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A deep dive into academia: Reflections from an undergraduate research assistant

By IOE Blog Editor, on 20 March 2024

Alex Wong in front of the river, with a background row of houses. Credit: Alex Wong.

Credit: Alex Wong.

By Alex Wong, Social Sciences BSc

Looking back, completing my undergraduate journey at University College London (UCL) was a most unique and fulfilling experience despite, or perhaps in addition to, being one of the lucky few to start tertiary education during the pandemic. Of the many memorable experiences I have had, one definitely stuck with me. During the summer before my final year at UCL, I had the wonderful opportunity to deep dive into academia beyond my programme diet by interning as a Research Assistant (RA) under Dr Katie Gaddini.

Dr Gaddini taught one of my core course modules during my second undergraduate year. Throughout the term, dissecting what good research is and being exposed to the multitudes of methods that are used in qualitative research increasingly motivated me to explore how the research process would look like ‘on the ground’ – the complexities behind brainstorming, data collection, analysis and write-up that did not make it onto the pages. 

Additionally, the political sociology classes I took further inspired me to explore some of Dr Gaddini’s publications on the intersections between religion and politics.

So, with a little courage, I reached out to her to share my interests in her research area as well as a rough idea: if I could take part in one of her current research activities. This marked the beginning of an exciting six-week journey.

Dr Gaddini very generously suggested that I could help with her ongoing research project as an RA. In our initial meeting, I learnt about the role I would play in her project, ‘The Politics of Religion.’ It was a steep yet highly rewarding learning curve, as I turned my attention to focus on how religion, specifically Evangelical Christianity, played a role in influencing people’s political beliefs in the United States. The experience was unforgettable, knowing that my contribution would work towards creating a more in-depth and nuanced understanding of the co-constitutive relationship between religion and politics globally. Being able to see in real time how the findings concur or challenge what I have previously discussed in my political sociology classes was an added bonus, further deepening my knowledge in the field during my internship.

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Gathering student perspectives to direct university decisions on climate action and sustainability education

By IOE Blog Editor, on 2 January 2024

AI-generated illustration of hands holding planet Earth surrounded by planets and plants.

Credit: Hurca!, generated with AI / Adobe.

By Batool Wajiha Zaidi, Arts and Sciences BASc.

Climate change is one of the most significant global challenges that humanity has ever had to face. Such a complex challenge requires a collective effort across all sectors of society to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and protect the future of our planet. In particular, universities are uniquely situated to respond to the climate crisis through education and academic research. 

Students are profoundly affected by university policies and have raised concerns as to the current education system’s ability to prepare them for the uncertainty of the future. Yet, their voice and impact is almost non-existent in climate change and sustainability education policy. Students have an insider perspective and are motivated to challenge the existing practices of an institution, as such; with proper engagement, they can make meaningful recommendations for sustainable futures in higher education. 

In order to address the lack of engagement of students in policymaking for sustainability in higher education, we conducted a research project co-led by two undergraduate students to better understand students’ perceptions of climate change and sustainability education in universities and produce a collaborative policy brief.
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UCL’s wacky wonderland: A glimpse into UCL’s unusual festive traditions

By IOE Blog Editor, on 12 December 2023

A Christmas tree lit up with lights. The UCL Portico is lit up in green behind it.

Credit: IOE Marketing and Communications.

by Navyasara Jaiswal, Education Studies BA

As the sun dips below the historic structure of UCL, a hushed anticipation blankets the iconic Portico. It’s that magical time of year when the campus comes alive with twinkling lights, the aroma and warmth of mulled wine filling the air. Arguably, the festive season only starts for members of the UCL community with the switching on of the Portico Christmas lights. Even with UCL’s diverse background, it is fascinating to see the sea of faces illuminated by the lights, celebrating the festive season united together for the beginning of the celebrations.

12 grapes

Fires lick over a barbecue.

Credit: Navyasara Jaiswal.

For me, as someone with an Indian background, the festive season has never been the typical white Christmas that one usually sees in the media with a tree and presents. However, we still call (more…)

Navigating London’s pricey terrain: Student edition

By IOE Blog Editor, on 10 August 2023

Reka with nature on a grassy hillside. There is an ocean on the right side below. Image permission: Reka Olah.

Réka Oláh. Image permission: Réka Oláh.

