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UCL professor appointed Chair of British Hispanic Foundation

By Sophie Vinter, on 21 June 2017

UCL Professor Jim Anderson (right) has been appointed Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at UCMA UCL professor has been appointed Reina Victoria Eugenia Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

Professor Jim C Anderson (UCL Department of Chemistry) has a longstanding collaboration with the School of Pharmacy at UCM in Spain, where he has previously delivered a series of research lectures as well as hosting a number of its students in the UK.

The honorary position, awarded annually, was jointly created by UCM, the British Hispanic Foundation, the British Council and the King’s Group in Spain.

It promotes European collaboration by enabling a UK professor to deliver regular lectures at UCM to post-graduates and members of the public, alongside their teaching activity.

UCM students will spend three months at UCL in the autumn assisting Jim, who is the Alexander Williamson Professor of Organic Chemistry, with his research. They will investigate new ways of making single enantiomer drug molecules, which will be used to explore alternative methods of developing cutting-edge pharmaceuticals.

Professor Carlos Andradas, UCM Rector, and Fidel López Álvarez, Executive President of the British Hispanic Foundation, presented Jim with the title at a recent ceremony.

They commented on the importance of maintaining international collaboration, both for scientific and educational purposes, but also to send “a message of peace and respect for all, as a basis for the world’s future.”

Prof Andradas highlighted that thanks to the initiative, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, UCM doctorates have access to high quality teaching and overseas study.

Jim said: “International collaborations are so important in research for widening everyone’s perspective. I am very grateful to the British Hispanic Foundation, UCM and especially Professor José Carlos Menéndez for arranging my lectures at UCM and the warmth of my reception in Spain.”

The British Hispanic Foundation is a non-profit organisation registered with the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It aims to promote cultural collaboration and understanding between Spain and the UK.

UCL graduate wins One World Media Award for China documentary

By Sophie Vinter, on 8 June 2017

UCL graduate Minmin Wu won the Student Award at the One World Media Awards for her graduation film 'Waste'UCL graduate Minmin Wu (MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film 2016), has won the 2017 Student Award at the One World Media Awards for her graduation film Waste.

Waste follows Yanin Ma, an 11-year- old girl living with leukaemia in China. Having spent the last month undergoing chemotherapy in Guangzhou City, she now wants only to go home. But Yanin’s hometown in Shantou is one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world and some believe this could be a cause of her illness.

Minmin is the second Open City Docs School MA graduate to receive the accolade, after Fernando González Mitjans’ win for his graduation film Limpiadores in 2016.

She was one of 25 who formed the second cohort of Masters students in UCL’s new MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film. Her film exemplifies the kind of work the MA’s tutors set out to encourage – rooted in the research culture of a great university but made in the highly personal voice and cinematic vision of the filmmaker.

Minmin said: “I want to thank UCL, Open City Docs School, my tutors and my friends who helped me make this film. I made this film not just because I wanted to raise attention to environmental pollution in China but also because I had similar experiences to what the characters go through in my film. I wanted to share their feelings and story with a wider audience.”

Read the full story here.

Second Year of UK – Mexico Visiting Chair Mobility Grants

By Clare Burke, on 30 May 2017

The Consortium of Higher Education Institutions that are part of the United Kingdom-Mexico Visiting Chair (UK-MX Visiting Chair) are pleased to announce the launch of this year’s Mobility Grants scheme.

The UK – Mexico Visiting Chair scheme provides mobility funding for a research visit of up to two weeks to visit a new potential collaborator within a Consortium of 12 Mexican and 12 UK universities. A full list of participating Mexican institutions can be found in the Guidance Notes.

The scheme was created with the support of Mexican and UK governments to increase research collaboration and strengthen relations between HEIs in Mexico and the UK. UCL researchers interested in working with partners in Mexico can apply for funding to support their collaboration.

To be eligible, applicants need to hold a doctorate degree in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Social Sciences and Humanities as well as being employed by any of the HEIs included in the scheme.

