By Guest Blogger, on 25 September 2017
By Greg Tinker, Communications Manager, Office of the Vice-Provost (Research)
A new partnership between UCL and Hong Kong University (HKU) was established during academic year 2016-17 to encourage joint research relating to the UCL Grand Challenges.
The joint scheme encourages cooperative projects on pressing global issues, as identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Its highlighted priorities include urbanisation and sustainable cities, healthy ageing, global health, translational medicine, food and water safety and security, transformative technology, transcultural studies including China studies, and justice and equality.
UCL’s Grand Challenges programme – addressing Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Cultural Understanding, Human Wellbeing, Transformative Technology and Justice & Equality – provides an inter-institutional strategic framing for the joint scheme.
The first awards were made in April this year, to two projects:
- ‘Writing in the City’ – to Professor Li Wei of the Culture, Communication and Media department at the UCL Institute of Education, collaborating with Professor Adam Jaworski at HKU’s School of English
- ‘Non-pharmacological interventions in dementia’ – to Dr Aimee Spector, of UCL Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, collaborating with Dr Gloria HY Wong and Professor Terry YS Lum of HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration
Dr Spector has already begun work on her project, focusing on treatments like Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for dementia sufferers. The collaboration will result in a conference in Hong Kong to be held in December, featuring presenters from China, Hong Kong, the US, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil and Denmark. It will also include CST training for attendees from around the world.
The joint UCL – HKU team has also been working on a joint publication, involving a systematic review of Mindfulness-based interventions for people with cognitive impairment. The collaboration has built a close relationship between Dr Spector and her HKU counterparts, leading to exchanges of doctoral students between London and Hong Kong. The students will benefit from working and studying abroad and their engagement will hopefully lead to further joint publications.
Dr Ian Scott, Director of the UCL Grand Challenges and cross disciplinary development, said: “It’s good to know that the first projects in UCL’s joint scheme with Hong Kong University are making great progress. At UCL we are confident that there will be strong downstream research and societal benefits from bringing UCL and HKU researchers together to address globally significant issues from London and Hong Kong perspectives.
“The HKU-UCL joint scheme holds promise to be an important model for other international strategic partnerships between UCL and other world-class universities like HKU, framed by a mutual determination to harness the best expertise in the world in actions designed to prepare now for the challenges of the 22nd century.
“While the 2016-17 UCL-HKU projects are still in progress, we look forward to the outcome of the current call for the next proposals for joint work in academic year 2017-18, to support further high quality joint initiatives in tackling and finding novel pathways to solutions to the world’s Grand Challenges.”
By Jason Lewis, on 21 September 2017
Dementia – a group of neurodegenerative disorders including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s disease and vascular dementia – is a common condition that affects over 800,000 people in the UK. This number is expected to rise to one million by 2025 and two million by 2051.
UCL research is world-leading in efforts to diagnose, treat, care for and prevent dementia. Researchers at UCL are continuing to make great advances in this area and are at the forefront of impactful studies and trials currently ongoing in the world today.
Here are a few of the projects and initiatives led by UCL academics and researchers improving our knowledge of dementia and working towards creating healthier futures.
Lifestyle changes could prevent a third of dementia cases
A recent report led by Professor Gill Livingston (UCL Psychiatry) revealed that more than a third of the world’s dementia cases could potentially be prevented by tackling nine lifestyle factors that increase an individual’s risk of experiencing cognitive collapse later in life.
Prof Livingston said: “Although dementia is diagnosed in later life, the brain changes usually begin to develop years before, with risk factors for developing the disease occurring throughout life, not just in old age. We believe that a broader approach to prevention of dementia which reflects these changing risk factors will benefit our ageing societies and help to prevent the rising number of dementia cases globally.”
These factors range from hearing loss to poor education and physical inactivity. Taking proactive measures to improve brain health throughout life by targeting these risk factors, such as continuing education in early life, reducing hearing loss in mid-life and reducing smoking in later life, could prevent one in three cases of dementia.
