Manifesto Signatory

Queen's University Belfast

updated on 03 Nov 2023
6 minutes
Queen’s University Social Charter: Launch event group photo

Why we've signed the Manifesto

"Queen’s University Belfast has a rich heritage of shaping all sectors of society. For almost two centuries we have been addressing some of the most pressing global challenges, creating a legacy of impact and relevance both at home and abroad. Through local partnerships and global collaborations, our staff and students are genuinely making a positive difference, influencing and engaging to create a real and lasting impact. Our commitment to the manifesto reflects our belief that Universities are in a unique position to influence all sectors of society: political; community; and business."

Professor Richard English, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Internationalisation and Engagement

Our approach to public engagement

Public Engagement at Queen’s University implements the University’s Social Charter while promoting the values of Queen's locally and globally. We ensure the work of the University is reflected across the community, building relationships with groups, leaders and the culture and arts sectors. The Queen’s University Public Engagement hub consists of three main branches; Public Affairs, Community Engagement and Business Engagement.

Public Affairs is the central coordinating hub for the University’s outreach activity with elected political representatives and government. They provide support to senior management and act as a point of contact for politicians and officials seeking to engage with the University, and as a first port of call for staff who require help with regard to any engagement with elected representatives and government officials. Public Affairs coordinates issue-specific lobbying; monitoring of legislative issues; responding to Assembly Questions; preparation of papers and briefings on government business. The aim is to ensure that the strategic business of the University remains high on the political agenda and that Queen’s continues to play a leading role in shaping the educational, economic, cultural, and social development of Northern Ireland.

Community Engagement aims to enhance relationships between the University and the local community. The teams works with a range of stakeholders in promoting positive student and community interventions and is also the point of contact for community, civic, voluntary, statutory and other stakeholders seeking engagement with the University on a range of issues. These issues include implementation of the University Social Charter, educating students on living as part of the community and promoting student volunteering. Engagement and liaison with our local community and business leaders, managing a programme to promote cultural diversity in the University; liaison with Ulster University and other educational institutions in developing and coordinating schemes and initiatives to improve community relations between students and residents.

Business engagement acts as a central coordinating hub for the University’s links with key business membership organisations across Northern Ireland. We will work to raise awareness in the business community of the many ways in which Queen’s can support growth in businesses and the part it plays in helping to drive economic growth. Business Engagement also manages the Chief Executives’ Club at Queen’s; delivers a series of free innovation lectures, seminars and masterclasses as part of the All-Island Innovation Programme; manages and delivers a series of prestigious annual lectures, and acts as a central coordinating hub for the University’s links with key businesses across Northern Ireland. Working with colleagues across the University, the team aims to increase participation at and representation by the University at key external Northern Ireland business events.

Our public engagement hallmark

A joke shared on stage whilst launching the Queen’s University Social Charter, November 2017.

Launched in November 2017 the Queen’s University’s Social Charter, embodies the core principles of positive contribution, genuine impact and understanding the needs of society; the principles upon which our public engagement work is based.

With the Vice-Chancellor and Student Union President as signatories, the Charter reaffirms our commitment to engaging with society in a meaningful way and serves as prism through which we celebrate and showcase the work, impact and influence of the University, regionally, nationally and globally.
The Social Charter commits the University to providing leadership locally and globally; to promoting a positive impact on society through our research and education; and to equality and social justice. These commitments are realised through seven themes which aim to facilitate research with impact, intercultural dialogue, education with social purpose, equality and excellence, sustainability, new knowledge and the recognition and reward of those involved.

The University’s Corporate Plan has provided for the acknowledgment and celebration of the Social Charter through the identification of 19 Social Charter Signature Projects. These 19 Projects bring the Charter to life, encapsulating the breadth of activity that Queen’s students and staff carry out on a daily basis, as well as representing the principles and themes contained within the Charter.
Running parallel to these projects is the ongoing work and commitment to embed the Social Charter into the culture of the University.

Our public engagement talking point

Northern Ireland’s devolved government has not sat since 9 January, 2017. In the absence of this crucial political structure Queen’s University Belfast opened its doors to become a platform for civic debate and a space for meaningful dialogue.

In addition to a series of public debates on some of the most pressing issues in today’s society, Queen’s University organised and hosted two internationally renowned conferences during 2018.

On 10th April 2018 the University welcomed a number of key figures from the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement period to mark the Agreement’s 20th Anniversary. The event titled ‘Building Peace: The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement 20 years on’; was organised by the University’s Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace Security and Justice and was unique in its ability to gather the key influencers on the Good Friday Agreement to mark its anniversary. Coming at a time of political impasse, the conference was significant both in its refection of peace building and its debate around the challenges of sustaining the process.

The second international conference titled ‘Global Conflict: The Human Impact’ which took place on 23-24 August 2018. This event, organised with University of Chicago’s Pearson Institute, brought together scholars, leaders and practitioners to address the human cost of violent conflict and identify emerging strategies for conflict resolution. Leading voices from around the world gathered at Queen’s University and discussed strategies that focused on reducing the prevalence of violent conflict and its tragic impact on people, especially families. Key content areas included Northern Ireland, Colombia and the Global Refugee Crisis, notable its impact on families.

These conferences and platforms for civic debate at Queen’s emphasise one of the key enablers of Public Engagement that we highlight and promote the relevance of the University and it’s research throughout the government structures, locally and nationally and to enhance government engagement.

Our public engagement people

A volunteer helping bring out the spring colours in the Wildflower Alley, Ormeau Road, Belfast.

In 2013, Queen’s University Students’ Union established Volunteer SU. Now a team of three, led by Volunteer SU Manager Lucia Kearney, it supports students to contribute to their community through volunteering with 438 aligned local and international organisations. Students are either matched with charities and community groups based on their interests and skills or supported to implement and coordinate their own voluntary/charitable projects. Volunteer SU provide training and mentoring enabling opportunities for personal and professional development, recognition of volunteering efforts and sustainability of social action.

Vivienne Courtney, coordinates Volunteer SU’s Homework Clubs, working in partnership with 18 community groups across Belfast and training 180 students to support children in areas of educational underachievement each year. This immensely popular initiative is making a significant and positive change in local communities, where young people’s study skills and confidence are improved and whereby their aspirations about further and higher education are raised.

Margarita Petkova is the Volunteer and Community Support Officer, working closely with the local community to identify their current needs and implement short-term volunteering projects for students which provide a genuine response to the challenges indicated by our neighbours.
Volunteer SU have developed and sustained meaningful relationships with community organisations, and these engagements have shaped the volunteering opportunities made available to students. The mutual benefit arising from this has had a significant impact in improving local relationships and enhanced the relevance of the University in society.


Ryan Feeney, Head of Public Engagement