direction".

The investment will be rolled out over the next five years. The university said it would help "drive the future economic growth of Northern Ireland, and impact on global society, despite significant budget cuts to the higher education sector locally".

Key elements include a recruitment drive for 170 high-calibre academics and the creation of flagship `global research institutes' in the areas of global peace, security and justice, cyber security, health sciences and food safety.

New maths and software academies will also be created to meet the demands of industry.

The size and shape review was informed by the aims of `Vision 2020' to create a world class international university.

Three priority areas for growth have been identified - increasing research income from £55m to £110m, raising the percentage of postgraduates from 23 per cent to 30 per cent, and increasing the proportion of international students from 8 per cent to 20 per cent.

Queen's vice-chancellor Prof Patrick Johnston said the unanimous approval of the review allowed the university to drive forward, with conviction, "a series of game-changing contributions to current and emerging global challenges that will have a profound and beneficial impact on society".

"This is a major investment which will impact positively upon everyone in Northern Ireland, from how our healthcare is delivered to how our economy is performing.

"It underpins our ambitious aspirations to drive quality, and to grow our already internationally recognised research excellence.

"It will create a world class environment for our staff and students, who are already distinguished by their academic strengths, and recognised globally for their social, economic, educational and cultural impact, enabling them to continue to make their positive mark on the world."

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