UCL home to £250m national Dementia Research Institute
UCL beat Oxford, Cambridge and other leading universities in a bid to host the headquarters of the £250m UK Dementia Research Institute (UK DRI). The UK DRI is jointly funded by the Medical Research Council in collaboration with Alzheimer’s Society and Alzheimer’s Research UK. The institute will ultimately operate across a number of UK locations, with its ‘Hub’ to be based at UCL.
The UK DRI aims to transform dementia research by broadening the scope of its research area and facilitating a more interdisciplinary approach to the study of dementia. The institute will connect researchers working across different disciplines, including those outside of the dementias field, and attract leading experts from around the world to the UK.
UCL President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur said: “Our vision for a DRI is a truly national asset that facilitates exchanges of ideas, people and resources between groups, disciplines and centres. A UCL DRI Hub will enable and support all DRI centres to deliver on the Prime Minister’s dementia challenge 2020 and internationally on the G8 Dementia Summit Declaration.”
Professor Bart De Strooper, Director UK DRI at UCL, added: “Right now, our understanding of these diseases is not dissimilar to what we knew, or thought we knew, about cancer several decades ago. What we need is a paradigm shift in the way we think about dementias. Just as we realised that a whole range of factors is responsible for how cancers occur and progress in an individual, we now need to take a more holistic view of dementia and accept that a wide range of approaches may be needed in order to be successful. We have a huge amount of discovery science to do – and I want to see real surprises.”
Groundbreaking dementia research, Virtual Reality and innovative collaboration
Dr Hugo Spiers (UCL Experimental Psychology), in collaboration with a range of partners including ETH Zurich, created award winning mobile game, Sea Hero Quest (SHQ) to support scientists currently working towards finding a cure for dementia. SHQ records users’ sense of direction to determine how navigational skills decline with age.
By playing SHQ for two minutes, users generate the same amount of data that scientists would take five hours to collect in similar lab-based research. Researchers from UCL and the University of East Anglia will use this data to create the world’s largest benchmark of how humans navigate, which will then go on to become a critical diagnostic tool for dementia in the future.
The game has been downloaded over 2.7million times and played in every country in the world. It is currently the biggest dementia study in history, and has collected an amount of data that would have taken over 9,000 years to acquire in a traditional lab setting.
Speaking on the findings, Dr Spiers said: “The findings the game is yielding have enormous potential to support vital developments in dementia research. The ability to diagnose dementia at early stages, well before patients exhibit any signs of general memory loss, would be a milestone.
UK’s first non-medical therapy for dementia
Dr Aimee Spector (UCL Psychology) directs the International Cognitive Stimulation Therapy centre at UCL. Cognitive Stimulation Therapy (CST) is an evidence-based therapy for people with dementia, which has changed dementia care within the UK and worldwide.
UK Government NICE guidance on the management of dementia recommend the use of group Cognitive Stimulation for people with mild to moderate dementia, irrespective of drug treatments received. CST is currently the only non-medical therapy endorsed by UK government guidelines for the cognitive symptoms of dementia.
The International CST centre aims to share information and encourage collaboration between professionals and consumers internationally. In addition to various services, it also hosts annual CST conferences to facilitate the proliferation of knowledge and empower practicing health professionals working with dementia patients.
The 2nd International CST Conference will be held in Hong Kong on 1-2 December 2017.
World-leading trials and research studies at the heart of UCL
The UCL Dementia Research Centre (UCL DRC) is a hub for clinical research into various forms of dementia. The DRC focuses on identifying and understanding the disease processes that cause dementia, the factors that influence these disease processes, and how best to support people with dementia and their families.
In addition to research, the UCL DRC also provides a cognitive disorders clinic within the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery.
There are currently a number of clinical trials and studies ongoing at the UCL DRC, to find out more and get involved, visit the UCL DRC website.
Free online course on dementia
UCL also offers a free online course for anyone interested in dementia, its effects on people and the brain. The four-week (two hours a week) course provides a unique insight into dementia through the stories, symptoms and science behind for less common diagnoses. Learn more and register your interest for the next enrolment.
By Jason Lewis, on 19 September 2017
UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur and a delegation from UCL will be visiting Japan from 25 September to 5 October, to strengthen ties between UCL and Japan.
