Northern Ireland

Conflict, Peace, and Transition

Study the legacy of violent conflict and engage efforts to build a sustainable peace. Examine the role of citizens as agents of transformation in this International Conflict Research Institute-affiliated program.

Accepting applications for Spring 2022 and 2022-2023 academic year

Program Structure

Students live in Derry-Londonderry for the majority of the program, with the exception of a four day orientation on the north coast and an extended field visit to Dublin and the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland later in the semester. Students begin their seven-week-long internship placements, supported by weekly seminars, in week four. The final two weeks of the program offer time for reflection and the completion of independent research projects.

Topics & Themes

Conflict transformation, education systems, social movements, human rights, gender issues, peace and justice, national identity and community building.


Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland

Terms & Dates

Fall 2021 (Sept. 2 - Dec. 11), Spring 2022 (Feb. 3 - May 14)


16 credits

Program Overview

Northern Ireland has grappled for centuries with an ongoing identity-based conflict that divides neighbors, communities, and the country itself. This history is physically present in the form of imposing walls (some 400 years old, others much more recent), and a border that has divided the island of Ireland for 100 years. Deeply segregated communities are byproducts of the trauma caused by years of violence. The conflict and its legacy ripples out into the language, governance, and everyday life of Northern Irish citizens. Throughout this International Conflict Research Institute-affiliated semester-long program students wrestle with challenging questions: What does it mean to be a victim/survivor? A perpetrator? How can we heal after hurt? How do we reckon with the full weight of the past? Students critically examine the work of justice, reconciliation, and repair. Students live, work, and learn in the city of Derry-Londonderry. There and in Belfast, Dublin, and border areas, students meet with community members directly impacted by violence, who now work to share stories and foster healing dialogue. Individual internships allow students to be actively involved in the ongoing work of peacebuilding and community development. Past internship sites include Children in Crossfire, The Rainbow Project, and The Playhouse Theatre.

Staff and Faculty

Nigel Glenny

Nigel Glenny is a graduate of Stranmillis University College (Queens University Belfast) with a First Class Honours degree in Education (Religious Studies, History). He began his career as a history teacher, then moved into local government as an education officer, where he designed and taught a wide range of experiential learning programs for schools, colleges, youth and community groups. Much of this work used elements of Irish cultural traditions to foster cross-community contact between Protestant and Catholic groups from divided communities within Northern Ireland. Nigel most recently worked several years at a leading non-governmental organization engaged in peace and capacity-building initiatives throughout the island of Ireland. At that organization, he developed an international Citizenship Action Project that reached across communities in Northern Ireland, across the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and across the Atlantic to the United States. He created materials for learning about peace and reconciliation, led programs in how to facilitate student engagement, and trained teachers and youth workers throughout Ireland and the United States. In addition to Nigel’s role as Programme Director for the Northern Ireland HECUA programme, he is a Lecturer at INCORE, the International Conflict Research Institute on the University’s Magee campus. Combining research, education and comparative analysis, INCORE addresses the causes and consequences of conflict in Northern Ireland and internationally and promotes conflict resolution management strategies. It aims to influence policymakers and practitioners involved in peace, conflict and reconciliation issues while enhancing international conflict research. Nigel works on these themes through teaching and research that contributes to the HECUA program in a number of ways, including projects that are deepening work with community partners and developing international connections. Nigel is interested in civic engagement, understandings of this, and initiatives designed facilitate it. With particular reference to Northern Ireland, he is interested in the civic mission of universities, the public, community and faith sectors, and how local-global connections could be utilized to facilitate civic engagement and good community relations.


