By Sian Gardiner, on 23 July 2018
With Brexit negotiations ongoing, the future of Erasmus, the European Union’s student exchange programme, remains unclear in the UK – making the future of student mobility uncertain.
But as London’s Global University, UCL is committed to providing its students with a truly global experience. And while studying in the heart of London goes some way to providing this, every UCL undergraduate has the opportunity to gain international study experience, regardless of their degree programme.
UCL’s dedicated Study Abroad team exists to support and promote these opportunities for UCL students. Thanks to its work, today UCL has exchange agreements with over 250 institutions in 40 countries across five continents, including 48 of the world’s top 100 universities. But how many students travel abroad each year, and where are they heading?
Increase in outward mobility in 2017/18
Data shows that over the past year, UCL has significantly increased the number of international exchange opportunities it offers to students. In fact, the number of outwardly mobile undergraduates has increased by an estimated 35% since 2015/16.
In 2016/17, 1,164 undergraduate students (around 26% of the graduating cohort) experienced one week or more abroad, while 23.8% experienced four or more. As of July 2018, at least 1,292 students will take part in such programmes during 2017/18, with this figure expected to rise.
Top destinations for these students are the University of California, the University of Toronto (U of T) and the University of British Colombia.
At 20% of the total, the second most popular region for UCL students taking up placements abroad is South East Asia and Australasia. Top choice institutions in this region are the University of Melbourne, followed by the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the University of Western Australia.
The next most popular regions for UCL students are East Asia, followed by Europe and Latin America. As the graph below demonstrates, these placements are at institutions in cities from Moscow to Hong Kong.
For students who wish to study abroad but don’t have the opportunity to take part in an exchange programme as part of their course, there are also a number of short-term opportunities coordinated by UCL Study Abroad.
This August, for example, 46 UCL students are set to travel to Shanghai and Hangzhou as part of the Study China programme.
It’s also worth noting that each year, UCL in turn welcomes students for exchange placements from all over the world.
Echoing the pattern of UCL students travelling for placements abroad, the highest number of students coming to study at UCL in turn are from North America (59% of the total). These students hail from institutions including the University of California, U of T, the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Washington.
Beyond North America, UCL’s next biggest intake of students is from the National University of Singapore. Also in the top ten are the University of Hong Kong, the University of Melbourne and McGill University in Montreal.
Owain Evans is UCL’s Short Mobilities Co-ordinator. He said: “It is important for students to enhance their future employability in the ever-changing and increasingly competitive post-graduation environment. Research shows that students with international experiences achieve better degrees and secure better jobs, so we encourage as many students as possible to seek out these opportunities while studying at UCL.
“In addition to the positive effect on employability, there are a range of benefits available to students who spend time abroad, from improvements in language, communication, cultural awareness to the opportunity to build international networks. Put simply, international opportunities have the ability to change the lives of students who undertake them.
“The UCL Study Abroad team aims to inspire and support students who undertake international opportunities, and the increasing number of options we offer reflects the diversity and range of interests among the UCL student cohort.”
By Sian Gardiner, on 23 July 2018
Dr Jane Humphris, Head of UCL Qatar Research in Sudan, has published a children’s book intended to raise awareness about archaeological work in Sudan among local children.
The book, ‘Sudan’s Ancient History: Hwida and Maawia Investigate Meroe’s Iron’, illustrates the groundbreaking archaeological work currently underway in the Royal City of Meroe, as part of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP), for a younger audience.
Funded by Qatar Museums, QSAP is an extensive, targeted initiative by to support the exploration and protection of Sudan’s culture and history.
Led by the states of Sudan and Qatar, this international project has over 40 missions engaged in the excavation and conservation of ancient sites in Sudan.
Distributed in Doha libraries
The new book follows two young children, Hwida and Maawia, as they discover how the ancient Sudanese produced iron, demonstrating the significant role this played in the history of the Kingdom of Kush.