The relationship between UCL and Japan dates back 150 years to the Choshu Five’s arrival at UCL. This visit is part of UCL’s long-term commitment to build on historical links through partnerships with leading Japanese institutions and governmental bodies, research collaborations and student exchanges with top universities. It is also an opportunity to connect with and celebrate our Japan-based alumni.
After leaving UCL, the Choshu Five went on to become the founding fathers of modern Japan.
The Choshu Five included Hirobumi Ito, who became Japan’s first Prime Minister and is otherwise known as ‘the Father of the Japanese Constitution’ and ‘the Father of parliamentary government in Japan’. The other men were Kaoru Inoue, who became Japan’s first Foreign Minister, also known as ‘the Father of modern Japanese diplomacy’, Yozo Yamao, ‘the Father of Japanese engineering’, Masaru Inoue, ‘the Father of Japanese railways’, and Kinsuke Endo, ‘the Father of the modern Japanese mint’.
Their legacy is still very much celebrated both in the UK and in Japan. In 2013, UCL took part in a high-profile celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Choshu Five’ in the UK.
The Choshu Five were followed soon after, in 1865, by a second group from Japan. This group of 19, a mix of students and supervisors, mostly came from the Satsuma region, hence their name ‘the Satsuma Group’. Members of this group went on to be successful diplomats, bring in compulsory education for all and founded Japan’s first modern factory.
To symbolise this significant history, the Japan Monument stands in the garden next to the South Cloisters at UCL. The names of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma Group are engraved on the granite monument next to a Japanese waka (poem).
The inscription on the side of the monument reads,
(Harubaru to kokoro tsudoite hana sakaru)
‘When distant minds come together, cherries blossom’
Current Student Trends
Following in the footsteps of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma group, many Japanese students have studied at UCL.
UCL is the second biggest recruiter of Japanese students in the UK and the number of Japanese students welcomed every year has remained fairly consistent over the past decade. There are currently over 150 students from Japan enrolled at UCL (2016/17).
In addition to a vibrant and growing UCL Japanese Society, the UCL Japan Club – alumni group for Japan-based alumni – has established a tight and strong community to keep in touch with friends and generations of UCL alumni.
UCL also hosts the annual UCL-Japan Youth Challenge. Initiated in 2015, this is a special summer school that welcomes pre-university students from the UK and Japan to UCL. The programme consists of various intercultural learning activities and events for both students and teachers from the two countries.
Current activity between UCL & Japan
There is an exciting amount of engagement between UCL and Japan. Over the next few days, we will be celebrating the iconic history UCL shares with Japan, as well as highlighting a number of contemporary collaborations. To be part of this and to keep up-to-date with our upcoming activities in Japan next week, follow us on twitter.
By Jason Lewis, on 15 September 2017
Alejandro is GEO’s Strategic Data Manager. Through analysis of the various databases that UCL uses and produces, Alejandro monitors the levels, patterns and progress of global activity underway across the university, which helps track delivery of the Global Engagement Strategy. He tells us more about his work and reveals some interesting statistics about UCL’s collaborations abroad.
Tell us more about your role in GEO
My role is to map UCL’s relationship with the world, one map at a time. The idea is that we have a database into how we interact across the globe, for example: How many students from Japan study in UCL? How may UCL graduates work in South Africa? How do we make an impact on South America rural areas? How many collaborations do we have with American Universities? Answering those questions is broadly speaking my role.
How could you be of support to UCL staff outside of GEO?
If there is a question as to what UCL is doing in certain geographical areas, or where we are collaborating with a specific institution, that is a query I can help with. Let’s assume an academic is travelling to Colombia for a conference: he could contact us and we could let him know which other academics have links in the country. That way he would be aware of UCL’s relationship with Colombia and know more about the specifics of collaborating there from first-hand experience.
Could you share some interesting statistics on UCL’s global activity we might not ordinarily be aware of?
Sure, below is a sample showing our wide geographical reach in terms of institutions we have collaborated with. UCL has collaborated with around 1,000 institutions worldwide.