Activities accepted and encouraged include attendance at workshops, research symposia and conferences, as well as meetings to scope collaboration, share best practice or develop new initiatives. Please note: there is a minimum requirement to spend at least four days at the allocated HEI.

Costs covered under the scheme include flights, accommodation, workspace, insurance, internal travel and incidental expenses.

How to apply

Applicants must read the Guidance Notes in full before completing the research project proposal form. They will need to list their top three possible destinations for their proposed visit to Mexico – this should include confirmation from the host academic/department in each institution.

Applications should be submitted to Clare Burke by 17.00 on Friday 18 August 2017. They must be made in English and include the documents below:

a.    A completed research project proposal form
b.    Curriculum vitae, including relevant publications
c.    Confirmation from the host institution

The results will be announced on Monday 2 October by email and published online thereafter.

Applicants should be aware that if successful, the location of their placement will depend on finalisation by the Commissions of both their home country and that of their partner.

UCL in Africa: strengthening collaborations

By Clare Burke, on 24 May 2017

Drummers welcome delegates at the first conference of the African Universities Research AllianceIn line with the Global Engagement Strategy (GES), UCL is intensifying its engagement in Africa. In April 2017, UCL colleagues conducted visits to Ghana and South Africa to strengthen existing partnerships and to facilitate the development of further avenues for collaboration with current and potential partners.

Africa Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) launch

The Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, travelled to Ghana to attend the inaugural African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) conference held at the University of Ghana.

ARUA was inaugurated in Dakar in March 2015, bringing together sixteen of the continent’s top institutions with a common vision to leverage their resources for greater impact, similar to the Russell Group in the UK. Under the theme ‘Research in Africa Rising’, the conference was attended by over 100 delegates and marked the official launch of ARUA.

The event also served as a platform to announce ARUA’s strategic objectives which will focus on increasing Africa’s contribution to global cutting edge research output, the number of PhD graduates working on the continent and increasing the number of African universities in the top 200 universities globally over a ten year period.

UCL was one of two non-African institutions invited to speak at the event, and Professor Uchegbu joined a panel to present on: “New Trends and Developments in Global Scientific Research and the Role of Universities.” She gave an overview of UCL’s multidisciplinary approach, particularly in light of the Global Challenges Research Fund as well as the importance of translational research.

In the margins of presentations Professor Uchegbu met with key colleagues at ARUA institutions to discuss strengths within their institutions and identify possible areas for future collaboration with UCL.

The synergies between the key challenges that ARUA seeks to address and the GES strategic drivers allow for potential bilateral collaboration between UCL and ARUA. Current priority areas for ARUA will focus on collaborative research, training and support for PhDs, capacity building for research management and research advocacy.

In terms of next steps, ARUA will pursue a number of large multi-institutional projects in both the natural sciences and social sciences/humanities under the thirteen themes they have identified to take forward collaborative research.

University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) visit

Led by Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International), a UCL delegation carried out a two-day visit of UKZN. The visit served as an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the two institutions, and to evaluate potential channels for wider-collaboration and increased impact.

The delegation outlined UCL’s support for collaborating with UKZN beyond existing health-related collaborations, such as the African Health Research Institute (AHRI), and highlighted how AHRI’s aims and vision align to the GES. The inclusion of the Vice-Dean (External Relations and International) Population Health Sciences and the Director of UCL Institute of Advanced Studies enabled colleagues to explore academic collaborations within disciplines that were not previously discussed, such as Arts and Humanities and Laws.

During the visit both institutions agreed to hold a data sharing day, which would be hosted in London at UCL. This would enable UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and to build on the initial discussions in South Africa. Held on 18 May, the event enabled UKZN colleagues to meet with UCL colleagues and facilitate discussions on potential collaborations and possible fundable research topics, accessible through funding such as GCRF.