Following its publication, copies of the book are to be placed in the Museum of Islamic Art library and the Qatar National Library for children and families from across Qatar to learn about this aspect of Sudan’s rich heritage.
As part of the ongoing community outreach programme in Sudan, hundreds of copies have been also handed out to children living around Meroe and placed in the libraries of local schools.
Inspiring the next generation
Speaking at a ceremony hosted by Qatar National Library, Jane said: “Here at UCL Qatar, we believe that the role of archaeologists is not just to discover the past through archaeological excavations, but also to make sure that the work we are doing is accessible.
“We hope that the book continues to be used as an educational tool – both in Sudan and Qatar – so that we can inspire the next generation to become more interested in preserving, protecting, and promoting cultural heritage.”
Ongoing archaeological work
For the last six years, UCL Qatar has been carrying out archaeological work at the ancient Royal City of Meroe, on the east bank of the river Nile.
UCL Qatar’s most recent work as part of QSAP includes the discovery of early iron production workshops, and extensive research and conservation at the Apedemak Temple, one of the most import religious locations at the Royal City.
By Sian Gardiner, on 18 July 2018
Dr Florian Mussgnug is Reader in Italian and Comparative Literature at UCL and convenor of the BA Comparative Literature, which examines world literature from diverse geographical and cultural angles.
He has recently been appointed as an Academic Director of the Cities Programme, a cross-UCL initiative that will support, fund and promote the work UCL academics carry out with partners in global cities. He spoke to us about his work with the Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub and his hopes for the launch of the Cities Programme.
Which events took place in Rome in 2017-18?
The Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub has facilitated 11 collaborative projects, which were convened by UCL lead applicants from six faculties. In total, this enabled the organization of five international conferences, three symposia, six graduate training workshops, two week-long international doctoral summer schools, a piano concert and a photography exhibition. All events took place in Rome over the course of three months, between April and June 2018. More than 100 academic speakers were invited, including 37 UCL members of staff.
How did the Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub come about?
The idea was born during a period of great apprehension, following the British EU referendum. The spectre of Brexit marked a threat to the future of UK universities, as the Provost of UCL and other university leaders were quick to point out. British universities have benefitted enormously from EU funding and from the free movement of researchers and students, and there was justified concern that prolonged political uncertainty and the noxious rhetoric of the leave campaign would put off researchers in other European countries.
A strong, positive signal was needed, especially for subjects like Modern Languages, European Studies and Comparative Literature, which rely strongly on free movement and the Erasmus student exchange programme.
What makes Rome such a fruitful location for academic collaboration?
Rome was a good place to start. The city can boost a sustained record of research collaborations with UCL, across numerous disciplines: archaeology, architecture, art history, ancient history and classical studies, the fine arts, museum studies, electronic engineering, history, modern languages, neuroscience, philosophy, political science and translation studies.
My vision has focused on strategic collaboration with high-ranking research universities and other prestigious regional partners, including Sapienza University, Roma Tre University, LUISS Guido Carli University and the British School at Rome (BSR). I have pursued this idea since 2016, thanks to three rounds of Global Engagement Funds, the Rome Regional Partnership Funds, and strategic and financial support from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities
You’ve recently been appointed as an Academic Director for UCL’s Cities Programme. What are you most looking forward to about the project?
The political crisis in the Mediterranean has moved Italy to the forefront of international attention, making it a vital context for important debates about the identity and future of Europe. More than 50 years after the Treaty of Rome, the Italian capital remains a powerful symbol of European unity.
But Rome has also come to be associated with new risks and challenges: the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, the need to re-think national sovereignty in an age of planetary connectedness; the political causes and consequences of involuntary migration or forced immobility. What draws me to Rome, above and beyond the city’s unrivalled wealth of historical sites and cultural artefacts, is the wish to respond actively and fully to these challenges, in line with UCL’s distinctive ethos of cosmopolitanism, radicalism and innovative thinking.
What are you hoping to achieve through the Cities Programme?
