UNIVERSITY and college academics are to be honoured for their outstanding work in both IT and shared education.
Representatives from Belfast Metropolitan College and Queen's University Belfast will this week receive the Queen's Anniversary Prize.
Open to all institutions in Britain and Northern Ireland, the award recognises excellence, innovation and public benefit in work carried out by colleges and universities.
This is the first time Belfast Met has received the prize, and the seventh time for Queen's.
Belfast Met will be honoured for developing its digital IT curriculum in Northern Ireland while Queen's award is in recognition of its work on shared education.
The two institutions recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), formally committing to greater cooperation and collaboration.
The MoU means they will work jointly on projects that will broaden scope in providing more pathways for students to gain higher education qualifications.
It will also develop research and information exchanges and involve joint student projects.
Other plans include Belfast Met expanding its foundation degree programmes.
Queen's Vice-Chancellor Prof Ian Greer said the MoU would benefit wider society.
Belfast Met is only one of four further education colleges to receive the prize on this occasion. It is in recognition of its Centre of Excellence in Further Education training in Information and Communications Technology. The college has been successfully closing the digital skills gap by developing employability skills and creating a talent pipeline for the growing IT sector.
Principal Marie Therese McGivern said the college was honoured.
"We are delighted to work in partnership with Queen's University Belfast to collaboratively provide new opportunities for future generations, developing skills to support economic growth in Belfast and beyond," she added.
Queen's award is for its work on shared education. The Centre for Shared Education, directed by Prof Joanne Hughes, has been engaged in pioneering research since its inception. Beginning as a pilot programme with just 12 schools in 2007, it has grown to more than 700 schools and 60,000 pupils now involved in regular, shared classes with schools from different denominations.
Prof Tony Gallagher, from the Centre for Shared Education said Queen's was now recognised internationally for the positive impact it was having in post-conflict societies.
"This award is a tribute to the many hundreds of teachers and thousands of pupils who have helped make shared education work," he said.
"Not only is it transforming the education sector in Northern Ireland but we are working with academics and educators to adapt the model to other divided cities and countries like Jerusalem, Beirut, Los Angeles, Kosovo and North Macedonia."