Cathy Gormley-Heenan



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Personal profile


Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan is the University Provost at Ulster University, playing a major role in institution-wide strategic leadership and planning, including shaping institutional strategies and priorities and communicating the strategies and priorities to internal and external stakeholders. She has worked in Higher Education for 26 years, with previous roles including Deputy-Vice-Chancellor, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Impact) and Research Institute Director. By background, she is a Professor of Politics with research interests in political elites, peace processes, the politics of divided societies, public policy and governance.

In 2021, she was appointed by the Minister for Finance (NI) as a fiscal commissioner in the Independent Fiscal Commission for Northern Ireland to consider the case for increasing fiscal powers available to the NI Assembly. She is a founding member of ARINS (Analysing and Researching Ireland, North and South), through the Royal Irish Academy and the University of Notre Dame.  Cathy is also Chair of the Advisory Body for UK in a Changing Europe (UKICE). She holds a first-class honours degree in politics from Queen’s University, Belfast; an MPhil in Modern Middle East Studies from Oxford University; and a PhD in History and International Affairs from Ulster University, as well as being a UK Kennedy Scholar in the JFK School of Government and Public Policy at Harvard University, USA.

As a qualified Chartered Director (CDir) through the Institute of Directors, Cathy has extensive non-executive and board experience having served as either a Trustee, Director, Board Member or Advisor on a wide range of external bodies and organisations including her current UK ministerial appointment to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities’ (DLUCH) Levelling Up Advisory Council. She serves on the Board of UKRI's Research England which is responsible for funding and engaging with English higher education providers, to create and sustain the conditions for a healthy and dynamic research and knowledge exchange system in HE.  Previous external board positions have included Matrix, the Northern Ireland Science Industry Panel; Catalyst Inc (formerly the Northern Ireland Science Park); and the UK Government’s Advisory Body on EU Exit, Universities, Research and Innovation.

Awarded an OBE in 2020 for services to higher education in Northern Ireland, Cathy is a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences (FAcSS), and also a Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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