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Ask an Academic: Daisuke Kawata, Professor of Astronomy

Sian EGardiner5 November 2018

Daisuke Kawata is Professor of Astronomy at UCL’s Department of Space & Climate Physics, based at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory.

He was among the recipients of the inaugural UCL-University of Toronto seed funding in 2017, to encourage collaboration between academics at the two institutions. A year on from the initial funding, we caught up with him to hear more about how the collaboration is progressing.

How did you first become interested in astronomy?

My undergraduate degree was actually in Engineering, but when computer simulations started getting bigger and bigger, I became interested in using computers to understand physics and how the universe is made up. I then became fascinated with the evolution of the Milky Way. So I moved from undergraduate Engineering to a master’s course in Astronomy, and I did a PhD in Astronomy in Japan.

Where has your research taken you?

After my post doc in Japan, I worked in Australia for about four years, and I then went to California in the USA. I worked there for three and a half years or so. Now, at UCL, I feel lucky to be part of this research-intensive institution. The research level in the UK is very high and lots of people gather in London: it’s an international environment. At the moment I’m working with colleagues in the Computer Science department, so the opportunities to work with people elsewhere in the UCL family is exciting.

You were one of the recipients of the UCL-University of Toronto seed funding for collaboration with academics at Toronto in 2017. What are you working on together?

Our research aims to understand the structure of the Milky Way, as well as how it formed and evolved. It’s quite an exciting moment for us because the European Space Agency launched a space craft called Gaia in December 2013, which is observing the motion of over a billion stars in the Milky Way, and they release intermittent data to the community so that we can use the satellite data for our research.

As you can imagine, if you’re in the forest looking out at the trees, it’s very difficult to understand how big the forest is and how the trees are distributed – and the same applies for our galaxy. You need a physical, computer model to understand the Gaia Data. So that’s what our collaboration has set up. It’s a computer simulated Milky Way model, and our hope is that this computer model will be used to picture the whole structure of the galaxy.

How did the connection with Toronto first come about?

We met Jo Bovy, my counterpart in Toronto, at a conference about the Milky Way about eight years or so ago, when he was still a PhD student. I knew him because he was making quite advanced statistical models to understand the Milky Way. I knew he was a rising star in our field, but it was two years ago when I was at one of the institutes in New York and he was doing a sabbatical there that we were able to spend a week in the same location and really discuss this modelling technique, ‘Made-to-measure.’

We talked about advancing this computer simulation model, which my PhD student Jason hunt and I had already made a prototype of. We had an intense discussion with Jo on how we could improve it and made a big road map for how we could do so. So that was the starting point, almost two years ago.

What was the outcome of your recent visit to Toronto?

We visited at the beginning of October, and had a series of meetings almost every day, which meant lots of discussion time. We came up with ideas for improving the Made-to-measure technique and other ideas about using Gaia Data to understand the structure of the galaxy. We also started working on some papers together.

Do you have advice for anyone who hasn’t collaborated on such a global scale before? How do you make an international partnership work?

Conferences are always a good starting point – with a couple of hundred people there, there are plenty of people to talk to. And tea time is a good time to start! The next step is, if you’ve met a scientist you want to work with, try and spend an extended period of time at the same location to talk about a specific topic.

What are next steps for the project with Toronto?

We’re going to try and apply this Made-to-measure model to the Gaia Data. Before this application we will try to understand it in a more local neighbourhood: we still don’t know much dark matter is around us, and using this technique we hope we can get more accurate measurements of the dark matter density in the solar neighbourhood.

Study Abroad events to start the year

GuestBlogger24 September 2018

Next month will see the UCL Study Abroad team host a series of informative events about the international study opportunities open to UCL students. Here, UCL’s Short Mobilities Co-ordinator Owain Evans explains what students can expect from the events. 

UCL Study Abroad Fair 2018
Monday 15 October, 4-6pm, North and South Cloisters, Wilkins Building

From Hamburg to Hong Kong, UCL Study Abroad provides students with a range of global opportunities as well as support while they are undertaking them.

Next month, the UCL Study Abroad Fair will give you the chance to find out more about the exciting international opportunities at UCL. The event is aimed at any undergraduate student considering an international opportunity and isn’t limited to those on Study Abroad degree programmes.

