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UCL Access and Widening Participation


My Time at UCL

By Amalia Mihailescu, on 17 July 2019

We asked year 10 student Rhe’a, with whom we have had the pleasure of working in the last week and a half, to share her thoughts on her placement with the Widening Participation team. This is what she had to say:

My name is Rhe’a Edman, I am 15 years old and I recently just finished year 10. I finished earlier than others to start my work experience at UCL that lasts for two weeks (a bit longer than normal). When I am older, I want to become an entrepreneur and paramedic, a different combination right? I have not really decided on what to study at university as I never really thought about going to university, but, as I am currently on my second week of work experience at UCL, I am starting to have a better understanding of the university, seeing behind the scenes and feeling a part of it, listening and talking to past/current students about their experience at university.

I have worked with the Widening Participation team (WP for short), including the Academic Liaison team. I have helped some of the members of the team by giving them my personal feedback about what they have done for the university, what they may need to help engage the youth to come to UCL and helped them with some small tasks. With the Academic Liaison team, I helped quite a lot, I assisted them with sorting out their goodie bags that they have for year 12 students coming to UCL’s residential summer school, packed certificates for past participants, the tasks were easy to do and I got through them swiftly. I have been in some meetings that a few of the members have invited me to. I have enjoyed a lot of things here, for instance, meeting new people, seeing new places, feeling as if I am an actual member of the team, going to events that the university holds.

As I have been told about and have seen the events that the university holds, I would love to take part in them, spread the word, and help them accept new students who may need guidance with which university is the best for them and which options suit them the best.

I am almost coming to the end of my work experience and I must say that I will miss the people I have spoken to as they have been so welcoming and polite. I have three more days to go and a lot of new things to do and see!

Nine-to-Five Student

By , on 13 May 2019

Today student writer Michael tell us what it is like to work whilst studying at university, and gives useful tips on what to consider before you get a job when you’re a student. 

Being a student, particularly in London, can be substantially more expensive than imagined prior to starting university. In first year, the financial cost of being even moderately sociable is enough to dent the bank, added to ever more in second and third year with the addition of bills and potentially increased travel costs. For some, this may not be an issue. However, for many others, money worries can be a daily annoyance whilst at university and impact the things you can say ‘yes‘ to when asked by your mates.

There are a variety of ways to cope with the trials and tribulations of the ‘cost-of-socialising’ paradigm, including picking cheaper pubs and bars, never buying textbooks or just going out less; none of which would be a very big deal at all. However, if you did want to be able to do a little more whilst at university and not be so worried about money all the time, there is one way that most of us try at one stage or another: get a job! (Don’t worry, most jobs aren’t nine-to-five).

What sort of jobs do students have?

This varies greatly depending on the person! Many students look for bar, pub, cafe or retail work as employers within these fields understand students are looking for part-time work that doesn’t impact their studying too much. They can be quite social jobs and hopefully conveniently located. The only issue with pub and bar work is working late nights, which can impact your work the next day and eat into the time you might have been wanting to hang out with your friends. A good place to start might be the UCLU bars or cafés.

Alternatively, you might want to consider some work that may be more career focused. Both private and public sector organisations are always looking for enthusiastic, hard working, talented young people to bring a breath of life and innovation to the office. Take a chance and contact whoever you can – you only need one yes. I’ve been lucky enough to work for my local authority and within the NHS throughout university and both have taught me invaluable skills and added to my CV – and this happened because I took a leap and applied to jobs ‘above’ my age bracket. Take those chances because sometimes they really do pay off.

The benefits of being an employed student

  1. Stand out from the rest. First and foremost, the main benefit of having a job whilst studying is to gain work experience. Many more people attend university these days, and so to have something more to add to your CV once you’re graduated will be a huge bonus for you.
  2. Spending money. Working just a few hours a week provides you with the basic socialising money that you need to go out without feeling guilty of worried. It may also accumulate to help you find a nicer place to live in second and third year!
  3. Life skills. Working whilst studying is difficult. It requires organisation, hard work and dedication – all of which can really benefit you long term. You gain a tonne of life skills at university, furthered only by being employed simultaneously.

The challenges of being an employed student

  1. Time. The hardest part about working and studying is how much time is taken out of your week. For some degrees that have 20+ hours of contact time plus frequent readings or courseworks, there may genuinely not be enough time to have a job as well. Before considering applying for work, take the time to consider how many hours a week you can afford to commit. Your degree comes first whilst at university, so do not jeopardise your grades by committing too much time to a job!
  2. Organisation. Finding a way to balance lectures, readings, revision and the addition of set working hours can be difficult. I’d suggest making a plan for the week so you know when you are studying and when you’re working, otherwise it can become a bit hectic!

Is having a job really necessary?

Absolutely not. The idea of having a job at university is not something everyone agrees with, and by no means am I suggesting it is the right way to do things! It has its benefits, but also comes with some challenges and for some it may not be something that is necessary or appropriate for their weekly timetable. Assess how much spare time and money you have and decide if a job is an appropriate inclusion to your already busy schedule. There are certainly pros and cons of either choice you make – just ensure you never let anyone make that choice for you.





Joining a society at university

By Lauren K Sandhu, on 25 April 2019

Today on the blog Josh Day, a former UCL student and member of the Access and Widening Participation Office, tell us why joining a society can be one of the best things you do when studying at university.