Contact Alejandro on:
+44 (0)20 3108 7789 / internal 57789
By Sophie Vinter, on 7 September 2017
UCL and the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi are to deliver a three-day international workshop focused on finding environmentally friendly solutions to pressing challenges.
The Closed Loop Green Technologies for Rural Communities workshop, hosted at IIT Delhi from 11-13 September, will explore the reuse of solid and food waste for energy generation, improved water resources management, sanitation and energy provision.
Set up through a Newton Bhabha Fund Researcher Links grant, the workshop supports India’s Unnat Bharat Abhiyan programme with its vision of bringing about transformational change by leveraging the knowledge of academic institutions.
Connecting with local communities
Dr. Priti Parikh, Associate Professor at UCL’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, and Dr. Ram Chandra, Energy Bioscience Overseas Fellow (IIT Delhi) are the lead coordinators of the workshop.
Unnat Bharat Abhiyan connects academic institutions with local communities to address development challenges through participatory processes and appropriate technologies.
The event will bring together early career researchers from India and the UK – 15 participants from each country – to identify gaps in research, foster new collaborations, facilitate knowledge exchange, develop ideas for future grant applications and make recommendations to support the implementation of Unnat Bharat Abhiyan.
The Newton Bhabha Fund Researcher Links grant is funded by the UK Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the Royal Society of Chemistry and delivered by the British Council.
By Abdul A Elmi, on 17 August 2017
I’m sitting here writing my first ever blog thinking about where should I start. I suppose the logical place to start is the point at when this opportunity became a reality.
A few weeks ago, I was in Saudi, trying to withstand the blazing heat, feeling tired, fasting and doing all of this without Wi-Fi. I returned to my hotel room from the Great Holy Mosque of Saudi to an email notifying me that I had been selected to represent UCL at the One Young World (OYW) Summit in Bogotá, Colombia in October.
One Young World
Attending the summit has been a burning desire of mine this past year. One Young World brings together young leaders from around the world, empowering them to make lasting connections to create positive change. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity and with this in mind I would like to take this opportunity to thank UCL for making this possible.
My desire to effect positive change in the world really took flight earlier this year when I became heavily involved in a range of fundraising initiatives and events to raise money for the Somali Drought Appeal. Through the February Fundraiser, a student-led initiative organised by Somali Youth for Integrity (SYFI) bringing together Somali societies from different institutions, including UCL, we managed to raise £120,000 for the Somali drought. The organisations united under a common goal, to provide aid to those suffering at the hands of the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.
UCLU Somali Society, in particular, organised a series of successful fundraising initiatives for the February Fundraiser. The highlight was Inspire, where we managed to raise £40,000, in collaboration with Elays Network and Bright Education Centre. After this event, I was surprised to see how many UCL students got involved with the cause.
The UCL BME (Black & Minority Ethnic) Students’ Network allowed the Somali Society to fundraise at the end of the Black Lives Matter events. As a result of this opportunity, we managed to raise an extra £2,000. This was an eye-opening experience as it allowed me to see first-hand the potential we possess as students and that if we work together we can achieve anything.
The money raised during the February Fundraiser, in collaboration with UK charity Human Appeal, provided emergency food relief to drought affected internally displaced people and host communities. It also provided clean and safe water to vulnerable households in Dolow and Luuq districts. The project will rehabilitate community owned water infrastructure to improve suitability and ownership as well as improve hygiene awareness and enhance the food security of vulnerable households.
One thing that is clear from all the amazing work done by students on campus is that more and more young people are discussing important global issues. Not only with regards to humanitarian affairs, but also political matters such as the current debacle regarding university tuition fees and the NHS.
My hope is that I will return from the summit with a clear vision of how I would like to use my newly elected position, as the next President of the UCLU Somali Society as well as the Vice-President of SYFI, to start discussions regarding some of the world’s most pressing issues. I would also work to provide plenty of opportunities for individuals to make a difference.