The event will provide undergraduate students with the chance to find out more about the global mobility options available to them, speak to students who have recently returned from an overseas study experience, and learn more about the support you will receive while abroad.

As well as information regarding full year and semester-long opportunities, the fair will also promote non-credit bearing short-term study abroad options, so there will be something for everyone.

Practical information sessions

It’s worth noting that two Study Abroad information sessions for those planning on spending a term or year abroad as part of their degree programme will also precede the fair.

These optional sessions will provide students with all of the practical information needed to join the Study Abroad Programme. The sessions will take place on:

  • Monday 8 October 1-2pm: JZ Young Lecture Theatre
  • Thursday 11 October 6-7pm: Harrie Massey Lecture Theatre

Returning Students Reception

Next month, the Study Abroad Team will also host the ‘Returning Students Reception’ on 4 October in the Haldane Room (North Cloisters).

Aimed at UCL students who have participated in the exchange programme at one of our partner institutions across the world, along with students who have undertaken a work placement in a different country as part of their year abroad programme over the past academic year, it should serve as a warm welcome back from their travels.

The reception will be a career-oriented event and the schedule will include a welcome talk from the Study Abroad Team; a presentation led by one of our Careers Consultants on how students can best market the skills they have gained during their studies or work abroad, and finally a UCL Study Abroad Alumni Panel, during which participants will talk to former students about how their year abroad has shaped their careers, and pass on advice and inspiration.

This will be followed by open discussions and refreshments so we are expecting lots of networking and interesting study abroad stories!

When a volcano threatens: UCL pioneers new warnings of eruptions

GuestBlogger19 September 2018

By Christopher Kilburn, Director, UCL Hazard Centre, UCL Earth Sciences

Earlier this month, Dr Christopher Kilburn , Dr Danielle Charlton and Lara Smale (UCL Earth Sciences) presented at the Cities on Volcanoes Conference (COV) in Naples, Italy. Here, Christopher blogs about the experience and UCL’s pioneering research into designing forecasts of volcanic eruptions and their impact. 

Understanding how volcanoes behave is just the first step in reducing their threat. The next is to understand the views of the people who have made a volcano their home. Tackling both together is the aim of the Cities on Volcanoes conferences – two-yearly events that are held near an active volcano. This September we gathered in the southern Italian city of Naples, which has survived more than 2,000 years sandwiched between Vesuvius and Campi Flegrei.

UCL was strongly represented by the Departments of Earth Sciences, Science and Technology Studies and Computer Science, where we presented on topics that included forecasting eruptions, designing interactive hazard maps and low-cost monitoring equipment, and using art and the theatre to improve warnings of volcanic activity.

UCL Hazard Centre

The common link is the UCL Hazard Centre (UHC), in Earth Sciences, which for twenty years has been opening new pathways in forecasting volcanic eruptions and communicating about their hazard.

The conference also provided a unique opportunity for early-career researchers to meet practitioners who have had to react to volcanic crises. Ask Dr Danielle Charlton from the UHC.

“A really important aspect of conferences like these is listening to the experiences of fellow scientists who have been directly involved in a volcanic emergency,” she says.

“We heard from the scientists and officials who responded to eruptions at Mount Agung, in Indonesia, Kilauea, in Hawaii, and Fuego, in Guatemala – all within the last twelve months. Learning from these experiences has shaped how I approach my own research, as well as bringing real examples to what we teach on our postgraduate hazard programmes in Earth Sciences.”

Importance of communication

PhD researcher, Lara Smale (UHC) agrees. “The conference was a wonderful opportunity to meet researchers working on volcanoes that embrace a wide range of social and environmental conditions. Common themes were the importance of communication between stakeholders before an eruption and ensuring that applied research meets the needs of end-users. In short, science is not done until it is communicated.”

We learned, too, that successful communication can take advantage of art as well as science.

This theme was promoted by Drs Carina Fearnley and Chiara Ambrosio (UCL Science and Technology Studies) who pointed out that artists “possess unique and novel ways to engage with highly complex concepts and ideas” and “are able to address deeply political and contingent issues that scientists may either overlook or be unable to incorporate.”