Educated in Britain, Italy and Germany, I am proud of UCL’s reputation as a global academic leader in continental Europe, and applaud our commitment to international excellence. As Academic Director of the Cities Programme, I will seek to consolidate UCL’s important role through new initiatives and by strengthening the strategic partnerships that have already emerged.
I also wish to map and promote relevant expertise across UCL. The “UCL in Rome” working party, founded in 2016, already comprises over 50 UCL researchers with a specific interest in Italy, based in eight faculties and 19 departments.
How does this approach differ from UCL’s previous international engagement in Rome?
Members of the working party have advanced exciting proposals for joint degrees, pre-university orientation weeks, research fellowships, internships and fixed-term double appointments. I look forward to testing these ideas in the context of the Cities Programme. Regional engagement funding will continue, and some high-profile initiatives are already planned for 2018-19.
In September, a ceremony at the British School at Rome (BSR) will honour the Italian filmmaker and Slade alumna Lorenza Mazzetti, who will be awarded a UCL Honorary Fellowship. In January, the Provost will visit Sapienza University to address the assembly that opens the academic year in Italy. I also look forward to working closely with Dr Claire Colomb, who will lead activities in Paris. We both welcome this important opportunity to shape debates about the future of higher education in Europe, and to strengthen internationally collaborative research and research-based learning.
By Sian Gardiner, on 10 July 2018
The tuition on the course draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, a bilateral collaboration with Peking University (PKU) and the Affiliated High School of Peking University, supported by Hanban.
We spoke to them to find out about their experiences studying at UCL, and what comes next.
What made you decide to train as a teacher?
LH: Teaching is something I’ve always had a great interest in. I was home educated so I’ve been interested in looking at different ways of education; comparing how I was educated with other perhaps more mainstream options.
YZ: Before I moved to the UK about five years ago, I worked in China, teaching English. I realised I wanted to explore a different culture so I moved to see what the education system is like, and hopefully make a difference.
Your course is coming to an end – how have you found studying at UCL?
LH: The course has affirmed my identity as a Chinese speaker in a way which it never has been before. It’s something I totally didn’t expect, but having native-speaking friends who have accepted me as a Chinese teacher has given me a lot of affirmation. I worried it might lessen my confidence, but it’s actually built it up even more.
YZ: I found it absolutely amazing being able to study at UCL: meeting new students, discovering the culture of different schools on our placements and working with other teachers has been great.
What first attracted you to the course at UCL?
LH: Looking at my options when applying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK, UCL honestly seemed to be head and shoulders above the other options. It was kind of a no brainer for me.
Another really big draw was that I’d be learning about supporting bilingual learners and immigrants to the UK who are developing their English language skills in the UK system.
Yingying, what have you found the main differences to be between your teaching experience here, and in China?
In China, it’s very much teacher-led, while in the UK, it’s very much student-led. Here, almost everything is student-centric – we think from their perspective. In China, most of the time the students follow the teacher’s pace and instructions.
What’s been your course highlight?
YZ: I think the support from our tutors. They gave us such good guidelines. Every time they visited us at our placements it was really encouraging. The environment in each school is very different but with their support it made a huge difference. One of the biggest benefits has also been the encouragement to think outside the box – critically, originally and creatively.
LH: The sense of belonging and mutual support with the other people who were qualifying has been lovely. It was mostly native speakers of Chinese but also people like myself, and I felt really welcomed.
How does it feel to have both secured jobs in London secondary schools?
LH: It’s a really exciting time to be a teacher of Mandarin. The way in which Mandarin Chinese is being taught in the UK is still very much being shaped, and it’s great that in the years to come I can be really involved with that. It’s quite pioneering – many people from our course will be starting the teaching of Chinese for the first time in their schools.
YZ: The UCL IOE Confucius Institute played a very crucial role in helping us find jobs and my new job is from my first placement, at Harris Academy in South Norwood. Learning Mandarin is very new and popular, and I’m looking forward to helping more students get to know the language and Chinese culture.
