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President of Ireland launches new John Kennedy Lecture Series at University of Manchester – April 2024

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, receives honorary degree from The University of Manchester and launches new lecture series.

President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, visited The University of Manchester this week and spent two days on campus, during which he has been presented with an honorary degree and gave the inaugural lecture of the John Kennedy Lecture Series to invited guests.

On Tuesday 23 April, President Higgins attended a conferral dinner at The Whitworth during which he was presented with his honorary degree. In 2011, Michael D. Higgins was inaugurated as the ninth President of Ireland and re-elected in November 2018 to serve a second term in office. The President undertook postgraduate studies at The University of Manchester from 1968 -1971. 

Speaking at the conferral ceremony, President Higgins said: “The conferral of a Doctor of Letters (Honoris Causa) from this esteemed University is an honour I very much appreciate, receiving it as I do in what is a very special year for The University of Manchester as it celebrates its 200th anniversary. This honour that you have bestowed on me has a particular personal resonance, given my family connections with Manchester. My two sisters came to Manchester in the late 1950s and married and reared their families here. This was followed by my own experience as a postgraduate student at this University in the late 1960s, times of hope and promise. 

“This period and the work of scholars I met and worked with instilled in me a profound and lifelong interest in migration. This honour I accept today, not just for myself, but for all migrants and those who study and care for them.”

A passionate political voice, a poet and writer, academic and statesman, human rights advocate, promoter of inclusive citizenship and champion of creativity within Irish society, Michael D. Higgins has previously served at every level of public life in Ireland, including as Ireland’s first Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Speaking about the visit Professor Nancy Rothwell, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University said: “In conferring an honorary degree upon President Higgins and looking forward to his lecture we celebrate power of sharing knowledge to unite us and inspire change. It is especially important during our bicentenary year in which we celebrate 200 years of our incredible people and community and look toward the future.”

On Wednesday 24 April, The President delivered the first of a new annual series of lectures at The University of Manchester named the John Kennedy Lecture Series. The lecture series will run for five years as part of the University’s School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. The lectures will promote topics related to the island of Ireland. The lecture will be live streamed and available to watch online.

The title of the inaugural lecture, presented by President Higgins is: ‘Of the consciousness our times need in responding to interacting crises and the role of Universities as spaces of discourse in facilitating it.’

The President’s lecture touched on themes including; Universities providing grounds for thinking freely and empowering students to think freely for the betterment of society and especially their own societies.

The new lecture series is so named in honour of Dr John Kennedy CBE. Dr Kennedy was brought up in a large family in Ireland, he came to Northwest England and founded John Kennedy Civil Engineering. Over the next three decades, turnover grew from £10,000 to £60 million, making it one of the UK’s most successful construction and engineering companies. 

Commenting on the inaugural lecture of the John Kennedy Lecture Series at The University of Manchester, Dr John Kennedy, said: “It is an honour and tremendous pleasure to welcome the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins to the first in this new series of lectures. I am very proud to not only support education in the UK but in particular to be alongside The University of Manchester as it celebrates its 200th anniversary and remains a pioneering centre of excellence and achievement. I knew  the  lecture would be inspiring and thought provoking at a time when the world is in need of peace and wisdom.”

Mark Logan MP pays tribute to John Kennedy

Mark Logan MP (Bolton North East) paid tribute to John Kennedy’s career in Parliament on 14 March 2024. Here is the speech, transcribed in Hansard:

My right hon. Friend the Member for Staffordshire Moorlands mentioned the construction industry. There is a gentleman by the name of Dr John Kennedy who lives just outside Greater Manchester in Cheshire. He was born in Mayo.

When he told me this story, it felt a bit like “Angela’s Ashes”. He spoke about how he, one of his siblings and his mother travelled to the United States, but his sibling sadly passed away during that time of hardship. He said that when he returned to Mayo in the 1950s and 1960s, there were no jobs, so he had to make his way to London. When he got there, he had no skills but, on day one, he got up and said, “I’m going to work harder than every single person around me. I’m going to put my head down and make something of myself.”

He started off cleaning and, after a year or two, he set up his own cleaning company. It all snowballed, and he eventually ended up with a construction company that he sold around 20 years ago for roughly £100 million—give or take £20 million; I might be a bit off there, but it was a colossal sum. He was involved in the Good Friday/Belfast agreement in 1998, because his construction company produced a commemorative article for it. I pay testament to him and the hundreds of thousands of others who have contributed so much to British society.

Educate North Awards 2023

The North’s prestigious educational awards are back for 2023 and categories across the University, HE, FE and Sixth Form sectors are now open for entries. 

Educate North Awards launched in 2015 with the clear aim of celebrating the world-class success of the North’s education sector and to encourage excellence, achievement, and improvement across 23 special categories. 

2023 will see new categories emerge to encourage outstanding performance in the arts, in digital and in student experience and welfare/

The University Entrepreneurs Grant (UEG) will also return as 4 students or graduates with bright business ideas will once again compete on the night for a £1000 prize and the chance to study at The Masood Entrepreneurship Centre at the University of Manchester. The 2020 UEG winner, Dr Mohammad Elhaj, has raised millions of pounds in investment since he walked away with the trophy, and it’s hoped another winner can replicate his superb success.

The Awards are promoted and sponsored by 4 of the most popular radio stations playing to millions of listeners across the North including Smooth North West, Heart Yorkshire, Smooth North East and Manchester’s XS, all part of the Communicorp UK group; The University of Manchester is Patron of the awards along with John Kennedy CBE. 

Beebot AI became sponsors in 2022 and will return in 2023 along with CCL Digital and other new sponsors which will be announced shortly. 

‘These awards focus attention on the best and most impressive achievements of staff, students and institutions across Northern England at a moment of immense change and pressure’ said Emeritus Professor Phil Harris, Chair of the Judges; ‘The standard of entries gets higher each year and the popular awards event ensures that we recognise the incredible work which so many people are doing despite the complexities of education in the UK currently’.

The Awards Dinner will take place on the evening of Thursday 27th April 2023 at The Midland Hotel in Manchester.

Entrants have till January 20th 2023 to submit their entries which will be judged by academics and business people from across the UK. Entries via 

There will also be 3 special awards nominated by listeners to Smooth, Heart and XS in the North.

Enter the awards now by visiting: 

Radio partners announced for 2019 Educate North Awards

Radio stations Smooth North East, Smooth North West and Heart Yorkshire have all returned as official partners of the 2019 Educate North Awards.

The Awards will be sponsored by the Communicorp Ltd owned companies for the second year running and will highlight the best achievements of Universities throughout the region.

“Radio is a fabulous medium for Educate North,” said Dr John Kennedy CBE, Patron of the Awards. “The awards represent a tremendous opportunity to showcase the North in the middle of uncertain times.”

For more details, visit the Prolific North news story here.