Historical links 

The return to Naples was poignant. UCL has had links with Neapolitan volcanoes for more than 100 years. In 1891, Henry Johnston-Lavis (UCL Medicine) produced the first geological map of Vesuvius (copies of which are held in Earth Sciences, as well as at the Vesuvius Observatory, the oldest volcano observatory in the world).

In 1984, Prof. John Guest (UCL Physics & Astronomy and Earth Sciences) advised the UK Ministry of Defence on responding to a volcanic crisis in Campi Flegrei (which in the end did not erupt); and today the UCL Hazard Centre and Royal Academy of Dramatic Art are leading interdisciplinary studies on volcanic warnings at Campi Flegrei, in collaboration with local cultural associations, the University of Naples and the Vesuvius Observatory.

It is a proud tradition and a firm foundation for the next 100 years of success.

New book by UCL Qatar’s Dr Jane Humphris brings Sudan’s heritage to young audience

Sian EGardiner23 July 2018

Dr Jane Humphris, Head of UCL Qatar Research in Sudan, has published a children’s book intended to raise awareness about archaeological work in Sudan among local children.

The book, ‘Sudan’s Ancient History: Hwida and Maawia Investigate Meroe’s Iron’, illustrates the groundbreaking archaeological work currently underway in the Royal City of Meroe, as part of the Qatar-Sudan Archaeological Project (QSAP), for a younger audience.

Funded by Qatar Museums, QSAP is an extensive, targeted initiative by to support the exploration and protection of Sudan’s culture and history.

Led by the states of Sudan and Qatar, this international project has over 40 missions engaged in the excavation and conservation of ancient sites in Sudan.

Distributed in Doha libraries

The new book follows two young children, Hwida and Maawia, as they discover how the ancient Sudanese produced iron, demonstrating the significant role this played in the history of the Kingdom of Kush.

Following its publication, copies of the book are to be placed in the Museum of Islamic Art library and the Qatar National Library for children and families from across Qatar to learn about this aspect of Sudan’s rich heritage.

As part of the ongoing community outreach programme in Sudan, hundreds of copies have been also handed out to children living around Meroe and placed in the libraries of local schools.

Inspiring the next generation

Speaking at a ceremony hosted by Qatar National Library, Jane said: “Here at UCL Qatar, we believe that the role of archaeologists is not just to discover the past through archaeological excavations, but also to make sure that the work we are doing is accessible.

“We hope that the book continues to be used as an educational tool – both in Sudan and Qatar – so that we can inspire the next generation to become more interested in preserving, protecting, and promoting cultural heritage.”

Ongoing archaeological work

For the last six years, UCL Qatar has been carrying out archaeological work at the ancient Royal City of Meroe, on the east bank of the river Nile.

UCL Qatar’s most recent work as part of QSAP includes the discovery of early iron production workshops, and extensive research and conservation at the Apedemak Temple, one of the most import religious locations at the Royal City.

Ask an academic: Dr Florian Mussgnug

Sian EGardiner18 July 2018

Dr Florian Mussgnug Dr Florian Mussgnug is Reader in Italian and Comparative Literature at UCL and convenor of the BA Comparative Literature, which examines world literature from diverse geographical and cultural angles.

He has recently been appointed as an Academic Director of the Cities partnerships Programme, a cross-UCL initiative that will support, fund and promote the work UCL academics carry out with partners in global cities. He spoke to us about his work with the Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub and his hopes for the launch of the programme. 

Which events took place in Rome in 2017-18?

The Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub has facilitated 11 collaborative projects, which were convened by UCL lead applicants from six faculties. In total, this enabled the organization of five international conferences, three symposia, six graduate training workshops, two week-long international doctoral summer schools, a piano concert and a photography exhibition. All events took place in Rome over the course of three months, between April and June 2018. More than 100 academic speakers were invited, including 37 UCL members of staff.

How did the Rome Multidisciplinary Research Hub come about?