Ask GEO: Clare Burke, Partnership Manager (Africa and Middle East)

By Jason Lewis, on 24 May 2017

Clare_5901_SquareClare is GEO’s Partnership Manager for Africa and Middle East. She gives us an update on her work and recent visit to Ghana and South Africa.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions.

Since GEO was established in November 2015, I have spent time developing links with UCL colleagues who are working across Africa and the Middle East and have learned (and still continue to learn) about the type of collaborations that colleagues are engaged with. I have been amazed with the breadth of collaboration taking place across both the institution and the number of UCL Faculties and Departments who are working across these regions.

To date, I have information on almost 200 collaborations taking place on the African continent and around 45 collaborations taking place across the Middle East but I have just scratched the surface of this work and I plan to build on this data over the summer.

In terms of intensifying our engagement, UCL is exploring how we can strengthen our existing partnerships with a number of institutions including the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) , the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).

You recently returned from a visit to Africa. Could you tell us what countries you visited and how the trip went?

I recently visited Ghana and South Africa as part of a larger UCL delegation to meet with universities and to learn about their research strengths and to identify potential areas of collaboration.

In Ghana, together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, I attended the inaugural ARUA Conference. The African Research Universities Alliance or ARUA , as it is more commonly known, comprises of 16 of the top research intensive universities from 9 countries across the African continent. Led by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, ARUA’s Secretary General, this ‘Russell-Group type’ alliance will boost higher education across the continent and encourage more Western collaborations with African universities outside South Africa.

In South Africa, the delegation led by the Vice-Provost (International) visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal to strengthen the existing partnership with the university in relation to the wider African Health Research Institute (AHRI) collaboration and to explore collaborations within other disciplines (beyond health) including Arts and Humanities and Laws.

What’re you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am following up on post-visit actions. For example, the UCL delegation met with over 40 UKZN colleagues in South Africa so I am identifying possible areas of synergy and facilitating introductions between UCL and UKZN colleagues to see if there is scope for future collaboration.

Similarly, we held a data-sharing day with UZKN colleagues here in London to build on some of the initial conversations held in Durban so that UCL and UKZN colleagues could meet each other face to face.

I am also working with SLMS colleagues on the AHRI collaboration, while we explore if this type 2 partnership could become one of future strategic partnerships given its close alignment to a number of the Strategic Drivers of the Global Engagement Strategy (GES).

Finally, over the summer, I will continue to build on the regional data mapping exercise and will capture more information on UCL’s activities and collaborations across the region so that we can share this across the institution. If your work is not included, let me know!

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in Africa and Middle East?

I regularly circulate details of upcoming regionally-focussed events and funding calls as well as our termly newsletter which includes regional highlights and success stories. Together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), I also coordinate termly meetings which all network members are invited to. We hold region specific events each year; our successful Knowledge Africa 2017 – Africa Unheard event took place in February and the next event, UCL in the Middle East 2017: The Middle East re-mapped will take place on 5 June. Network membership has increased significantly in the last 12 months and I would encourage colleagues with an interest in the region to sign up to our mailing list.

 

Contact Clare on:

clare.burke@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7776 / internal 57776

Giving Syrian child refugees a voice through film

By Guest Blogger, on 24 May 2017

The Refugee Film Project was founded by three UCL alumni: Aphra Evans (BA Latin American Studies), Shyam Jones (BSc Psychology) and Michael McGovern (BA European Social & Political Studies), to support Syrian child refugees.

Written by Aphra Evans 

Three UCL alumni have set up the Refugee Film Project to support Syrian refugee childrenThe Refugee Film Project teaches Syrian child refugees the art of filmmaking, and it was founded thanks to a serendipitous series of events involving three UCL alumni.

Michael McGovern works for an NGO called SB OverSeas which operates in Syria and Lebanon. Wanting to help, I volunteered as a teacher in their school in Beirut for children living in Shatila refugee camp. Soon after, I was contacted by Shyam Jones, a filmmaker who suggested we collaborate. Before long, the Refugee Film Project was born.

