Hayden Stewart, Study USA alumni committee, Emma Allsopp, Study USA Student of the Year 2023, Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, Moira Doherty, Deputy Secretary, Department for the Economy Northern Ireland, Martin Bradley, Study USA Alumni Committee Chair ©

Pacemaker Press 

Saturday 06 January 2024

Today, over 500 friends and alumni of the Study USA programme from across Northern Ireland, the United States, and from around the world, gathered at the SSE Arena Belfast for the epic ‘Friendship Series Ice Hockey Match’ between Princeton University and Providence College, the only National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division 1 women’s hockey tournament held outside the US.

British Council Northern Ireland and the Department welcomed friends and alumni to celebrate the start of the 30th anniversary year of this significant scholarship programme and launched a new alumni committee. The committee will kick-off 18 months of activity here in Northern Ireland and in the US.

Starting in 1994, the Study USA programme was originally designed to assist with the peace process, with the White House providing an endorsement for the programme in 2014 in a letter written by President Bill Clinton. Since then, the initiative has enabled over 2000 students studying in Northern Ireland to study in all four corners of the US.

Through providing a unique international experience for the students, the programme has helped to develop important connections between Northern Ireland and the US, strengthening cultural and economic links and understanding between the two countries.

Queen's University Belfast student and Study USA Student of The Year 2023, Emma Allsopp, said about the event: “Study USA has been life-changing for me. It’s great to see so many faces here to kick off the 30th anniversary, and to meet so many alumni of the programme. Sport is a big part of college life in the US and it’s fantastic to celebrate Study USA watching the Friendship Series together with fellow alumni”.

A member of the first cohort travelling to the US, Martin Bradley, a leading expert in international investment and cyber security in the US and Northern Ireland, will Chair the new Committee. Martin originally studied with Ulster University, travelling to Lindenwood College, Missouri, in 1994. He has subsequently worked for Invest NI, Fortune 500 companies and led the strategic initiative of establishing Belfast as the new European hub for Cyber Security.

We caught-up with Martin who shared his experience with Study USA (originally BEI) and the impact that it has had on his career:

“Little did I know 30 years ago when I went to Missouri with Study USA, what a lasting impact the experience would have for me - both professionally and personally. I’ve travelled and worked across the US, building connections, and forging new business opportunities that have benefited my career here in Northern Ireland and globally.

“Today, I’ve caught up with old friends and I’ve heard from recent graduates about how the programme is helping them develop their studies and careers. I’ve no doubt the programme will continue to inspire and enrich the lives of future participants.”

The programme now has a strong and growing global network and is highly regarded within the network of 140 partner institutions across the US and continues to receive significant support from the American and Northern Ireland governments.

Moira Doherty, Deputy Secretary for Skills and Education for the Department for the Economy, discussed the legacy of the programme, saying: ‘What better way to begin the 30-year anniversary, and to celebrate the legacy of Study USA, by attending this Friendship series. The Department for the Economy is proud to fund Study USA, which has provided so many opportunities to Northern Ireland students. We’ve seen some amazing achievements from the alumni, and I’m sure that their skills and experience will be of great benefit to future cohorts and to Northern Ireland in the coming years. 

“We are grateful for the generosity of the US colleges and universities in providing places for the students and recognise the work of the US college representatives and the British Council in ensuring the smooth running of the programme. We would also like to thank the US Consulate in Belfast for their invaluable support.”

Jonathan Stewart, Director, British Council Northern Ireland, added: “We are delighted to be celebrating 30 years of success of the Study USA programme. Over 2000 students in Northern Ireland have benefitted from this incredible scholarship programme since it started.

“Through the study of business-related and STEM subjects, in a US college or university, students boost their core employability skills and gain invaluable experience and intercultural skills working in an international setting. This enhanced global awareness and international connections are invaluable for the students when they graduate and are vitally important in developing Northern Ireland’s economy and relations with the USA.”

The new Study USA alumni committee will support and champion the growing, global network of alumni by sharing knowledge, expertise and networks to help create development opportunities through education and employability initiatives.

The committee will have a philanthropic focus in line with the Study USA ethos and are planning a series of activities aimed at giving back to Northern Ireland and the US.


For further information, images, filming and interview opportunities please contact:

Anna Christoforou, Senior Media and Campaigns Manager, UK, British Council

E:  Anna.christoforou@britishcouncil.org

Rosalind Gould, Media and Campaigns Manager, UK Nations, British Council

E:  rosalind.gould@britishcouncil.org 



Notes to Editor

About Study USA

For more info about Study USA programme check out the full history.

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for cultural relations and educational opportunities. We support peace and prosperity by building connections, understanding and trust between people in the UK and countries worldwide. We do this through our work in arts and culture, education, and the English language. We work with people in over 200 countries and territories and are on the ground in more than 100 countries. In 2022-23 we reached 600 million people.

For more information on current opportunities in Northern Ireland, visit www.nireland.britishcouncil.org or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.