The idea was born during a period of great apprehension, following the British EU referendum. The spectre of Brexit marked a threat to the future of UK universities, as the Provost of UCL and other university leaders were quick to point out. British universities have benefitted enormously from EU funding and from the free movement of researchers and students, and there was justified concern that prolonged political uncertainty and the noxious rhetoric of the leave campaign would put off researchers in other European countries.

A strong, positive signal was needed, especially for subjects like Modern Languages, European Studies and Comparative Literature, which rely strongly on free movement and the Erasmus student exchange programme.

What makes Rome such a fruitful location for academic collaboration?

Rome was a good place to start. The city can boost a sustained record of research collaborations with UCL, across numerous disciplines: archaeology, architecture, art history, ancient history and classical studies, the fine arts, museum studies, electronic engineering, history, modern languages, neuroscience, philosophy, political science and translation studies.

My vision has focused on strategic collaboration with high-ranking research universities and other prestigious regional partners, including Sapienza University, Roma Tre University, LUISS Guido Carli University and the British School at Rome (BSR). I have pursued this idea since 2016, thanks to three rounds of Global Engagement Funds, the Rome Regional Partnership Funds, and strategic and financial support from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities

You’ve recently been appointed as an Academic Director for UCL’s Cities partnerships Programme. What are you most looking forward to about the project?

The political crisis in the Mediterranean has moved Italy to the forefront of international attention, making it a vital context for important debates about the identity and future of Europe. More than 50 years after the Treaty of Rome, the Italian capital remains a powerful symbol of European unity.

But Rome has also come to be associated with new risks and challenges: the rise of right-wing populism in Europe, the need to re-think national sovereignty in an age of planetary connectedness; the political causes and consequences of involuntary migration or forced immobility. What draws me to Rome, above and beyond the city’s unrivalled wealth of historical sites and cultural artefacts, is the wish to respond actively and fully to these challenges, in line with UCL’s distinctive ethos of cosmopolitanism, radicalism and innovative thinking.

What are you hoping to achieve through the Cities partnerships Programme?

Educated in Britain, Italy and Germany, I am proud of UCL’s reputation as a global academic leader in continental Europe, and applaud our commitment to international excellence. As Academic Director of the Cities partnerships Programme, I will seek to consolidate UCL’s important role through new initiatives and by strengthening the strategic partnerships that have already emerged.

I also wish to map and promote relevant expertise across UCL. The “UCL in Rome” working party, founded in 2016, already comprises over 50 UCL researchers with a specific interest in Italy, based in eight faculties and 19 departments.

How does this approach differ from UCL’s previous international engagement in Rome?

Members of the working party have advanced exciting proposals for joint degrees, pre-university orientation weeks, research fellowships, internships and fixed-term double appointments. I look forward to testing these ideas in the context of the Cities partnerships Programme. Regional engagement funding will continue, and some high-profile initiatives are already planned for 2018-19.

In September, a ceremony at the British School at Rome (BSR) will honour the Italian filmmaker and Slade alumna Lorenza Mazzetti, who will be awarded a UCL Honorary Fellowship. In January, the Provost will visit Sapienza University to address the assembly that opens the academic year in Italy. I also look forward to working closely with Dr Claire Colomb, who will lead activities in Paris. We both welcome this important opportunity to shape debates about the future of higher education in Europe, and to strengthen internationally collaborative research and research-based learning.

Student interview: Studying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK

Sian EGardiner10 July 2018

Yingying Zhang and Lydia Hargreaves have just completed a year-long Mandarin Chinese PGCE at the UCL Institute of Education to become teachers of Mandarin in UK secondary schools.

The tuition on the course draws on the best current Mandarin teaching practice in UK schools through an established national network, coordinated by the UCL IOE Confucius Institute, a bilateral collaboration with Peking University (PKU) and the Affiliated High School of Peking University, supported by Hanban

We spoke to them to find out about their experiences studying at UCL, and what comes next.

What made you decide to train as a teacher?

LH: Teaching is something I’ve always had a great interest in. I was home educated so I’ve been interested in looking at different ways of education; comparing how I was educated with other perhaps more mainstream options.

YZ: Before I moved to the UK about five years ago, I worked in China, teaching English. I realised I wanted to explore a different culture so I moved to see what the education system is like, and hopefully make a difference.