Shyam and I wanted to give the children a creative outlet that the school could not provide, and teach them technical skills as well as life skills such as teamwork, cooperation and leadership. By being at the helm of the project, the children built their confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Meanwhile, Shyam and I had a great time harnessing the bold personalities of the kids on film.

The Refugee Film Project helps Syrian child refugees tell their stories through filmThe children dreamt up stories and characters, had them made into scripts, picked costumes and locations, used a camera and tripod with great finesse, and then watched themselves on screen in our makeshift cinema. If nothing else, with professional equipment and a team of three adults at their beck and call they felt pretty important, and the project took them out of the camp where they could not play on the streets for the danger it presented.

Slow but steady progress

At the beginning, the children could not think of any ideas for a film. At school there were just 45 minutes a week devoted to creative endeavours (involving pencils and a piece of A4), so we had to work through a creative blockage. Film by film, the ideas multiplied. By the end, they were coming so thick and fast I had trouble writing them down.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many were analogous to the life-altering experience of being a refugee. One story was of a village that had to be re-won, another about a king being unfair to his subjects. Violence and the divide between rich and poor were recurring themes, in their ideas as much as their lives. We let them tell the tales they wanted, as we firmly believed film was a means to process their trauma.

Shatila’s got talent

One of the children supported by the Refugee Film Project films his friendsWe were lucky to work with some very gifted children. Tahani, 12, was a fantastic actor who needed no direction and had an impressive knack for remembering dialogue. Moustafa, 11, learnt his way around a camera quicker than we thought possible. For one music video, Hanadi, 15, alternated between rapping, singing and playing the oud with ease.

More important than showcasing these talents, however, was how much the kids obviously enjoyed the course. They were constantly suppressing smiles while acting (which make their films all the more enjoyable to watch), and they would turn up at school with enthusiasm at 9am on a Sunday. One of them, Khaled, 14, even said he might work with us again when he was a grown-up actor!

Far from over

Our six-week course in Lebanon was merely the project’s first iteration. We are planning to repeat it in partnership with an NGO called SAWA that works in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, home to half a million refugees living in tents. But this venture, as our last one, is dependent on the generosity of our crowdfunders.

The odds are stacked so highly against the 2.5 million Syrian child refugees that humanitarian organisations fear they will become a ‘lost generation’. But with the right resources they still have the chance to be children. And I hope we can find the funds to continue giving them an outlet for their energy, happiness and big personalities – on the big screen.

All images courtesy of the Refugee Film Project.

UCL in the Middle East 2017: The Middle East re-mapped

By Clare Burke, on 10 May 2017

5 June 2017 (10am-4pm), Anthropology seminar room, Department of Anthropology

Keynote: Dr Yael Navaro, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge

Reflecting a wider interest in ‘re-mapping area studies’ at UCL, the aim of this workshop is to explore how the Middle East might be rethought and re-drawn today.

There will be contributions from researchers across the social sciences, arts and humanities that address the question of how to map the Middle East, whether conceptually, creatively, or through empirical research.

The workshop will be organised around two broad themes:

  • Creatively approaching the Middle East, and
  • Outsiders Within and Insiders Without.

Dr Yael Navaro will give a keynote lecture to introduce the event on: ‘Encrypted Arabic: Language as a Materiality at the Contested Turkish/Syrian Frontier’.

Read the full UCL in the Middle East programme and register to attend here.

The event has been organized by Professor Andrew Barry and Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (UCL Department of Geography), and Professor Ruth Mandel (UCL Department of Anthropology).

International conference: Mahatma Gandhi in the 21st Century

By Guest Blogger, on 5 May 2017

Written by Narinder Kapur, Visiting Professor of Neuropsychology

Gandhi Fellows, their families, UCL's Dr. Caroline Selai and Sreemoyee Chatterjee, a Times of India journalistThe year 2015 saw the unveiling of a statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Parliament Square and 2017 is being celebrated in Britain as the India-UK year of culture to mark 70 years of Indian Independence.