Make new friends

University societies are a great place to make new friends when you start your degree, or at any point in your degree for that matter. Most societies hold regular social events and all members are encouraged to attend so that you get the most out of your membership and meet lots of new like-minded people. The great thing about making new friends in societies is that even if you are a little bit shy, you’ll always have one thing in common with those around you. Students often find that the friends they make in their clubs and societies become some of their best friends throughout university.

Learn new skills

Many people presume that students don’t actually get up to that much when they join a society during university. Societies are often tied with terms such as ‘Oh that’s just a first year thing’ because that’s when most students join. However, aside from having a lot of fun and making new friends, you can learn new skills from being part of a university society. For example, if you’ve always wanted to take great photographs but never had the time to learn how to use a camera, you can join the university’s photography society. Alternatively, if you’ve always enjoyed writing, you could join the journalism society and learn from others who have experience writing articles. So, whatever it is you’d like to learn, whether that be knitting, baking, or even something adventurous like scuba diving, you could learn a lot as part of a society whilst also enjoying all of the extra benefits that come with being part of a new group.


Networking might not be a word you would associate with societies but you would be surprised at how useful (and fun) society networking events can be. Some societies, especially those tied to your academic studies, hold regular networking events which give you the opportunity to meet potential future colleagues in a more relaxed and less forced way than most networking events. Companies often send their younger staff members to these events so that they can discuss with you why they joined the company and why you should think about applying for their jobs further down the line when considering your career options. These younger staff members are often easier to talk to and many students find them more approachable.

Travel opportunities

One of the really fun parts about being part of a university society (aside from the regular events) is the travel opportunities. Most societies will hold an annual group trip, either to another city in the UK or sometimes, if you’re lucky, to somewhere abroad! Students often make great memories on these trips, especially as this may be their first time traveling with a group of friends. The sports and leisure societies, for example the skiing and football societies, often take large groups of students on trips to places like Austria, Spain, Switzerland and France. These travel opportunities are one of the main reasons that these societies prove to be very popular with university students.

WPeople: Nick Witham

By Lauren K Sandhu, on 11 April 2019

Today we are talking to Dr Nick Witham from UCL’s Institute of Americas because today is our Year 12 Americas Masterclass.

1.How did you come to be at UCL?

I finished my PhD at the University of Nottingham in 2012, and then worked for three years teaching American Studies and History at Canterbury Christ Church University in Kent. I was very excited to join UCL in 2015, not only because of its amazing reputation as a research university, but also to shape the teaching offered in my home department, the Institute of the Americas, where I led the team that designed the exciting new undergraduate programme, the BA in History and Politics of the Americas.

2. What is your job at UCL?

I teach twentieth century American history to undergraduate and postgraduate students. I lead a whole range of modules that cover politics and culture in the United States, in particular during the Cold War (c. 1945-1989). As well as this teaching, I am Programme Director and Admissions Tutor for the BA History and Politics of the Americas programmes, which involves ensuring that the degree is running smoothly from admissions all the way through to graduation (our first cohort of students will graduate in 2021). Beyond this, I am the author and editor of several books and journal articles, the research for which informs all of the teaching that I do.

3. How are you involved in Widening Participation?

As Admissions Tutor for the BA History and Politics of the Americas programmes, I run all of my department’s undergraduate admissions, which includes widening participation.

4. Why is Widening Participation important to you?

Studying for three or four years at university is a rewarding and enjoyable experience for all students. But from the outside, the idea of attending UCL can seem quite daunting. I am committed to making the exceptional teaching that is on offer at UCL in the History and Politics of the Americas, as well as the opportunities for language study and study abroad, available to everyone. I want to show that these subjects are a brilliant way of seeing and understanding how the world works, through the lens of a diverse and endlessly fascinating region, the Americas.

5. Tell us a bit more about the History and Politics of the Americas Masterclass

The History and Politics of the Americas Masterclass is a two-hour session devoted to giving prospective students an insight into what it means to study the degree programme at UCL. Based around the theme of “Encountering the Americas”, which is the title of one of the degree’s Year 1 modules, and delivered by the tutors who teach on that module, the session will give students an understanding of how and why we need to understand the connections between Latin America, North America and the Caribbean if we are going to properly understand the region’s history and politics.

6. How would you describe the Masterclass to some who has never heard of it before?

This is an opportunity to learn about History and Politics, two fascinating and important disciplines that sit very well alongside each other. It is also an opportunity to discover a hugely important region of the world, the Americas, which encompass a global superpower (the United States), a large emerging economy (Brazil), important regional actors (i.e. Canada, Mexico, Argentina), developing nations (i.e. Bolivia, Haiti). Putting the region into these perspectives will help you to understand many of the major historical and political dynamics in the modern world.

7. What would be your main bit of advice for someone thinking about studying History and Politics of the Americas?

If you are primarily interested in History or Politics, or in the United States, the Caribbean, or Latin America, this will be an important entry point into our degree. But you should also remember that studying the other discipline and other regions will hugely increase your overall knowledge and your understanding. It will also give you a wider-ranging set of transferable skills to take into the job market.

8. What would be your advice to young people who want to learn more about the history and politics of the Americas?

Read, think, debate! There are many websites and blogs out there that will help you to better understand the History and Politics of the Americas. From mainstream daily newspapers like the New York Times to alternative online publications like NACLA, you should aim to draw on as wide a range of information as possible, to help you understand the region and its political and historical development.

A word from the writer: 

I am a historian of the twentieth century United States, with a particular interest in the ways that protest has shaped American politics and culture. I teach the undergraduate modules “The Making of Modern America, 1920-present”, “The United States and the Cold War”, and “American Radicalisms, 1945-1989”.