Your course is coming to an end – how have you found studying at UCL?

LH: The course has affirmed my identity as a Chinese speaker in a way which it never has been before. It’s something I totally didn’t expect, but having native-speaking friends who have accepted me as a Chinese teacher has given me a lot of affirmation. I worried it might lessen my confidence, but it’s actually built it up even more.

YZ: I found it absolutely amazing being able to study at UCL: meeting new students, discovering the culture of different schools on our placements and working with other teachers has been great.

What first attracted you to the course at UCL?

LH: Looking at my options when applying to become a teacher of Mandarin in the UK, UCL honestly seemed to be head and shoulders above the other options. It was kind of a no brainer for me.

Another really big draw was that I’d be learning about supporting bilingual learners and immigrants to the UK who are developing their English language skills in the UK system.

Yingying, what have you found the main differences to be between your teaching experience here, and in China?

In China, it’s very much teacher-led, while in the UK, it’s very much student-led. Here, almost everything is student-centric – we think from their perspective. In China, most of the time the students follow the teacher’s pace and instructions.

What’s been your course highlight?

YZ: I think the support from our tutors. They gave us such good guidelines. Every time they visited us at our placements it was really encouraging. The environment in each school is very different but with their support it made a huge difference. One of the biggest benefits has also been the encouragement to think outside the box – critically, originally and creatively.

LH:  The sense of belonging and mutual support with the other people who were qualifying has been lovely. It was mostly native speakers of Chinese but also people like myself, and I felt really welcomed.

How does it feel to have both secured jobs in London secondary schools?

LH: It’s a really exciting time to be a teacher of Mandarin. The way in which Mandarin Chinese is being taught in the UK is still very much being shaped, and it’s great that in the years to come I can be really involved with that. It’s quite pioneering – many people from our course will be starting the teaching of Chinese for the first time in their schools.

YZ: The UCL IOE Confucius Institute played a very crucial role in helping us find jobs and my new job is from my first placement, at Harris Academy in South Norwood. Learning Mandarin is very new and popular, and I’m looking forward to helping more students get to know the language and Chinese culture.

UK government announces major new funding to attract world’s best in science and innovation

Sian EGardiner5 July 2018

Business Secretary Greg Clark has announced a major new investment in UK talent and skills to grow and attract the best in science and innovation from across the world.

The inaugural UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme is set to receive £900 million over the next 11 years, with six funding competitions and at least 550 fellowships awarded over the next three years.

UCL researchers are frequently among those to receive government backing. Recent examples include the Department of Physics & Astronomy’s Krishna Manojkumar Jadeja, who has received funding for his project on ‘coherent gamma rays,’ along with a team at the Department of Medical Physics & Biomedical Engineering led by Professor Gary Royle, whose proton therapy proposal has received backing from the National Institute for Health Research.

Flexibility for researchers

Delivering the keynote speech at the International Business Festival in Liverpool last month, Clark outlined £1.3 billion worth of investment for British universities and businesses.

The money is intended to develop the next generation of entrepreneurs, innovators and scientific leaders and secure Britain’s future economic prosperity, and is the single biggest investment in science in 40 years. He said: “The money will help ensure the UK invests 2.4% of GDP in R&D by 2027 and help us become the world’s most innovative economy by 2030.”

Clark explained that the investment will provide up to seven years of funding for early-career researchers and innovators, including support for part-time awards and career breaks, in a bid to provide researchers with the flexibility needed to tackle ambitious and challenging research areas.

Key international collaboration

Commenting on the announcement, Clark added: “We are a nation of innovators, with some of the world’s greatest inventions created on British soil – from penicillin to the first computer programme. We want to retain our global reputation as a destination for world-class scientists and researchers, by providing opportunities to find and nurture the next Ada Lovelaces and Isaac Newtons.

“International collaboration has been key to many of the most significant discoveries and breakthroughs and I want the UK to remain the go-to destination for the best scientists and innovators. We are investing in the rising stars of research and innovation to ensure the UK is where the products and technologies of tomorrow are developed.”

The scheme is open to businesses as well as universities, and is also open to researchers from around the world, in a bid to ensure the UK continues to attract exceptional talent from around the world.