I feel that it is of utmost importance to involve students in these discussions so they can provide a unique insight into potential solutions. I want to inspire students to do more for those in need. I would like more people to become motivated and involved. We are the generation that should solve a lot of the world’s issues so it is really important for us to work together effectively to make strides to overcome them.
Last but not least, I’ve enrolled myself onto a Spanish language course and have already started to practise my salsa dancing with ‘Despacito’ on loud. Hola Colombia, I’m ready for you!
Images © Human Appeal
By Guest Blogger, on 16 August 2017
By Hannah Sender, Projects, Planning and Advocacy Manager, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity
In April 2017, UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) in collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB) hosted a one-day workshop in Beirut, supported by UCL’s Global Engagement Fund. The workshop explored the demands placed on Lebanon since 2011 with the arrival of over one million refugees from Syria, and potential areas of work for those wishing to enhance inclusive prosperity for hosts and refugees in Lebanon.
This workshop was the first to be organised as part of RELIEF (Refugees, education, learning, information technology and entrepreneurship for the future): an interdisciplinary centre led by Professor Henrietta Moore (IGP Director) and funded by the UK ESRC’s Global Challenges Research Fund.
The RELIEF Centre is a five-year initiative of UCL, the AUB and the Centre for Lebanese Studies at the Lebanese American University (LAU). UCL’s Development Planning Unit, the Department for Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, the Institute of Education, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies are all partners.
The recent workshop brought together participants from INGOs, local NGOs, universities in Lebanon and the UK and social activists. Drawing on professional and personal experience, these participants gave rich and varied insights into some of the key ideas of RELIEF, and into the changing relationship between refugees and hosts in Lebanon.
Hospitality in Lebanon
The first session of the workshop, opened by Dr Nikolay Mintchev (IGP), invited participants to problematize and discuss the cultures of hospitality in Lebanon, as they related to Syrian refugees. Lebanon’s hospitality is often referenced by INGOs and foreign governments: in the same breath, they celebrate Lebanon’s hospitality, and announce that it is now over-stretched to the point where conflict is likely. The question they then pose is: how can we enable Lebanon to continue to be a good host to refugees?
The term ‘hospitality’, however, proved to not only have multiple meanings for the participants, but also to be a seriously limited and problematic term. As one participant remarked, it may be depoliticising what is a deeply political issue, and neutralising the real burden placed on Lebanese communities and Lebanese resources.
One observation did unite the participants: since 2013, interactions between hosts and refugees have changed for the worse. Some participants suggested that as time has gone on, people’s perceptions of the possibility of Syrian refugees returning to Syria have changed. This has engendered a fear that Syrians will continue to put pressure on scarce resources, and become competitors for work, housing and education.
The RELIEF Centre proposes that inclusive growth – in the broadest sense of the term – is a necessary and good ambition for places severely affected by mass displacement. However, as Dr Nasser Yassin (AUB) put it, inclusive growth is a notion which challenges 27 years of development in Lebanon. It makes demands on governments to consider what kind of growth is desirable, and how it impacts people differently. Too often, these considerations are overlooked in favour of one kind of growth – economic growth – without much concern for how it impacts people differently.
A further discussion arose on how transformative change can occur on the level of the community and individual. Many participants spoke from their own experiences of working with local governments, which had created their own strategies for managing limited resources. Researchers need to consider the value of politics and economic strategy at the local scale, and see whether there is room for manoeuvre at this scale, as well as at the national level.
Education as a practical intervention
Moving on to the afternoon session, the participants were invited to turn their minds to another important component of the RELIEF project: education for communities affected by mass displacement and conflict.
Professor Maha Shuayb (Centre for Lebanese Studies) gave a presentation about the state of education for refugees and host communities in Lebanon. She prompted important questions about identity and difference, and how these imposed categories have created unnecessary divides in delivery of education between refugee and host communities. She suggested that the notion of vulnerability is relevant to both Lebanese and non-Lebanese children, and that educational programmes need to confront and properly function in student groups with a diversity of needs and capabilities.
Pathways to practice
Whilst critical analysis of the challenges which host communities and refugees face in Lebanon is vital to understanding the context in which we are working, the RELIEF team wanted to end the workshop with an insight into spaces of potential action: new policies, engaged institutions, and cultural shifts which could serve as a platform for innovation.