These events provided an ideal opportunity to uphold and renew Gandhi’s ideals for the promotion of his principles of nonviolence, tolerance and justice, and for a focus on the problems of the poor and needy in the world.

With these aims in mind, on 28 April 2017 we held an international conference at UCL entitled – Mahatma Gandhi in the 21st Century: Gandhian Themes and Values.

The purpose of the conference was to raise awareness of Gandhian ideals, to encourage people in India and the UK to think about Gandhian issues and values, and to encourage innovation in producing solutions to problems such as poor healthcare, education access and violence in society.

Topics that were covered included Gandhian perspectives on justice, education, nonviolence, and health, as well as a focus on village India and how innovations, such as frugal medical innovations, can be cheaply produced and help common conditions.

Pro-Vice-Provost South Asia Professor Marie Lall (UCL Institute of Education) outlined some of the key collaborations that UCL has with India, and we enlisted eminent speakers from the UK, India and the USA to speak on a range of topics related to Gandhian issues and ideals.

In parallel with the conference, we held a major exhibition of Gandhi-related items, including:

  • Frugal innovation devices in healthcare, to parallel the talk given by Professors Prabhu and Bhargava. This included devices jointly developed by the All India Medical Institute in Delhi and Stanford University, as well as the Jaipur Limb
  • A set of 100 unique photographs provided by GandhiServe in Germany
  • Interactive displays where delegates explored issues related to global citizenship, altruism and moral judgment
  • A virtual reality app built specifically around the Taj Mahal and Gandhi, where delegates could feel what it is like to be at the Taj Mahal and also ‘in the skin’ of Gandhi
  • A Gandhi in Sight and Sound powerpoint presentation that had key speeches and video clips about Gandhi, including a Gandhi ‘Rap’ song by MC Yogi.

In the tradition of Mahatma Gandhi, and in order to have maximum participation in the conference, we did not charge for attendance. Since Gandhi was keen for his values and ideals to permeate throughout India, as well as countries such as the UK, we funded five fellowships to enable young Indian citizens to attend the conference.

They were selected as part of an essay competition, with the essay including a focus on how Gandhi is relevant today, and how he can be made more relevant.

Around 100 delegates attended the event, including a journalist from the Times of India.

Beyond Medicine: Difficult Dialogues 2017

By Jason Lewis, on 3 May 2017

Written by Ina Goel, research scholar at UCL and runs the hijra project

A public health system is a complex intersectional unit of people, institutions and resources determining the heath culture of a society. Prof. Debabar Banerjii explains health culture as  an ecological approach that allows us to analyse epidemiology, cultural perceptions, health technologies and health behaviour within a country. At the recently held Difficult Dialogues conference, I got a chance to be a part of the shifting debates on India’s health culture. My panel was on gender and health, which  looked at gendered determinants of health inequities in India. Key focuses were on issues related to gender-based violence, sexuality and access to reproductive and medical technologies.

Rudrani on Difficult Dialogues 2017 panel

As a social scientist who has spent the last seven years working with the hijra communities (trans communities known as third gender) in India, I was invited to draw on my experience of working in the field. I spoke about the gaps between the policy prescriptions and their implementation when it comes to accessing public health by the hijra communities. I got a chance to meet and interact with other experts in the field from journalism, academia and public policy that helped me strengthen my understanding in an interdisciplinary way. Difficult Dialogues gave me a platform to bring out the discrepancies between well-meaning policies and the living realities of hijra communities in India.

