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Archive for the 'By students for students' Category

Joining a society at university

By Lauren 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: Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi

By Lauren Sandhu, on 21 February 2019

Today we are talking to Elena Cagnoli Fiecconi from the UCL Department of Greek and Latin ahead of our upcoming Ancient World Year 12 Taster Day on Wednesday 20 March 2019 (applications are open now).

1.How long have you worked at UCL, and what did you do previously?

I joined UCL in 2018, after working as a researcher in Switzerland and Israel. It has been very nice to be able to teach in addition to doing research and it has been wonderful to come back to London.

2. What is your current job at UCL?

I am a lecturer in Ancient Philosophy and the Outreach Officer in UCL’s Greek and Latin department. I organise Open Days, Taster Days and outreach talks in schools.

3. Did you go to university, and where did you study?

I did a BA in Philosophy in a small Italian city, Pavia. Then I moved to UCL to study for a Masters in Philosophy and after that I did a PhD in Ancient Philosophy at Oxford University.

4. Tell us about a favourite memory of yours from your time at university.

One of my favourite memories is from my first day as a Masters student at UCL, I came from a small town and the main quad seemed huge and intimidating, but also wonderful. It was a nice sunny day and I had lunch in the park in Gordon Square with some of my course mates, who made me feel very welcome even though I was struggling a bit with my English. On that day I felt like my time here was going to be stimulating and challenging, but also fun.

5. Why is Widening Participation important to you?

I think the best learning and teaching environment is a diverse one. I also think that the subjects we teach help us to reflect on the past in order to construct our future. I see my job as Outreach Officer as the best way to make sure that all those who are interested in reflecting on our past critically have the opportunity to do so.

6. Tell us a bit more about the Ancient World Taster Day on Wednesday 20 March 2019.

During the Taster Day, there will be chance to visit UCL, to hear talks by our lecturers on a wide range of topics such as Women in Homer, or Cleopatra and Augustus. There will also be a chance to meet some of our current students over the provided lunch, and to learn more about the opportunity to get involved in the annual Greek Play.

7. How would you describe the subject to someone who has never heard of it before?

© UCL, Institute of Archaeology

The Ancient World degree is offered across three UCL departments: Greek and Latin, History, and Archaeology.

The field of study of the degree is also defined more broadly than most degrees in this area: the ancient world of the Mediterranean and Near East, since the beginning of written records.

It is possible to take modules from all the participating departments and from other subjects related to the ancient world across the University. The degree is open to those who have no previous experience of Latin or Greek languages, but all students must take 45 credits in an ancient language during their degree. This is because we believe that exposure to ancient languages enables and enriches our understanding of ancient cultures.

The breath and the variety of the degree allows students to shape it according to their interests. You could focus on the Greeks, for example, and take modules in Greek Philosophy, History and Literature. Alternatively, you could combine modules on the Near East, Egypt and the Greco-Roman world. You could also add some modules in Philosophy, International Relations and Politics to the mix.

8. What would be your advice to young people who want to learn more about the Ancient World?

The ancient world surrounds us in many ways, and it is easier than you think to learn more about it even before you enter a university class. It features everywhere in movies and tv series, you can see and sometimes even touch items that come from it in museums all across the country, like the British Museum near UCL. It is even present in many of the words we use all the time, like “politics” which comes from the Greek word for city, and “cosmopolitan”, which means citizen of the universe, or citizen of the whole world.

9. What would be your top tip for someone thinking about studying the Ancient World at university?

Don’t be scared by the prospect of learning ancient languages, they are easier than you think and they open up a new world of knowledge. They can also be surprisingly fun to learn!

Our Ancient World Taster Day is taking place on Wednesday 20 March 2019. Applications are open until Wednesday 6 March 2019. Apply now.

A word from the writer: 

I am originally from Italy, where I completed my undergraduate studies. Then I moved to the UK to continue with Philosophy and I ended up working on Ancient Philosophy. My research focuses for the most part on Aristotle, with an emphasis on his works on ethics, psychology and biology. In particular, I am interested in questions that lie at the intersection of these disciplines. For example, I look at whether Aristotle’s account of the human happy and virtuous life is influenced by his views on human desire, attention, perception and thought.

How research and development connects school and academic research

By Lauren Sandhu, on 24 January 2019

Today Mark Quinn of the London Centre for Leadership in Learning at the UCL Institute of Education tells us about his journey to connect school and academic research.

Where it began

In 2017 I drew my 22 year school teaching career to a close and started my new one, working on research and development (R&D) for the London Centre for Leadership in Learning (LCLL) at the UCL Institute of Education. The chasm between the classroom and the world of academia did not seem so large as, for the last few years, I had been thinking hard about how one connects to the other.

Schools routinely collect all sorts of data, either because they think Ofsted will want it or because they expect that measuring a thing will magically increase the size of it. Teachers track their students’ progress through marking and assessments, and they record this centrally so that senior leaders can compare where students actually are with where they are meant to be. Leaders observe lessons, whether to check compliance with the school’s approved model or to gather examples of good practice to share with others. Learning walks, teacher rounds, subject reviews, book looks, mocksteds: the sheer ingenuity the profession has for monitoring itself is impressive.

