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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

    Reviews of UCL public lectures, debates, exhibitions, shows, and more…

    Support universities for great and lasting effect, says Dr Gerald Chan at UCL

    By Guest Blogger, on 15 July 2016


    Written by Abigail Smith, UCL Head of Supporter Communications

    Society will be short-changed if we view universities as about human resources rather than humanity, according to investor and philanthropist Dr Gerald Chan in a keynote speech at UCL.

    Speaking at an event for UCL supporters and academics to celebrate the impact of UCL research and to examine the role of philanthropy in the rapidly changing higher education environment, Dr Chan declared: “This is not just a budgetary struggle, it is a struggle for the very soul of the university.”

    UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur, UCL Nobel prizewinner Professor John O‘Keefe and Dr Gerald Chan

    UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur,
    UCL Nobel prizewinner Professor John O‘Keefe
    and Dr Gerald Chan

    The independence of universities is crucial in order to maintain the balance between their role, both as engines of the economy and places of curiosity-driven research, he added, and a philanthropic “public-private partnership” is vital to that.

    “Higher education is not cheap; what is more expensive to society are the consequences of not supporting its universities,” he said. “In a democratic society, governments come and go, and government funding priorities come and go, but a properly managed endowment endures.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

    What will Brexit mean for UCL? – a forum for the UCL community

    By Guest Blogger, on 13 July 2016

    pencil-iconWritten by Tom Butler (UCL Philosophy)

    UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur addresses audience membersIn reaction to the political confusion that has occurred following the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, a Q&A session was arranged to provide some clarity about what Brexit means for UCL’s staff and students.

    UCL President & Provost, Professor Michael Arthur, was joined by colleagues Professor David Price, UCL Vice-Provost (Research); Wendy Appleby, UCL Registrar and Nigel Waugh, Director of UCL Human Resources, each providing insight from their own professional backgrounds. Completing the panel was Simon Kenny, a lawyer working for firm Eversheds in their immigration practice. The discussion was chaired by Dame Nicola Brewer, UCL Vice-Provost (International).

    The event was an opportunity for staff and students, particularly those from countries within the EU, to find answers to any queries they had regarding Brexit.

    As the event progressed, it became clear that there were two types of questions being presented to the panel: firstly, individuals asked for advice about what they should do with regard to the EU referendum result; and secondly, staff and students asked what actions UCL was taking and planning to take.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Arctic risks and rewards

    By Guest Blogger, on 25 June 2016

    The panel at 'Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards'

    The panel at ‘Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards’

    pencil-iconWritten by Dr Ilan Kelman, Reader for Risk, Resilience and Global Health (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction)

    The Arctic: The last earthly frontier of adventure, excitement, remoteness, and resources! Or is it? Given that people have lived in the high latitudes for millennia, how remote, isolated, and open-for-business-for-southerners is the Arctic?

    The UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction’s Arctic Research programme convened a panel ‘Development in the Arctic: Risks and Rewards’ at UCL on 8 June to discuss these questions.

    To an engaged audience of about sixty, three distinguished panellists explored how climate change and technological advances might or might not be opening up the Arctic for exploitation by the world. They examined what we know and do not know about development risks and rewards in the far north.

    What realities of Arctic environmental conditions are rarely described? What Arctic social and political circumstances are frequently circumvented? What about the people who live in the region who have rights and interests? The risks and rewards regarding the so-called ‘Arctic Gold Rush’ for resources and development was examined and critiqued.

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    UCL Festival of Culture: Tom McCarthy: Space, Data and the Death Drive

    By Melissa Bradshaw, on 16 June 2016

    UCL’s Festival of Culture concluded with a rare opportunity to hear from twice Booker nominated author Tom McCarthy in a Q&A with Dr Julia Jordan (UCL English) in a stunning and intimate setting.

    Titled ‘Space, Data and the Death Drive’, the session took place at the House of St Barnabas in Soho, a not-for-profit private members club that offers help for the homeless. It was part of One Day in the City.

    Those fast enough to book a seat gained a special insight into the theoretic matrix that lies behind McCarthy’s novels Remainder (2005), Men in Space (2007), C (2010) and Satin Island (2015).

    Space, data and the death drive were all covered separately but it emerged that the three themes were interwoven.

    Beginning with a reading from C McCarthy discussed his engagement with the idea of bodies in space, in part informed by an experience that he doesn’t often talk about: being a life model in Prague aged 22, where the students would grid the paper in order to replicate their subject.

    “All my novels are about failed transcendence,” he said, “when the grid is working its pure violence.” In C, the central character Serge Carrefax, who becomes an observer for the Royal Flying Corps, “always crashes back to earth too early”, said McCarthy.

    Remainder is about a hero who repeats or tries to repeat a primal trauma he cannot name. His most recent novel, Satin Island, starts in an airport, which is literally controlled space. “I’m drawn to the moment of disruption”, he said.

    Of data, McCarthy said “all my characters are nodes within networks, subject to language in history and traumas that they don’t really understand”, referencing “the high modernists, Freud, Lacan and feminists”.

    A more contemporary reference was Edward Snowden, who McCarthy said “makes a political question a literary one: what gets written down and who gets to read it?”


    Image: Vintage Books

    He also presented a view of data flow as the 21st century version of the sacred: “data and the internet is your interface with the absolute”.

    Finishing with the death drive, Dr Jordan brought up McCarthy’s statement that all narrative is about the death drive. Normally, we think of narrative as about pleasure, she pointed out, and so this concept of narrative is a part of McCarthy’s critique of humanism.

    He pointed to Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle, when Freud’s observance of a child repeating a destructive game (which Freud interpreted as centred on the absence of the child’s mother), him to conclude that there is a drive towards death in the human psyche.

    Freud was a storyteller, said McCarthy, and the death drive is what repetition is about: this is the repetitive compulsion his characters are under.

    McCarthy discussed his literary influences, including Stephané Mallarmé, Franz Kafka, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Samuel Beckett. “It astounds me,” he said, “that so much literature still clings to this silly humanist model.”

    But while McCarthy’s work engages in a kind of repetition with the work of these men, feeding back to the overall themes of One Day in the City, the session was also an insight into the metaphysical shifts literature faces in the digital age.