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I'll make Queen's University Belfast a powerhouse, vows new chief Professor Patrick Johnston

BY JOANNE FLEMING

One of the world's most respected cancer specialists has said he wants to make Queen's University "an international powerhouse in higher education" as he takes over at the helm of the institution today.

Professor Patrick Johnston is the 12th vice-chancellor in the Belfast university's 168-year history – believed to be the highest paid public post in Northern Ireland.

The 55-year-old father of four, who will provide Queen's with its strategic vision for the future, is recognised as one of the world's foremost experts in cancer research.

He is former Dean of the School of Medicine at Queen's. Since 2007 the Londonderry native has led the development of a new international medical school at Queen's and a world-leading Institute of Health Sciences.

He is also former director of the Centre for Cancer Research and Cell Biology at Queen's, and is championing for a new Bill of Rights to help transform the standard of care for millions of citizens in dozens of countries.

Speaking about his new role, Prof Johnston said: "Queen's is one of the finest universities in the UK and Ireland and I am both honoured and privileged to be leading it. Together we are about to embark upon a journey in which it is my goal for Queen's to become an international powerhouse in higher education. This will not only create significant benefits for Queen's but for every single citizen in Northern Ireland.

"This journey will not be easy, but it is one that I am fully committed to, and by working alongside our exceptional staff and students, and with the support of our stakeholders, we will achieve our objectives."

The new vice-chancellor will receive a £249,000-a-year salary package, which is £19,000 above his predecessor's wage. It will make him the highest-paid public figure in Northern Ireland.

Prof Johnston – the first vice-chancellor from Northern Ireland since Peter Froggatt stepped down in 1986 – went on to describe Queen's as "Northern Ireland's university".

Over the past 20 years Prof Johnston's research has resulted in a number of prestigious landmark publications, over 20 patents and more than £95m in grants being secured from research and philanthropic bodies including Cancer Research UK, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the US National Institutes of Health.

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