By Sian Gardiner, on 5 July 2018
The inaugural UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme is set to receive £900 million over the next 11 years, with six funding competitions and at least 550 fellowships awarded over the next three years.
UCL researchers are frequently among those to receive government backing. Recent examples include the Department of Physics & Astronomy’s Krishna Manojkumar Jadeja, who has received funding for his project on ‘coherent gamma rays,’ along with a team at the Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering led by Professor Gary Royle, whose proton therapy proposal has received backing from the National Institute for Health Research.
Flexibility for researchers
Delivering the keynote speech at the International Business Festival in Liverpool last month, Clark outlined £1.3 billion worth of investment for British universities and businesses.
The money is intended to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and scientific leaders and secure Britain’s future economic prosperity, and is the single biggest investment in science in 40 years. He said: “The money will help ensure the UK invests 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027 and help us become the world’s most innovative economy by 2030.”
Clark explained that the investment will provide up to seven years of funding for early-career researchers and innovators, including support for part-time awards and career breaks, in a bid to provide researchers with the flexibility needed to tackle ambitious and challenging research areas.
Key international collaboration
Commenting on the announcement, Clark added: “We are a nation of innovators, with some of the world’s greatest inventions created on British soil – from penicillin to the first computer programme. We want to retain our global reputation as a destination for world-class scientists and researchers, by providing opportunities to find and nurture the next Ada Lovelaces and Isaac Newtons.
“International collaboration has been key to many of the most significant discoveries and breakthroughs and I want the UK to remain the go-to destination for the best scientists and innovators. We are investing in the rising stars of research and innovation to ensure the UK is where the products and technologies of tomorrow are developed.”
The scheme is open to businesses as well as universities, and is also open to researchers from around the world, in a bid to ensure the UK continues to attract exceptional talent from around the world.
Supporting the Grand Challenges
Clark also announced that complementing the Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme, the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, British Academy, and Academy of Medical Sciences will collectively receive £350 million for the prestigious fellowships schemes. This funding will enhance the research talent pipeline and increase the number of fellowships on offer for high skilled researchers and innovators.
For the next five years, £50 million has been allocated through the National Productivity Investment Fund for additional PhDs, including 100 PhDs to support research into AI, supporting one of the Grand Challenges within the Industrial Strategy and ensuring Britain is at the forefront of the AI revolution.
By Guest Blogger, on 1 June 2018
Ian is an Honorary Lecturer at the Institute of Ophthalmology; his area of research is epidemiology and public health with particular relation to the African continent and glaucoma. He is also leading a sub-specialty training programme for ophthalmology in West Africa.
We were fortunate enough to get some time with Ian to find out more about his experience and projects.
How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?
I was previously a Senior Lecturer since 2004 and before that was working as a clinician with honorary status at UCL. I did my preclinical medical training and intercalated BSc at UCL before moving on to Westminster Medical School and returned as an MD student from 1989 to 1991, living in Nigeria working on a major project in River Blindness.
What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?
The communities we were working with in River Blindness are the first in West Africa to now be declared free of the disease.
Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of your to-do list?
For ten years, we have been developing sub-specialist training in ophthalmology for West Africa. The principal is training ‘IN West Africa, FOR West Africa BY West Africa’ so no person need leave the region in order to obtain first class ophthalmic care for their condition. This project has involved organising regular meetings with relevant people in West Africa and has resulted in the following advances:
- The training is modular with online (via smart phone) courses followed by intensive 1-2 week ‘hands on’ courses for surgical and other skills needing face-to-face training.
- We have raised £3.5 million and built a new integrated eye unit and training facility in Accra Ghana in which to run the ‘hands on’ courses.
- The training is being integrated in the West African College of Surgeons Fellowship in ophthalmology.
- Train the trainers courses are being undertaken to bring the training principals and methods right up to date throughout the region.
What is your favourite album, film and novel?
