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    UCL Events blog

    By Nick Dawe, on 6 May 2011

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

    How do you give power to poor people? African Voices Question Time

    By Guest Blogger, on 11 February 2016

    Written by Greg Tinker.

    The history and the future of Africa, problems and threats facing African people and inspiring stories that go unreported were among the subjects discussed by prominent African academics in fields as diverse as medicine, politics, archaeology and architecture at African Question Time, the centrepiece of UCL’s Africa Voices series of events and discussions launched last month, which was chaired by Martin Plaut, former Africa Editor of the BBC World Service.

    The discussions were a fascinating insight into ongoing debates around Africa, but was any consensus reached?


    (left to right): Dr Peter Waiswa, Dr Caroline Wnjiku-Kihato, Martin Plaut (chair), Prof Adam Habib and Dr Ibrahima Thiaw © 2016 UCL / Jacqueline Lau

    Africa’s challenges come from both within and without

    When talking about the issues facing the continent, the panel agreed that it is not as simple as ascribing them to external forces, or saying they are entirely of Africa’s own making. According to Dr Caroline Wanjiko-Kihato, an urbanist based in South Africa, the lack of agency is the biggest problem. As Africa’s people don’t have control over a large extent of their economies, there are blurred lines between what they can and can’t change. Corruption, she said, is not just an African problem: it exists all over the world and needs to be tackled wherever it is found.

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    Lunch Hour Lectures: International Law and the protection of cultural property in war

    By Thomas Hughes, on 9 February 2016

    Unusually for a Lunch Hour Lecture, Professor Roger O’Keefe (UCL Laws) spoke without the support of slides for nearly an hour about international efforts to protect cultural heritage in war zones – because he believed that images illustrating instances of cultural damage would simply be too depressing.

    By Bernard Gagnon - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

    Monument Arch in Palmyra, Syria. Now destroyed by IS.

    International law

    International law prohibits the damaging of cultural sites during war, and almost all UN member states have signed up to this. These agreements are often criticised however for failing to protect a number of cultural sites from damage or destruction.

    This has particularly been the case in the Syrian civil war, where a number of high profile sites such as crusader castles and ancient temples have been damaged.

    However, as Professor O’Keefe pointed out, few laws are perfect: for example, people still carry out murder despite strong laws against it and serious punishments for this crime. In his view, the law against the damaging of cultural heritage sites, while not perfect, makes important efforts to protect these historical areas.

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    UCL Annual Scholarships and Bursaries Reception 2016

    By Guest Blogger, on 5 February 2016

    Written by Bronwen Butler, Geography (International programme) BA.

    To kick off philanthropy month on February 1st UCL held its annual Scholarships and Bursaries Reception. The event has gone from strength to strength each year; from a tiny affair which Provost Michael Arthur jokingly said “could have been held in a broom cupboard” to a vibrant event to which over 500 people are invited to celebrate UCL, the generosity of its donors and the importance of philanthropy.

    (small) RWD16_UCL Scholarship Event_127

    Image: (left – right): Professor Geraint Rees, Provost Michael Arthur, Naimeh Masumy, Janie Gammans, Maureen Amar, Richard Jenkins

    President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur opened the event with a warm welcome to all the donors, staff and recipients in attendance. He discussed the importance of the UCL philanthropic Campaign and the university’s achievement as one of the top universities at fundraising in the UK this year. He briefly looked to UCL’s future developments before introducing the first student speaker Naimeh Masumy.

    Naimeh Masumy is a full time LLM Law Student at UCL, originally from Iran. She is an ambitious young woman who has clearly battled against the odds to be here. Naimeh is a student with a bright future in the energy law sector but she is one of many people who simply could not think about life at UCL without a scholarship:

     “I have to say I would not be here without the Ardalan Family Scholarship. In my whole life, I have come to realize that education is the most transcendent gift one can be given, and the Ardalan Scholarship gave me that gift, it allowed me to have a foot in the door of the future, a future I was once unable to envision”.

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    Lunch Hour Lecture: The state, science and Humphry Davy

    By Thomas Hughes, on 4 February 2016

    “Science, gentlemen, is of infinitely more importance to a state than may at first sight appear possible”. While few scientists would disagree with this today, it was the 19th-century chemist Humphry Davy who made the observation. In a recent Lunch Hour Lecture Professor Frank James (UCL Science & Technology Studies) took us on a whistle stop tour of Davy’s colourful life, his science and his relationship with the state. Humphry Davy. From: Sarah K. Bolton: Famous Men of Science. (New York, 1889)

    A poet of Penzance

    Born in Penzance on December 17, 1778, Davy initially showed a passion for poetry. This was largely descriptive poetry, such as this extract about St Michael’s Mount in Cornwall: “Beat by the storms of ages, stands unmov’d, Amidst the wreck of things—the change of time.”

    However after his schooling, his godfather apprenticed him to a surgeon and it was in the apothecary there where he discovered what would become a life-long interest in chemistry.

    While living in Penzance he met distinguished natural philosophers including the engineer Davies Giddy who encouraged Davy and offered him the use of his library.

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