Development & Alumni Relations Office 



 07 April 2020

Almost 200,000 people living in every corner of the globe have studied at Queen's. We have 24,000 current students and 4,000 staff. We are part of the ecosystem of Belfast, of Northern Ireland.

It is a challenge to find words that resonate at a time like this with such a diverse group, each of us experiencing these changed and challenging days so differently.

In uncertain times I take comfort from being part of an institution that is 175 years old. We have withstood global conflict; we have withstood pandemics; we have withstood local division of a truly devastating magnitude. We will withstand this. But each of us individually, and institutionally, will be changed by this.

Although the majority of staff and students are working from home, the cycle of the University continues. Alternative methods of assessment have been put in place for our students: academic progression will take place and degrees will be awarded. Our prospective international students are undertaking their English language assessments invigilated by dozens of staff from around the University in the comfort of their spare rooms, kitchens and lounges. And alumni relations staff are still on hand to support you and keep you informed in the way we always have, even if they are not currently in the Lanyon Building. Technology really is remarkable.

We have significantly extended our student hardship fund to support those students facing immediate difficulties. We are particularly grateful to Santander, a long-time supporter of the University, who immediately and without restriction, redirected a significant gift intended to enable student international travel to any COVID-19 related priority. We will spend this money on our students.

We are doing what we can to practically contribute to the fight against COVID-19. Professor Ultan Power is working to identify drug combinations that might mitigate against the symptoms of the disease. Engineers are creating Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) visors using 3D printers (and amidst all this madness I admit I was excited to see an industrial 3D printer for the first time!). We will continue to share further developments in research at Queen’s in the coming months.

Particularly moving for me is the work of our medical faculty, especially the team involved in simulated training. They have been providing additional training to our medical and nursing students to support their transition to the kind of workplace they would never have imagined. Our final year nursing students were fast-tracked, to enable those who wish to join the workforce, to do so early. 

I hope you might consider supporting, as I have, our Rapid Response Innovation Fund to enable us to scale up our efforts in the production of PPE and the simulated training of our students.

I know that right now, for many in our community, this is a time of financial anxiety. It is a time of personal uncertainty. It is a time when we want to draw those we love close and often we cannot. We value tremendously all philanthropic gifts and we value you as a member of the Queen’s family regardless of your intention or ability to donate.

We know that for some lockdown brings more free time, for others significantly less. We hope you will join with other members of the Queen’s community over the coming months as we generate interactive content for you to engage with online. I hope it may also bring some comfort to you, as it does me, that Queen’s will still be here when this passes.

Our President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Ian Greer, regularly says that the question is not what can Northern Ireland do for Queen’s but what can Queen’s do for Northern Ireland? I hope that during this time you will feel we are stepping up and playing our part.

With warmest regards,

For general enquiries about this story or to submit a graduate news item, please contact Gerry Power, Communications Officer, Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO), Queen’s University Belfast. 

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