Album: Echo System by Omm (this choice changes regularly)
Film: Black Pond
Novel: The Borderliners Peter Hoeg
What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?
“Sir, you are drunk.”
Churchill replied: “And you, Bessie, are ugly. But I shall be sober in the morning, and you will still be ugly.”
…or Spike Milligan’s epitaph on his gravestone
‘I told you I was sick’
Who would be your dream dinner guests?
Barrie Jones, Fred Hollows and Hannah Faal (sorry, all ophthalmology).
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t take on too many things at once: do enough to keep you busy but be able to complete well.
What would it surprise people to know about you?
I am now learning bass guitar.
What is your favourite place?
A live concert.
By Sian Gardiner, on 23 May 2018
A team from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture has run its first interactive workshop for architecture students in Riyadh, at Al Faisal University, in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian art organisation Minhaj.
Co-organised by Director of Short Courses at The Bartlett, Sabine Storp, along with first year teaching staff and The Bakerloos, a collective made up of four Bartlett alumni, the ‘Flash-back City’ workshop explored the power of collaboration and collective imagination in urban architecture.
Explaining the structure of the workshop, Sabine said, “Through a gamified interface, participants collectively drew an urban fabric based on crowdsourced memories – creating large scale propositional, collaborative drawings through the collation of personal memories of a city or culture.”
She added, “The co-founder of Minhaj, Fahad Al Saud, is a Bartlett alumni. Minhaj and I saw an opportunity to expand workshops and short-courses to Riyadh, where the local architectural education is becoming more diverse and exciting.”
Tailored to the unique historic context of Old Riyadh and Ad Diriyah, the workshop was well received by Al Faisal students, with one participant commenting: “It’s exciting and different to any workshop we’ve participated in locally before.”
As a result of the successful collaboration, Sabine and team are now planning a new series of workshops about art, architecture and design, to take place later in 2018.
By Sian Gardiner, on 22 May 2018
Here, she talks about her work as co-chair of the ‘Personalised Academic Global Excellence Student Support’ (PAGESS) working group, alongside Dr Clare Goudy, Director of Education Planning at the Office of the Vice-Provost Education & Student Affairs (OVPESA).
The group was set up with the aim of increasing integrated academic language skills support for students across UCL.
What existing support is there for UCL students looking for help with academic writing?
At the moment, the provision of academic communication support is spread across the university: the Faculty of Arts & Humanities has pioneered the set-up of the ‘Writing Lab’, primarily a peer-support service; the Centre for Languages & International Education runs several courses for students, and also supports on-programme teaching by academic staff in a number of faculties. The Institute of Education has the best-developed provision, with its own Academic Writing Centre, and there is also support at the Students’ Union.
So, although excellent, writing support at UCL is found in pockets, with some faculties extremely well-served and others with limited support for teaching staff and students.
Through close analysis of the provision, as well as consultation with academic staff, we identified that the present set-up wasn’t sufficient to meet demand. Comparative analysis of other Russell Group universities also showed that UCL’s provision was lower than the standard across the sector.
And this led to setting up the ‘PAGESS’ working group…
Yes – through our institutional surveys, we’ve been aware that student requests for academic writing support have been increasing over time, particularly from international students, but also from home and EU students too.
The 2016-21 Education Strategy identifies this as a key area of development for UCL, and the proposed expansion of our capacity in this area also dovetailed with the Global Engagement Strategy, with its strategic aim of ‘cultivating our global outlook to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers’.
The working group includes representatives from across UCL. What are the benefits of cross-departmental working?
Our intention is to develop a service that works for all faculties at UCL, and so cross-departmental working has been vital to the success of the project. We brought together representatives from all existing academic communication support services, from Library Services and from a number of faculties.
We also consulted with faculty tutors and used existing survey data to corroborate our working assumptions. One of the strengths of the project has been the collaboration between OVPESA and GEO. We’ve both enjoyed working together very much, and have brought different perspectives to bear, with Clare helping me to understand the complexity of policy-making and institutional projects, and me helping Clare to understand the potential impact on departments and the intricacies of the lives of academics and the pressures they are facing.