Supporting the Grand Challenges

Clark also announced that complementing the Future Leaders Fellowship Scheme, the Royal Society, Royal Academy of Engineering, British Academy, and Academy of Medical Sciences will collectively receive £350 million for the prestigious fellowships schemes. This funding will enhance the research talent pipeline and increase the number of fellowships on offer for high skilled researchers and innovators.

For the next five years, £50 million has been allocated through the National Productivity Investment Fund for additional PhDs, including 100 PhDs to support research into AI, supporting one of the Grand Challenges within the Industrial Strategy and ensuring Britain is at the forefront of the AI revolution.

Bartlett team hosts ‘Flash-back City’ architecture workshop in Riyadh

Sian EGardiner23 May 2018

Flashback city workshop in RiyadhA team from UCL’s Bartlett School of Architecture has run its first interactive workshop for architecture students in Riyadh, at Al Faisal University, in collaboration with the Saudi Arabian art organisation Minhaj.

Co-organised by Director of Short Courses at The Bartlett, Sabine Storp, along with first year teaching staff and The Bakerloos, a collective made up of four Bartlett alumni, the ‘Flash-back City’ workshop explored the power of collaboration and collective imagination in urban architecture.

Explaining the structure of the workshop, Sabine said, “Through a gamified interface, participants collectively drew an urban fabric based on crowdsourced memories – creating large scale propositional, collaborative drawings through the collation of personal memories of a city or culture.”Architecture workshop in Riyadh

She added, “The co-founder of Minhaj, Fahad Al Saud, is a Bartlett alumni. Minhaj and I saw an opportunity to expand workshops and short-courses to Riyadh, where the local architectural education is becoming more diverse and exciting.”

Tailored to the unique historic context of Old Riyadh and Ad Diriyah, the workshop was well received by Al Faisal students, with one participant commenting: “It’s exciting and different to any workshop we’ve participated in locally before.”

As a result of the successful collaboration, Sabine and team are now planning a new series of workshops about art, architecture and design, to take place later in 2018.

Ask GEO: Professor Gudrun Moore

Sian EGardiner22 May 2018

Gudrun is Professor of Clinical and Molecular Genetics at UCL’s Great Ormond Street Institute of Child Health and GEO’s Pro-Vice-Provost International.

Here, she talks about her work as co-chair of the ‘Personalised Academic Global Excellence Student Support’ (PAGESS) working group, alongside Dr Clare Goudy, Director of Education Planning at the Office of the Vice-Provost Education & Student Affairs (OVPESA).

The group was set up with the aim of increasing integrated academic language skills support for students across UCL.

What existing support is there for UCL students looking for help with academic writing?

At the moment, the provision of academic communication support is spread across the university: the Faculty of Arts & Humanities has pioneered the set-up of the ‘Writing Lab’, primarily a peer-support service; the Centre for Languages & International Education runs several courses for students, and also supports on-programme teaching by academic staff in a number of faculties. The Institute of Education has the best-developed provision, with its own Academic Writing Centre, and there is also support at the Students’ Union.

So, although excellent, writing support at UCL is found in pockets, with some faculties extremely well-served and others with limited support for teaching staff and students.

Through close analysis of the provision, as well as consultation with academic staff, we identified that the present set-up wasn’t sufficient to meet demand. Comparative analysis of other Russell Group universities also showed that UCL’s provision was lower than the standard across the sector.

And this led to setting up the ‘PAGESS’ working group…

Yes – through our institutional surveys, we’ve been aware that student requests for academic writing support have been increasing over time, particularly from international students, but also from home and EU students too.

The 2016-21 Education Strategy identifies this as a key area of development for UCL, and the proposed expansion of our capacity in this area also dovetailed with the Global Engagement Strategy, with its strategic aim of ‘cultivating our global outlook to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers’.

The working group includes representatives from across UCL. What are the benefits of cross-departmental working?

Our intention is to develop a service that works for all faculties at UCL, and so cross-departmental working has been vital to the success of the project. We brought together representatives from all existing academic communication support services, from Library Services and from a number of faculties.

