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Queen's University Belfast among the UK top 20 for crucial research

By Rebecca Black

Queen's University in Belfast has been declared one of the top UK higher education institutions for research.

A nationwide assessment has placed Queen's in the top 20 for research quality and impact.

It also confirmed that more than 75% of QUB's researchers were undertaking world-class or internationally leading research.

The Research Excellence Framework (REF), which assesses the quality and impact of UK higher education institutions' work, is also used to allocate £2bn in funding across the UK.

Queen's has no fewer than 14 subject areas ranked within the UK's top 20 and 76% of its research is classified in the top two categories of 'world leading' and 'internationally excellent'.

Vice-chancellor Professor Patrick Johnston said he was delighted and paid tribute to the hard work of his colleagues.

"Queen's University has continued to make substantial progress since the 2008 assessment exercise, with the majority of research areas demonstrating significant improvement," he said.

"It is particularly satisfying that the 2014 REF has highlighted the depth of quality of Queen's research across the whole university.

"Whether it is in food security, pharmacy, health, modern languages, cyber security, education or history, Queen's research has performed magnificently."

Mr Johnston said work done at Queen's impacted across our society by creating jobs, developing new treatments for many of the world's most chronic illnesses, protecting children and creating new technology.

"Through its global research excellence, Queen's is having a real and meaningful impact on society by improving people's lives, and not just in Northern Ireland, but right across the world," he explained.

"Research at Queen's also makes a huge contribution to the local economy through creating new technologies and new companies and delivering real benefit to our non-academic partners."

The academic also claimed that his university was on its way to becoming a "powerhouse of world-class research".

"It is very satisfying to see that over three-quarters of research at this institution is already deemed to be internationally excellent or world leading. This is a great platform from which to build a world-class research institution that is globally competitive."

Employment and Learning Minister Stephen Farry congratulated Queen's and the Ulster University on their performance.

"These results confirm that our universities are undertaking internationally recognised research. Over 70% of the research activity submitted by QUB and UU was considered world leading or internationally excellent."


The REF is the successor to the Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and is a method of assessing UK higher education institutions by examining research that has taken place during the period 2008-2013. The full REF results, which include the overall quality profile and sub profiles for Northern Ireland's universities and university colleges, are available at

The bright boffins who are helping change our world

Shared education: Professor Tony Gallagher and Professor Joanne Hughes led the programme in which schools formed collaborative networks — with teachers and pupils, Protestant and Catholic, sharing classes in core curriculum areas across the network. The project has involved 23 collaborative networks, with 130 schools and 16,000 pupils participating.

Cystic fibrosis: International clinical trials led by Prof Stuart Elborn and his team in collaboration with Vertex Pharmaceuticals, Boston, have led to therapies which  have a dramatic effect on survival rates and quality of life for sufferers. It led to a new drug that corrects the basic defect in cystic fibrosis and has been hailed by the US Food and Drug Administration as a breakthrough.

Food security: The director of the Queen’s Institute for Global Food Security, Prof Chris Elliott, became the key figure in the British Government’s response to the 2013 horse meat scandal when he was chosen to head the independent review of UK food safety. His team is developing and implementing methods of detecting multiple chemical contaminants in food and feed, one of the most pressing global problems for the industry.

Protecting against Aids: Queen’s researchers Professor Karl Malcolm and Professor David Woolfson innovated a vaginal ring device that provides controlled release of an antiretroviral drug and potentially long-lasting protection against sexual transmission of the HIV virus. Thousand of women in Africa are currently involved in trials.

Wright Bus: Professor Roy Douglas, of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, has helped Wrightbus develop the advanced eco-friendly hybrid diesel-electric bus. It won the company the New Bus For London contract, replacing the traditional Routemaster. That contract, worth £230m, was for the supply of 600 buses. The first came into service in 2012, and in 2014 another 200 were ordered.

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