Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 2 October 2014

How experts' research is helping change the world

As pressure mounts on A-level students to choose a degree course, Shane O'Neill says they shouldn't overlook the humanities

Just two days ago at the 24th Hillsborough memorial service in Anfield, Professor Phil Scraton from Queen's University was invited by the families who lost loved-ones in the disaster to read his poem Their Voices Will Be Heard.

This poignant moment reflected the impact of what had been achieved by the Hillsborough Independent Panel's report last year in recovering the truth about the circumstances and aftermath of the tragedy, in which 96 people died.

Professor Scraton authored the report and led the Queen's University-based research for the panel. The impact of his research has been forceful and far-reaching – from the prime minister's apology to the families to the range of investigations triggered by the panel's findings.

Today, Professor Scraton opens his work to the public in a lecture held at Queen's University. His public lecture is just one of many events showcasing the impact of the world-class research taking place in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

Through today's series of events, we introduce to you even more of the world-class researchers whose work at Queen's is having an economic, social, political or cultural impact.

There will be presentations from colleagues at Queen's covering a wide range of topics, from the violation of basic rights through human trafficking, or sexual offences against children, reform of regulatory structures that will help prevent future financial crises, to the transformative power of music and poetry.

You may have heard about the work of Professor Mike Tomlinson into poverty and social exclusion in the UK and Professor John Devaney's work on the first-ever review of abuse cases related to child death, or serious injury, in Northern Ireland. These are examples of research making a difference in wider society.

Queen's commitment to world-leading research is further evidenced by the establishment of two new research institutes within the faculty this year.

The Institute for Collaborative Research in the Humanities and the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice will seek to develop further the world-class research already under way on these themes.

The academics at Queen's producing this research are also fully engaged in teaching students on a range of popular degree programmes.

Graduates in these subjects are highly valued by employers because of the global perspectives they have developed through studying the histories, cultures and languages of other societies.

This makes them adaptable, sensitive to cultural difference and creative – all of which are key requirements for the leaders, innovators and wealth-creators of the future.

If we want to transform our economy and society for the better in the future, we will need creative, dynamic and critically-minded young people.

Graduates from these subject areas are just the kind of well-informed, active global citizens who will challenge and shape policies for the future so that we can all realise our potential.

The value of a degree from the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences can be illustrated further by the successes of our alumni – former Irish president Mary McAleese, Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney, ITV's international editor Bill Neeley, the managing director of London Underground Mike Brown, and former first minister Lord Trimble, to name but a few.

These alumni, along with our current researchers, are examples of the global impact of the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

I am proud to stand with my colleagues today to showcase the ways in which the work they are doing is having a positive impact on social, economic and cultural life in Northern Ireland and further afield.

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