We also consulted with faculty tutors and used existing survey data to corroborate our working assumptions. One of the strengths of the project has been the collaboration between OVPESA and GEO. We’ve both enjoyed working together very much, and have brought different perspectives to bear, with Clare helping me to understand the complexity of policy-making and institutional projects, and me helping Clare to understand the potential impact on departments and the intricacies of the lives of academics and the pressures they are facing.

Given our existing dispersed provision, this has been a complex project with many different interests to reconcile – but having an excellent collaborative relationship has allowed us to make progress with good humour!

What support will the new Academic Communications Support Centre provide?

The support centre will first provide initial ‘triage’ support to students, helping them to identify the problem with communication that they need help with. They’ll then be directed to one of a number of options for developing their ability to communicate in an academic context.

The centre will offer programmes and workshops to students, as well as supporting academic staff in departments to integrate academic writing support into their existing programmes. Under the centre umbrella, the Writing Lab will expand its peer-support provision across all faculties, and we will also be developing the online resources that students can access without a referral.

What are next steps for the project?

We’re currently advertising for a Director of the Centre for Academic Communication Support (a working title, to be reviewed once the director is in post).

We’re hoping that they will be able to start in September to develop and start to implement the business plan, so that we can start to increase our provision in this area from the 18-19 academic session. We’ll keep faculty and department staff updated on our progress through our regular GEO and OVPESA communications.

What does gender equality have to do with global engagement?

Sian EGardiner11 May 2018

This blog post is an extract taken from a speech that UCL’s Vice-Provost International Dr Dame Nicola Brewer gave at a joint UCL alumni/British High Commission reception in Singapore in March 2018.

At UCL, global engagement and global citizenship are things that we take seriously. The first strategic driver of our Global Engagement Strategy is to offer our students the best possible preparation for global lives and careers.

And we have a flourishing Global Citizenship Programme for our students that takes place in the summer term and which enables them to work in interdisciplinary teams on global challenges. That programme is (of course!) open equally to female and male students.

In my family, we were lucky to be able to give our own children (one girl, one boy) a good education, a global outlook, the appetite and confidence to travel and learn about other countries other cultures and to be comfortable with diversity.

Those are things that an in ideal world every child would be able to experience. I want every student at UCL – actually, I want every child in the world, but you have to start somewhere – to have the opportunities I was able to give our children. So how can that equal, global access be achieved?

One of the critical starting points in achieving real equality is finding male allies. In the home (where I was lucky, again, to have such a supportive partner), and at work (the new Director of the LSE, Dame Minouche Shafik, talks about the ‘holy trinity’ for working women: a supportive partner, a supportive boss and good childcare). Men and women need to work together for equality. It’s a cause that’s most effectively advanced by creating solutions together.

We need to reach out across countries, too. I think you need to start with the local, at home. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a hero of mine, advocates that you should, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

So, start local but then go global. Or, as UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy says, ‘Think global, act together’. And the way we act, and what we choose to act on, is equally important.

Sometimes people ask me how they can do that. Professor Dame Athene Donald, Master of Churchill College Cambridge, gave some great tips on International Women’s day this year.

Her blog started with a quote from one of my favourite novelists, George Eliot. In her 1876 novel Daniel Deronda, she wrote, “And when a woman’s will is as strong as the man’s who wants to govern her, half her strength must be concealment.”

Professor Donald continued, “Many women need to live their lives like that, even today… a strong woman may be seen as a threat.” And her blog then listed three things that everyone can do:

  • Amplify the voices of a timid person, not necessarily a woman, though it might be, who makes a sensible comment that is talked over or ignored.
  • Support someone you see being victimised or fretting over something.
  • Be an active bystander; don’t ignore other people’s uncomfortable actions. If it’s clear things are getting out of hand, step in if it’s safe for you to do so.

Professor Donald finished her blog by referring to how far we’ve come. But I don’t think it’s far enough, and each of us has a role to play in making sure we keep moving forward.

At UCL, we call ourselves London’s Global University, and we can be a beacon for equality, as well as for world-class education and world-leading research.

Nicola is the Gender Equality Champion on UCL’s Senior Management Team and Co-Chair of UCL’s 50:50 Gender Equality Group