Given our existing dispersed provision, this has been a complex project with many different interests to reconcile – but having an excellent collaborative relationship has allowed us to make progress with good humour!
What support will the new Academic Communications Support Centre provide?
The support centre will first provide initial ‘triage’ support to students, helping them to identify the problem with communication that they need help with. They’ll then be directed to one of a number of options for developing their ability to communicate in an academic context.
The centre will offer programmes and workshops to students, as well as supporting academic staff in departments to integrate academic writing support into their existing programmes. Under the centre umbrella, the Writing Lab will expand its peer-support provision across all faculties, and we will also be developing the online resources that students can access without a referral.
What are next steps for the project?
We’re currently advertising for a Director of the Centre for Academic Communication Support (a working title, to be reviewed once the director is in post).
We’re hoping that they will be able to start in September to develop and start to implement the business plan, so that we can start to increase our provision in this area from the 18-19 academic session. We’ll keep faculty and department staff updated on our progress through our regular GEO and OVPESA communications.
By Guest Blogger, on 18 May 2018
By Zarah Bennett, Interim Partnership Manager (Africa and Middle East)
On 12 June 2018, UCL Global Engagement Office’s Africa and Middle East Regional Network will host the third annual Knowledge Africa symposium: ‘Africa Stories: Changing Perceptions’, bringing together diverse speakers to share untold stories and hidden perspectives on the continent. The event’s overarching themes will be Africa’s position in the quest for a global governance of the commons, and contributions to global prosperity.
More than 60 years after a euphoric wave of decolonisation began sweeping through Africa, the dominant ‘bloc image’ of the continent continues to be shaped by narratives of gloom that portray it as endemically poor, helpless, and rife with bad governments and internecine conflicts. This image is simplistic and wrong.
Most people in Africa exist in varying states of privation and governance challenges, but the continent is one of the richest in terms of natural resources, culture, innovation and resilience. Far from being helpless and perennially beholden to powerful networks of patronage from the geopolitical West, Africa contributes more to the global order than is widely acknowledged.
In response to the student voice and feedback from Knowledge Africa 2017, this year’s event has been developed, produced and managed by the UCL student community, with assistance from the GEO (Africa and Middle East) team.
Nick Dearden from Global Justice Now, whose keynote presentation in the morning session will challenge some prevalent perceptions and myths about Africa and explore ‘How the world profits from Africa’s wealth’
Simon Anholt who is widely recognised as the instigator and seminal thinker in the Nation Brands and Place Brands concepts and field of study and practice. Simon’s keynote presentation in the afternoon session introduces the ‘Good Country’ concept and ‘Global Vote’ project, which aim to encourage people to think about what countries contribute to humanity as much as what they achieve for their own citizens. Simon will be joined by Madeline Hung from the Institute for Multi-Stakeholder Initiative Integrity for the afternoon’s panel discussion.
Michael Amoah is a Visiting Fellow at the LSE and has published widely on African politics, the international politics of Africa, foreign policy, conflict and security. He also has interests in international political economy, development studies and international development. Michael’s presentation will be based on his forthcoming book The New Pan Africanism: Globalism and the Nation State in Africa.
Dorothy Baziwe is the Executive Director of Shelter and Settlements Alternatives: Uganda Human Settlements Network (SSA: UHSNET). In the context of the global migration crisis, and Uganda’s unique approach to the issue in Africa, Dorothy will present a fascinating case study about how SSA: UHSNET supports livelihood projects for refugees and displaced persons in Uganda.
Michael Walls is a Senior Lecturer at UCL’s Development Planning Unit (DPU) and Course Director for the MSc in Development Administration and Planning. Based on his long-standing engagement with the challenges of livelihoods and informality in various African cities, Michael is highly regarded as a respected thinker and advocate on issues of development and political transitions in the Horn of Africa. Michael’s presentation will focus on ‘Representative democracy in Somaliland: finding accommodation between elections and clan-based discourse’.