As an assistant headteacher I was doing much of this monitoring myself. I had some niggling concerns. Was all this data we were collecting reliably and validly telling us anything? Were our review systems making a positive difference to our students’ outcomes? Did our teachers learn anything from being monitored, so that they could say they were getting any better at their jobs? It occurred to me that an educational researcher – someone trained in the science of asking the right questions in the right way in order to find answers that could be understood – someone like that would love to get their hands on data like ours. I realised early on that I wasn’t going to find such a person hanging around a university; I was going to have to build one myself.

Build your own researcher

What was a hunch back then grew into my job now. I realised that the best way to learn the science of ‘asking the right questions in the right way’ was to practise it through practitioner enquiry, or action research. Collaborating with our local university, I started tutoring fellow teachers in research methods so that they could acquire their Masters. From that cohort I recruited two as ‘research co-ordinators’, who could assist the leadership team in designing our quality reviews, so that we were more careful about the questions we wanted to find answers to, and smarter about the evidence we would gather. We conducted a wide range of enquiries, from better ways to revise to methods to increase engagement, the impact of labelling the ‘gifted’ to approaches to improve literacy. Along the way, we built capacity in the school to better access and interpret the academic research that has recently become more available through the likes of the Education Endowment Foundation.

‘Building capacity’ may stand as my job description in the LCLL now. Sometimes we are commissioned by nationwide training providers, sometimes by groups of schools in trusts or local authorities, and sometimes by individual schools. In every case, the teacher we work with ‘in the room’ is only the start of the process: our aim is for them to acquire the research and development skills and confidence to lead their colleagues, so that the whole staffroom becomes research savvy, and so that all of their students may benefit from research-informed teachers.


Mark Quinn taught history in London schools from 1995 to 2017. He is currently collaborating with the UCL Access and Widening Participation Office on two research and development programmes: a Teacher Action Research Project, and a Verbal Feedback project. He tweets @MarkQuinn1968 and blogs at markquinn1968.wordpress.com

The best apps to improve your vocabulary

By zcbepma, on 10 January 2019

Today student writer Priya tells us about apps that you can use to expand your vocabulary. 

Whether you are a native English speaker or not, broadening your English language skills is something you will undoubtedly develop over the course of your lifetime.

Native speakers can always make an effort to improve their vocabulary by learning new words because what you say to others will affect them just like how they communicate will affect how you interpret something.

The English language is used everywhere and especially when doing a degree at university. Writing papers and essays along with doing presentations and speeches are all closely connected to language skills.

So, you’re probably wondering “How do I improve without it being boring?” – Well, I have the perfect answer; Apps.

Apps can help you improve your vocabulary skills and range from being just for fun to helping you during your GCSEs and/or A levels.

Vocabulary Builder

This app is super helpful if you need help with improving your vocabulary.

It is very user-friendly and quite easy to use. The app focuses on expanding your current vocabulary whilst helping you use it in everyday situations. You do this through lots of games and quizzes!

You can do a quiz every day and learn the English dictionaries most important words…can you guess how many there are?

Image result for vocabulary builder app

Words with Friends

As the name of the app suggests, this one is good if you want to learn along with friends! This app looks like a crossword puzzle and lets people test their vocabulary and skills a little bit like the way Scrabble does.

You have to get the highest score by competing against other people. You’ll have to stretch yourself with this one because it’s a brain puzzling game!

Image result for words with friends app

Word of the Day

This app is great for people who love to learn new words. As the name of the app suggests – you learn a new word every single day! This app is great for those of you doing your GCSEs as it is designed by qualified English teachers.

You can explore some of the English languages most interesting, rare and unusual words. You can save the words into your own book and return to look back at them whenever you want. You can also share them with friends who are using the app!

Image result for words of the day app

Exam Vocabulary Builder

This one is designed using a common tool that people use to revise: Flashcards! It is designed to act as a crash course in building your vocabulary.

This one is a little bit more challenging because it is designed for students taking graduate school exams, university entrance exams and professional advancement, however, if you’re finding that the other ones are too easy then who’s to say you can’t use this one!

Image result for exam vocabulary builder app

Improve English: Word Game

Using a bunch of really complicated algorithms the app helps you learn English skills whilst learning your exact speech pattern. When it figures this out it will give you a range of scores, ranging from how clear you are to how many unique words you use.

It will then benchmark you against other students around your age! This is a great one if you want to improve something specific or if you like to log your progress using numbers!

Image result for improve english word game app

A word from the writer: 

Hi my name is Priya! I study Biochemical Engineering and my area of expertise is in Bioprocessing of New Medicine with Business and Management. I am currently a 2nd Dan Black Belt ITF Tae-kwon-do instructor. I like to regularly train at UCL but also love to teach at my local club.