UNESCO Chair on Globalising a shared education model for improving relations in divided societies, Queens University Belfast (2016)

Purpose/Objectives of the Chair/UNITWIN Network

The UNESCO Chair aims to reduce prejudice and foster mutual understanding through inter-cultural engagement.

As recognised by UNESCO the need and the demand for social cohesion and intercultural dialogue have never been more urgent. Shared Education aims to reduce prejudice and foster mutual understanding through inter-cultural engagement in schools and other educational institutions. The approach which was developed in Northern Ireland, promotes and facilitates sustained curriculum-based engagement between pupils and teachers within education systems that are divided on ethnic or religious lines.  Shared education has been developed in a society that is emerging from a long history of inter-group conflict and has been shown to have clear potential for building more positive inter-group relations in other divided or plural contexts.

The development objective for the UNESCO Chair in Globalising Shared Education is to contribute to peace building through the promotion of intergroup contact and intercultural dialogue in education.

Specific objectives are:

  1. To undertake a programme of research to support the further development of shared education nationally and internationally
  2. In collaboration with partner institutions (established and planned) to undertake a comprehensive comparative research and evaluation programme to examine the impact of shared education in different educational and societal contexts, with a view to refining the model and developing best practice nationally and internationally
  3. To work with international education stakeholders to facilitate, promote and develop models of shared education in societies affected by conflict and/or inter-group hostilities with the long-term aim of reducing intergroup tensions and building more positive inter-group relations at societal level.
  4. To develop training and resource materials including a handbook for shared education that can be adapted and applied locally and internationally

Chairholder/Coordinator: Professor Joanne Hughes

Address: Director of the Centre for Shared Education, School of Education, 69-71 University Street, Belfast, BT7 1HL
Email: joanne.hughes@qub.ac.uk
Tel: +44 (0)28 9097 5941


Joanne Hughes-1Professor Joanne Hughes is Director of the Centre for Shared Education at Queen’s University Belfast. She is from Belfast and holds a BA and PhD on the subject of integrated education from the School of Social Anthropology at Queen’s. Her research interests are primarily in the role of education in divided societies and inter-group relations, and current projects include: a longitudinal analysis of inter-group contact experienced by post-primary school pupils in Northern Ireland and an examination of inter-school collaboration in Northern Ireland.

Professor Hughes has been keen to promote the applied value of her research and she has undertaken extensive outreach work with policy makers, government bodies, community groups and organisations. Her work informed a major review of community relations policy in Northern Ireland, and she was a member of a review team appointed by the Minister of Education to help draft a community relations policy for Education. She has also worked with local practitioners to devise and disseminate models of good practice in promoting intergroup relations, and she has extensive experience of facilitating groups and individuals representing different sectoral interests. In addition to her contribution at local level,

Professor Hughes has been involved in a number of international initiatives aimed at sharing peace building experiences in divided societies. Most recently, she has worked with UNICEF and the Ministry of Education in Macedonia to develop a National Programme of Inter-Cultural Dialogue. She was also a participant in a British Council sponsored initiative which engaged education experts from Northern Ireland to work with senior officials from the Ministry of Education in Iraq, and she was an academic partner in a Local International Learning Project (shared learning between academics/practitioners in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine), and participant in a delegation to Israel of Northern Ireland community activists and academics to meet with Palestinian and Israeli Government Ministers, senior officials, academics and NGOs to discuss, inter alia, the role of education in divided societies.

Professor Hughes has published widely in national and international peer review journals, and she is currently an editor of the prestigious British Educational Research Journal.

Selected publications

  • Furey, A., Donnelly, C., Hughes, J., & Blaylock, D. (2016). Interpretations of national identity in post-conflict Northern Ireland: A comparison of different school stings. Research Papers in Education.
  • Hewstone, M., & Hughes, J. (2015). Reconciliation in Northern Ireland: The value of intergroup contact. British Journal of Psychology International, 12(3), 65-66.
  • Hughes, J., Blaylock, D.L., Donnelly, C. (2015). The relationship between school-based intergroup contact outcomes in Northern Ireland and social deprivation: Implications for delivery. Ricerche di pedagogia e didattica – Journal of Theories and Research in Education, 10(1), 47-65.
  • Hughes, J. (2013). Contact and context: Sharing education and building relationships in a divided society. Research Papers in Education, 1, 1-18.
  • Blaylock, D., & Hughes, J. (2013). Shared Education Initiatives in Northern Ireland: A Model for Effective Intergroup Contact in Divided Jurisdictions. Studies in Ethnicity and Nationalism13(3), 477-487.
  • Hughes, J., Lolliot, S., Hewstone, M., Schmid, K., & Carlisle, K. (2012). Sharing classes between separate schools: A mechanism for improving intergroup relations in Northern Ireland? Policy Futures in Education, 10, 5, 528-539.