By Réka Oláh, Social Sciences BSc

When I envisioned my university years, I was well aware that they would not revolve around extravagant expenses, and that I would have to work to support myself. This made me a bit anxious, as university life often seems geared towards wealthier students who can afford things like lavish brunches, fancy bars or endless clubbing. But fear not! Even with limited funds, you can still have a fantastic experience in London, this truly wonderful and diverse city. Here’s how I made the most of my undergraduate years at IOE without breaking the bank: 

Making money

While many (over)emphasise the importance of securing a summer internship for future career prospects, for some of us, a job is first and foremost a means to pay for our daily expenses. The good news is that there are numerous job opportunities available for students in London. Websites like Student Job UK are great for finding part-time work you can fit around your studies. What is, in my opinion, even smarter is regularly checking UCL Careers vacancies and subscribing to their newsletter for opportunities – trust me, it’s a total game-changer! Another invaluable resource is the UCL Job Shop website, where you can find several on-campus jobs with better pay compared to many external ones. Top tip: get involved with the Students’ Union or other university roles as soon as you can! Working in these roles can help you become part of an awesome community and unlock further job opportunities that often stay within these circles. Most of these jobs are on campus, making them super convenient to juggle alongside your studies. Plus, roles like Welcome Ambassador or Transition Mentor also allow you to immerse yourself more in UCL and/or your department. 

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When a girl makes a choice…

By IOE Blog Editor, on 27 July 2023

The opening page of the gamebook. The title reads 'A girl's life journey in one day'. A set of multicoloured stairs rise towards the top of the image. A young girl runs up them. Image permission: Wendy Wen, Yifan Chen, Yiwei Lu and Yiping Tang

The title page of the gamebook. Image permission: Wendy Wen, Yifan Chen, Yiwei Lu and Yiping Tang.

By Wendy Wen, Yifan Chen, Yiwei Lu and Yiping Tang, Education Studies BA

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.


As part of our assessment in one second-year Education Studies BA module (EDPS0253: Children in Society: Anthropological, Historical and Sociological Perspectives), we created a gamebook. We were given the opportunity to produce engaging materials to show children an underrepresented aspect of their lives.

In the module, we learnt to challenge assumptions about childhood based on our own historically-situated and culturally-constituted ideologies, and we truly got to see how childhoods are wrongly universalised – not from a bird’s eye view – but from a perspective that constructs childhood ‘from below’. Such spirit inspired us to make this gamebook, which explores underrepresented gendered aspects of children’s lives.

Have you ever noticed that girls are often restrictedly described as ‘quiet’ and ‘obedient’, or have you ever had a strange feeling when someone says, ‘girls are just like that’? Do you recall from childhood that your parents made decisions for you without consultation beforehand? Our gamebook about a girl’s experience may lead you to think about these questions and the essence of a girl’s decision.

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‘What are the Social Sciences?’: Exploring something new from an interdisciplinary perspective

By IOE Blog Editor, on 29 June 2023

Students listening to a presentation inside a classroom. Image credit: Mat Wright for UCL IOE.

Image credit: Mat Wright for UCL IOE.

By Ziqi Huang, Social Sciences BSc (class of 2023)

The Social Sciences BSc programme appeared as something similar to Sociology three years ago, when I was applying for my undergraduate study. It was a while after I began my study at IOE when it occurred to me that this title often seems strange to others. As I was discussing my future plans with a senior student one day, she commented in surprise, ‘You study Social Sciences? What programme is that?’ 

I tried to explain that it was close to Sociology. ‘But it is not Sociology, right? It sounds like your modules include a lot more than Sociology, and it’s a bit… confusing.’ 

She was not wrong. As Social Sciences BSc students, we had the opportunity to choose from a variety of modules that wouldn’t appear in a Sociology programme. I learned Psychology, Social Psychology, Anthropology, game theories, and even a bit of Criminology. It would be difficult for a Social Sciences student to summarise what they have learned over the years in one word. Surely, some see it as a disadvantage, as it feels like the programme has no clear focus and is therefore, ‘confusing’. 

At the time, I felt more or less disturbed by this idea – that my programme was too broad and not focused enough. The turning point emerged this year, as I started to work on my undergraduate dissertation. (more…)

Fear and amazement: Writing a queer history dissertation

By IOE Blog Editor, on 23 June 2023

Molly giving a tour in Bloomsbury. Image permission: Molly Edwards.

Molly giving a tour. Image permission: Molly Edwards.

By Molly Edwards, Education Studies BA

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.