In the final session, the workshop participants were joined by Marina Aksakalova and her team from UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, she reported, had given renewed support for a cohesive response to the refugee crisis. It is now possible to develop a strategy and take a more entrepreneurial approach towards it.
The question of inclusivity – who is included and in what – dominated the debate throughout the workshop. The acute needs of people in Lebanon – from host communities to refugees – have created a tense situation in the country, where claims of difference have been deployed to ensure and, conversely, prevent, access to resources. In the final session, there was a hope raised, shared by the partners in the RELIEF Centre: that responses to individual crises can be integrated with the provision of goods and services that are required to live a good life in Lebanon.
Image © Dominic Chavez/World Bank: Students at the Second Bourj Hammoud Pubic School in Beirut, Lebanon. Two-thirds of the students at the school are Lebanese and one-third are Syrian.
By Jason Lewis, on 26 July 2017
The satellite is now 507km up and going overhead three times a day (six times actually, but three times in working hours).
On the current status of the satellite, Dr Rob Wicks (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) said: “We have our ground station here and we listen to it every time it goes overhead and we get data back. It’s working well at the moment, touch wood.”
Funded by the European Union, the QB50 mission has involved the launch of a network of CubeSats built by universities all over the world to collectively study the physics and chemistry of the middle and lower thermosphere of the Earth for the first time.
The mission has fostered a lot of collaboration across universities, science institutes and industry partners. For example, two universities in Australia help UCL listen for radio contact with UCLSat, and UCL does the same for them.
“Australian National University and Adelaide University are both helping us out with radio contact with our satellite,” explained Dr Wicks. “And that’s kind of on just a friendly, reciprocal basis. We listen to theirs and they listen to ours. There’s no official paperwork to do with that, but we are just collaborating as friendly institutions.
“It’s one of the great things about QB50 – you have these 50 institutions around the world that are now sort of semi-friendly and talk to one another about radios and satellites and things like that.”
A resounding success
UCL has been involved in the mission since 2011 and, in addition to working on UCLSat, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) engineers also produced hardware for 13 of the other satellites.
The mission has been a resounding success. The failure rate for CubeSats is usually 40%, but the CubeSats launched during the QB50 mission is half that, at 20%.
Speaking of UCL’s achievements and pioneering vision for the project, Dr Wicks added: “UCL should be extremely happy that it has been a leader in this field of big CubeSat missions. The whole mission right from the beginning has been a struggle, because space agencies and a lot of the science community were very negative about CubeSats. They said ‘they are too small and too unrealisable – it’s a waste of time and a waste of money to try and do science with them’.
“I think we are basically proving them wrong – we can use them for education, we can use them for training and we can use them for science. We can keep them cheap. We expect that 20% will fail, but that is better than 40%, and we are going to get real useful scientific data out of it. It is only really now that the science community is waking up to this.”
UCL students have been heavily involved in the project. Masters students worked with MSSL in the early stages of the project on the design of the satellite and on simulations of the upper atmosphere, among others.
Théophile Brochant de Villiers, who worked on the CubeSat while studying for his MSc in Space Science and Engineering at UCL, is now a technician in the MSSL Department of Space & Climate Physics.
He said: “We were a small team working on UCLSat. This meant there was a lot of work and a lot of tasks that I wasn’t necessarily trained for. So I learned everything on the job; this required being proactive, and not being afraid to seek out help around the lab. I got to know a lot of amazing scientists and engineers which I still regularly interact and work with. This is what I’m most proud of.”
- Read a Q&A with Théophile about his work on UCLSat here.
- 36 CubeSats have been launched into orbit in 2017. Their positions, data, and detailed information can be found on the QB50 Display, Processing and Archiving Center.
- Find more news from the UCL Faculty of Mathematical & Physical Sciences here.
By Jason Lewis, on 26 July 2017
Hayley Gewer (UCL Centre for Languages & International Education) runs a UCL Summer School module called ‘Global London: Contemporary Urbanism, Culture and Space’.