Understanding the Politics of the Northern Ireland Conflict (4 credits)

This course focuses on building awareness and knowledge of the local and global implications of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Students deepen their understanding of the characteristics and constituent parts of the conflict. The course presents the key social, cultural, and political dynamics, as well as the key events and their impact upon society. Specific topics covered include: the historical roots of the Northern Ireland conflict; the role of religion in the conflict; ethnic, frontier/contested society; an introduction to conflict theory; cultural and political identities; perspectives on conflict; key events like Bloody Sunday, Enniskillen, etc.; young people and their roles; gender; the roles of prisoners/ex-combatants; sectarianism, division; victims/survivors.

Building a Sustainable Democracy (4 credits)

This course has a particular focus on promoting awareness and understanding of the actions people can take in the pursuit of peace and an inclusive, sustainable, and effective democracy. Students develop an understanding of the dynamics of conflict transformations and the development of sustainable and effective democratic processes, as well as a critical understanding of the effectiveness of social, civic, and political initiatives working for peace. Specific topics covered include: the political peace process; the Belfast Agreement; the Human Rights and Equality Agendas; educational responses to conflict; good relations and community development; segregation and integration; young people and civic engagement; opportunities and challenges; moving from a divided to a “shared society”; legal, policy, and value levers for social change; “dealing” with the past.

Northern Ireland Internship Placement and Seminar (2 linked courses; 8 credits total)

Through the Northern Ireland Democracy and Social change internship students develop new skills and acquire new insights into how different facets of society in Northern Ireland are working towards the development of a sustainable and effective democracy. Students work 200 hours total during the internship. Students reflect on their experiences in weekly seminar sessions, which are designed to facilitate deepened self-awareness and a critical understanding of the internship site. Reflection journals aid discussion at seminars. Seminars are held Mondays during the seven weeks of the intensive internship.

Complete Syllabus


Below is a list of a few recent internship sites. Note that internship sites can change semester to semester in response to the needs of local organizations, and when possible, in response to the specific interests of students in the program.

The Nerve Centre

The Verbal Arts Centre

St Columb’s Park House

Children in Crossfire

Program Costs

Fee Breakdown Cost includes group transportation to field sites, planned group excursions, lodging, meals, local transportation, medical insurance, and administrative costs. During the course of the program students are placed in student housing on the University of Ulster campus, and receive a food stipend. A Note on Costs The program costs listed below are what HECUA charges for participation in its programs. The final amount that a student pays might be higher and can vary from college to college. Many colleges assess additional fees or charge their own tuition for off-campus programs. Some colleges also have specific financial aid rules for off-campus programs. Therefore, all students should check with the off-campus-study office and the financial aid office of their home institution to confirm their final cost for a HECUA program. A full and comprehensive fee breakdown can be found on the Program Costs page.

Member schools

Member schools are schools that are part of the HECUA consortium. For HECUA member school students, the cost of our program is $20,900.  Check your school’s status.

Non-member schools

Non-member schools are schools that are not part of the HECUA consortium. For non-member school students, the cost of this HECUA program is $21,700. Check your school’s status.


HECUA distributes three scholarships to students from consortium member schools: the Scholarship for Racial Justice (up to $4,000); the Scholarship for Social Justice (up to $1,500); and the Scholarship for Community Engagement (up to $750 for semester-long programs, and $500 for short-term programs). Click here to view all scholarships.

Good to know

HECUA partners with Ulster University and INCORE, the International Conflict Research Institute on the University’s Magee campus in Derry/Londonderry. Classes are held at Ulster University campus with internships in Derry/Londonderry and field visits throughout Northern Ireland and into the Republic of Ireland. Students spend the first four weeks making short trips along the country’s northern coast by bus, establishing a basic understanding of the centuries-long conflict in Northern Ireland. After they are finished traveling, students spend seven weeks in Derry/Londonderry completing an intensive internship and participating in weekly seminars with Program Director Nigel Glenny. In Derry/Londonderry students live in apartments with shared living spaces in Duncreggan Student Village. HECUA guides students through the process of obtaining a United Kingdom visa to participate in the program. For more information about the visa process, contact HECUA student services:, or call at 651-287-3312.

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