In April 2014, the Supreme Court of India declared that hijras be treated as the third gender. This landmark judgment gave affirmative action to hijras by adding them to the OBC (Other Backward Class) category, as a means of securing this quota. The Supreme Court further directed the Centre and State governments to urgently look into the problems faced by the hijra communities and made recommendations for providing proper medical care and separate public toilets for hijras. On one hand, the hijras are celebrated in Indian society because of their symbolism in representing several androgynous gods.  On the other hand, the hijras are often victims of sexual harassment, abuse and rape, with no laws in place capable of dealing with a hijra rape complaint. Given their socially marginalised status and the prejudices hijras face, the issue of underreporting of crimes against hijras is perhaps understandable. There is also a refusal to accommodate and acknowledge the sexual identities of hijras because there is an anti-sodomy law in practice in India. This contradiction in law means that whilst hijras can officially be recognised as the third gender, it does not allow hijras to openly come out and truly live their lives. We thus have a system that fails to recognise the felt needs of hijras.

In India, many hijras are castrated. Often, it is believed that after castration, the hijra achieves nirwana or rebirth that earns the hijra the power to bless or curse other people. However, according to the Indian Penal Code, the legality of the practice of castration is under question and there is a lack of formal guidelines issued by the Medical Council of India regarding sex-reassignment surgery. Though there are some places that offer surgery to hijras at huge costs, many hijras do not have access to those facilities or the resources to sustain them. Given this constrained situation, many hijras are forced to go to quacks and faith healers to get themselves castrated. Little academic insight exists to address the issue of violence involved in castration given the centrality of the castration operation in hijra communities and the lack of proper routes to access it. Recognising violence as a social determinant to health is critical to understanding the health needs of hijra communities in India.

Resisting violence against hijras should be the first and foremost step that the Indian government should look into. Yes, a promise for a better hijra life is essential but aiming to provide separate public toilets for hijras in a country still struggling to deal with open defecation and manual scavenging might be a little too far-fetched for immediate implementation. For better outreach and improved accessibilities, public health policy makers should recognise the relationship between the living experiences of hijras and theoretical understanding of them. The big question remains the same: How do we  ensure true equity for those who need it the most?

The theme for Difficult Dialogues 2018 is gender with the hope of finding better solutions to such difficult questions.

 

Photo: Rudrani (c) (hijra activist and founder of India’s first Transgender Modelling Agency)

References:

Banerji, D (1985): Health and Family Planning Services in India: An Epidemiological, Socio-cultural and Political Analysis and a Perspective, Lok Paksh, New Delhi

 

New research into effects of Brexit on UK universities

By Sophie Vinter, on 19 April 2017

The Centre for Global Higher Education (CGHE), based at UCL, has been awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) for a research project that will investigate the implications, implementation and consequences of Brexit for UK higher education institutions.

The funding will run from 1 May 2017 to 31 October 2018 and is part of the ESRC’s UK in a Changing Europe initiative, which supports research into the relationship between the UK and the European Union (EU).

A research partnership of international universities, CGHE is the largest research centre in the world and specifically focuses on higher education and its future development.

The project will use empirical data to identify and better understand the challenges faced by the higher education sector, looking at the implications of Brexit not simply in terms of the inner life of institutions but in the context of their broader relationships with local, national and European communities. It will also consider the broader impacts of Brexit for higher education in UK and Europe.

The initiative will be led by CGHE Director Professor Simon Marginson from the UCL Institute of Education, with CGHE Deputy Director William Locke from the UCL Institute of Education and Dr Vassiliki Papatsiba from the University of Sheffield as Co-Investigators.

Professor Marginson said: “Brexit, in whatever form it takes, will require UK universities to make rapid, well-judged adjustments while building new relations in Europe and beyond. The high level of uncertainty about the options for policy and strategy is a crucial aspect of the Brexit challenge. Responding to that uncertainty, and the multiple options, requires exceptional agility and highly functional internal systems that integrate governance, management and academic units.

“The impact of this research will be felt during the project as it will when the project’s findings are completed. Project events during the research will bring together the case study universities and others in the sector, providing a platform for exploring scenarios, alternatives and resources and highlighting the ways forward.”

Read the full article on the CGHE website.