The course enables students from around the world to take a global city (London) as a pivotal concept from which to explore a range of considerations around contemporary cities, including their own.
Could you tell us more about the course?
The course was set up specifically for the summer school. It is a short three-week course that really invites students to look at urban complexities, urban contradictions and urban opportunities within a very short period. Students are invited to come and learn about London, to explore theoretical concepts and to practically engage with what the city has to offer in terms of contemporary urban processes.
We look at considerations around multi-ethnicities, transnationalism, inclusion and exclusion to understand how migration has shaped the city of London and how it represents the global world through one city. We look at considerations around urban culture, cultural production and urban change – looking at processes like gentrification, vernacular culture, ordinary culture and manufactured culture – to understand how London is currently a city of cultural diversity but also a city of cultural homogeneity.
How do students interact with the city?
The course really hopes to provide students with an opportunity to explore how cities have been shaped, who is involved in shaping them, who benefits from shaping them, and who doesn’t, and to take a critical lens to not only London but their own cities and cities all around the world.
Students are also given the opportunity to share with each other in the classroom; this is complemented by fieldwork where students are encouraged to use a range of research methods to explore the urban. It is quite experimental – they are encouraged to use sound and film as a way of engaging with specific places that we visit. They are also urged to really explore how the theoretical approaches that we do in the class room apply or don’t apply to the areas that we are visiting.
How does the course cultivate a global perspective?
The course uses ‘Global London’ as a pivotal concept to explore a range of urban considerations. We take the concept of global cities as a starting point where we explore the process of globalisation and the ‘world cities/global cities’ concept that has emerged from that.
Students are invited to critique the concepts and to think about the broader implications of these hypotheses. We then counteract the global cities hypothesis with more post-colonial considerations of cities around the world and all the time students are encouraged to reflect on their own cities, to share information and to learn from each other.
Students come from all over the world to study on the summer school and this course really invites them not only to experience, learn and think about London, but then also to go back to their own cities and hopefully to relook at their cities with new eyes, given what they’ve experienced on the course.
How has this been for you, participating in the summer school?
It has been a very enriching experience, because it is really invaluable to hear from a wide range of experiences, to learn from students themselves about their own unique urban spaces but also for them to share. Students are young so they are bringing in a lot of new information I might not have been exposed to and they are also able to create linkages between information I might not have been able to make. It’s a very rewarding experience.
I think for UCL as a whole it is great to have students from all the world, even for a short period of time, because students are able to see how well-located UCL is, the facilities that at here, the professionalism of the teaching and the environment that students learn in.
Even though some students might only be here for a short time, it might be that students return to do post graduate studies in the future.
By Jason Lewis, on 25 July 2017
Dr Eszter Tarsoly (UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies) is a course leader on UCL’s Global Citizenship Programme (GCP).
She leads The Danube module, which SSEES delivers as one of the GCP Grand Challenges strands, addressing Intercultural Interaction.
The module boasts an innovative and intensive language programme, which aims to provide students with a thorough insight into how Danubian societies work and the historical, cultural and social influences on the development of the language.
In this short introduction to the module, Dr Tarsoly highlights the ties between language learning through a cultural lens and global citizenship.
She also points out the basic skills that students felt they developed by participating in the bespoke language module during the GCP and how this equips them for global lives.
Filmed and edited by UCL graduate Jason Lewis
UCL students who participated in the GCP this year said they viewed language learning as central to cultivating a global outlook and to building new bonds with other students from across UCL.
Aditi Mathur (BSc Social Sciences), who completed this year’s module, said: “While learning a new language, I also found that this was one part of the programme where the entire group was at par. We were all completely new to Bulgarian. This brought us closer together as a unit. We found ourselves working better as a group over the span of ten days, and forged very important bonds with every member of the group”.
“When I think of global citizenship, three words come to mind: diversity, culture and respect. This programme has taught me to respect every culture I am exposed to. While making a judgement of every person and their background, we learnt how to not react extremely upon these judgements. This, in turn, is pivotal when it comes to developing a global perspective that involves respecting and accepting differences across different cultures.”