I realised over the past year that a lot of my academic outputs have involved me holding my breath, either out of amazement or fear. In the two blog posts I wrote for the UCL Student’s Union last September, I reflected on my Education, Practice and Society Research Fellowship, which involved researching the queer history of UCL under the supervision of Professor Georgina Brewis as a small part of her Generation UCL project. In my first post, I discussed my amazement of the UCL Special Collections archive. In my second post, I noted my fears of sharing my queer history tour of UCL with historians.

After my experience with the archives and my plea to others to research them further to create a more comprehensive queer history, I was drawn to write my dissertation on UCL’s queer history. This is not because I was fully confident in my abilities (hence my prior plea), but because I know the importance of this history from my personal experience. While writing the rationale for this, I realised that others felt the importance of this history in creating community and belonging. However, I was still worried that I would not be able to accurately represent the history, even after I had narrowed the time frame down to the 1970s. An added pressure was that I also decided to include the history of LSE, so my topic became, ‘Queer student political and social organization at University College London and London School of Economics from 1970 to 1979.’ I found the only way to resolve my worries about representation was to draw on the lessons of established queer scholars and continually question my motives for writing this history. I had to do this before I could begin to accept that I could be the right person to approach my topic. (more…)

Make the most out of UCL: My EPSURF fellowship experience

By IOE Blog Editor, on 15 May 2023

By Jianuo Vivian Yang and Yuvin Lawela Kim, Education Studies BA*

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.

The Education, Practice and Society Undergraduate Research Fellowship (EPSURF) is a research opportunity for undergraduate students in the Department of Education, Practice and Society at IOE, UCL’s Faculty of Education and Society. It gives students the chance to collaborate with a member of academic staff on an ongoing research project that interests them. (more…)

Experience, Exchange and Learn – a student’s reflection on a student-staff exchange with the University of Porto

By IOE Digital, on 22 December 2022

A view of Porto Ribeira from the sea

(Image source: Paula Santos via Wikimedia Commons).

By Arthur Sun, Education Studies BA

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.

In September 2022, I took part in the first student-staff exchange between IOE and the Education Science programme at the University of Porto (UPorto) in Portugal. The visit was supported by IOE’s International Office and my department Education, Practice and Society, with the aim of fostering international relationships and piloting a possible short exchange scheme. I was extremely lucky to be selected with four other peers as student representatives from the BA Education Studies. We spent three days in Portugal that included a seminar with Porto staff, leading a day of activities with Porto students and taking a walking tour of the university’s historic campus.

We students were given the autonomy to develop a seminar to be shared with the students in Portugal on the second day of our trip.

As students, we didn’t need to teach, but wanted to share things with the Portuguese students. We knew the engagement of the students would be essential, so we created many engaging games: one guessing song titles and a truth or lie activity taking inspiration from the different colonial histories. We also shared some concrete knowledge with the students such as introducing the colonial histories of the UK and Portugal to demonstrate the different impacts of modern university education.

I personally learnt a lot and have been very inspired by this trip. The following are two key ideas that I want to share:

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Lessons from a Laidlaw Scholar

By IOE Digital, on 26 October 2022

Group of female international students making registration for online courses together via laptop computer, women collaborating on research browsed information on netbook for creating designing project

(Image source: BullRun via Adobe Stock).

Do you want to research topics that you are passionate about? Do you want to be a better leader?

Perhaps the Laidlaw Undergraduate Research and Leadership Scholarship is for you!

by Princess Emeanuwa, Education Studies BA, Laidlaw Scholar 2022-23

*From the 2024/2025 academic year onwards, the Education Studies BA has been renamed the Education, Society and Culture BA.

It is pretty unusual to have the opportunity to work with researchers and experts in their field as a first-year undergraduate; therefore, the Laidlaw Scholarship programme is exceptional. What I have enjoyed so far is not only undertaking a research project (which I will talk about later) but also improving my leadership skills and personal development. Over the course of the scholarship, research projects are completed in the first summer over 6 weeks, and in the second, a Leadership-in-Action experience takes place in challenging environments.

Before I tell you about my experience as a first-year Laidlaw scholar, I want you to know that it’s okay if you are unsure whether you’re a fit for the programme because initially, I wasn’t even planning to apply. I only considered it because Gemma Gronland, who was my incredible tutor and Module lead for Education in an Age of Globalisation, encouraged me to check it out. I  looked at the research project titles, and when I saw the ASPIRES project and their passion for social justice, I was convinced to apply. And here is my first lesson, have an open mind. An open mind, for me, is the precursor to taking risks that could pay off in the end. After all, I had I not been open to Gemma’s suggestion; I would never have got the opportunity to work with the awesome ASPIRES team.

Now about my experience on the programme:

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