Oscar Mwaanga is a social justice activist, social-entrepreneur, innovator and educationist at EduMove and an Associate Professor in Physical Activity, Education and Development at Solent University. For the past 22 years, he has led the development of internationally renowned Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) programmes that have impacted communities in over 30 countries. Oscar will be speaking about ‘Changing the African story to redeem international Sport for Development and Peace (SDP) as an alternative development approach’: Critical reflections from a 22 years multiple engagement in SDP.
Lilian Schofield is an associate Teaching Fellow and Graduate Teaching Assistant for the MSc Development Administration and Planning programme at UCL’s Development Planning Unit (DPU). Lilian’s presentation, from a feminist perspective, explores the untold stories of fortitude and resilience of women trapped in ethnic and religious violence in Kaduna State, Nigeria.
Nick Anim is a research student at UCL’s Development Planning Unit (DPU), and an activist in the Transition Towns Movement. Speaking from a localism/globalism perspective, Nick’s presentation will focus on ‘Degrowth: How overconsumption in the Global North impacts development in Africa’.
By Sian Gardiner, on 11 May 2018
This blog post is an extract taken from a speech that UCL’s Vice-Provost International Dr Dame Nicola Brewer gave at a joint UCL alumni/British High Commission reception in Singapore in March 2018.
At UCL, global engagement and global citizenship are things that we take seriously. The first strategic driver of our Global Engagement Strategy is to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers.
And we have a flourishing Global Citizenship Programme for our students that takes place in the summer term and which enables them to work in interdisciplinary teams on global challenges. That programme is (of course!) open equally to female and male students.
In my family, we were lucky to be able to give our own children (one girl, one boy) a good education, a global outlook, the appetite and confidence to travel and learn about other countries other cultures and to be comfortable with diversity.
Those are things that an in ideal world every child would be able to experience. I want every student at UCL – actually, I want every child in the world, but you have to start somewhere – to have the opportunities I was able to give our children. So how can that equal, global access be achieved?
One of the critical starting points in achieving real equality is finding male allies. In the home (where I was lucky, again, to have such a supportive partner), and at work (the new Director of the LSE, Dame Minouche Shafik, talks about the ‘holy trinity’ for working women: a supportive partner, a supportive boss and good childcare). Men and women need to work together for equality. It’s a cause that’s most effectively advanced by creating solutions together.
We need to reach out across countries, too. I think you need to start with the local, at home. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero of mine, advocates that you should, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
So, start local but then go global. Or, as UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy says, ‘Think global, act together’. And the way we act, and what we choose to act on, is equally important.
Sometimes people ask me how they can do that. Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill College Cambridge, gave some great tips on International Women’s day this year.
Her blog started with a quote from one of my favourite novelists, George Eliot. In her 1876 novel Daniel Deronda, she wrote, “And when a woman’s will is as strong as the man’s who wants to govern her, half her strength must be concealment.”
Professor Donald continued, “Many women need to live their lives like that, even today… a strong woman may be seen as a threat.” And her blog then listed three things that everyone can do:
- Amplify the voices of a timid person, not necessarily a woman, though it might be, who makes a sensible comment that is talked over or ignored.
- Support someone you see being victimised or fretting over something.
- Be an active bystander; don’t ignore other people’s uncomfortable actions. If it’s clear things are getting out of hand, step in if it’s safe for you to do so.
Professor Donald finished her blog by referring to how far we’ve come. But I don’t think it’s far enough, and each of us has a role to play in making sure we keep moving forward.
At UCL, we call ourselves London’s Global University, and we can be a beacon for equality, as well as for world-class education and world-leading research.
Nicola is the Gender Equality Champion on UCL’s Senior Management Team and Co-Chair of UCL’s 50:50 Gender Equality Group