By guest blogger, on 29 June 2012
The event programme featured lectures and seminars on philosophy, law, archaeology and history, and stimulated the following selection of student responses.
Should the UK give an official apology for its part in the slave trade? This is just one of the many questions that was discussed in the UCL year 12 conference. To most, their initial answer to the question was “yes”, but after having discussed such a controversial issue in the history seminar and lecture, many were left undecided.
This was due to the fact that today there are approximately 12–27 million slaves in the world – a figure that far outnumbers the 3.1 million Africans enslaved during the slave trade. Therefore, instead of apologising for something our generation did not play a part in, we should be trying to resolve the issue of slavery that is getting worse everyday.
The UCL conference allowed me to view both sides of the argument without seeing a right or wrong answer, but instead viewing two compelling arguments. Being African myself, I personally think that Britain should give an official apology in order to “clear the air”. The apology could be a stepping stone for our generation, finally letting go of the past and allowing ourselves to tackle fully the new threats of slavery.
During the afternoon seminar, Slavery: Life in chains, we were given sources to back up our answer as to whether the British government should apologise for being a part of slavery two centuries ago. Many agreed that it was a futile gesture. However, others gave a persuasive argument that it would lead to more positive outcomes for Britain.
The last hours of the programme spoke about applying to competitive universities, where we looked at both successful and unsuccessful candidates’ personal statements, highlighting the positives and negatives to take away from them.
Following this session was a Q&A panel, which had answers about accommodation, entry requirements, bursaries and fees.
After having such a positive experience at UCL, I would highly recommend to anyone who has the opportunity to visit this university to GO!
It was an experience that left me highly informed about the philosophy of human rights, the legal definition of torture, slavery and provided brilliant advice on personal statements that I feel will help me and the other Year 12s who came to the conference as prospective students applying to university.
Runa Rahman Nadera
What I felt that the lecturers at the Human Rights conference did particularly well was to put forward questions that lingered in your mind for days afterwards.
One controversial question was whether the Nazis research findings should be used and learnt from? Some say “no”, as the origins of the findings are so callous, whereas others are adamant that you cannot simply “throw away knowledge”.
Attending this conference taught me that questioning things that we have accepted to be true opens the door for a lot of new information, as well as triggering more questions. Should we or should we not use the medical knowledge obtained from torture?
Holly Joscelyne, the Sixth Form College, Colchester
For many of us, the conference was an adventure, an opportunity to delve into the depths of Humanities subjects which inspired and interested all of us.
The question of how human the humanities are resonated as we considered the existence of human rights – why do some countries accept some human rights but not others? If slavery was abolished in the 19th Century, why are there more slaves now, than during the slave trade?
The UCL Humanities Conference had us confront the contradictions of a modern society that believes it has learnt from the mistakes of the past, and question to what extent perspectives have really changed.
It offered anyone considering humanities at university not only a day in the life of a UCL student, but also the chance to become absorbed in a subject.
The visit to the Petrie Museum, which features 8,000 Ancient Egyptian artefacts had something of a ‘kid in a candy shop’ feel; with Flip flops last worn 3,000 years ago and ancient garlic cloves intended for a family dinner now perfectly preserved and on display for anyone to see.
Oriana Ramanath, St John the Baptist School
Naturally, due to my fairly confined academic background in the main topics explored throughout the day (I took neither Philosophy nor Law as an AS Level), I was feeling somewhat apprehensive about the lectures and seminars, and above all, that I wouldn’t be able to follow and successfully comprehend all of the information that I had unique access to.
However, as I took my place within the stands and began listening to the introduction speech, I was almost instantly reassured. We were informed of UCL’s impressive history, including – as I found particularly important – that it was the first university to offer women a place to study and gain access to higher education.
A few minutes in, though, we were also informed that UCL was a place of ‘grand challenges’.
I was seized by the idea that this sentence was a piece of advice, rather than information; it occurred to me first that UCL had indeed overcome some grand challenges of its own, but that, most importantly, it encourages this attitude to be reflected as much on its students as is possible.
When the first lecture, exploring human rights and their origin, passed in what seemed like minutes, the lecture room was left in suspense. Glancing around, I saw that each student’s face matched my own. I had so many questions and ideas surrounding a topic that 35 minutes ago I knew virtually nothing about.
UCL has already challenged me, despite only experiencing a few hours, just as it challenged itself when it opened its doors to all races, genders and backgrounds.