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Q&A with UCL-PKU MBA graduate Xiaojing Wang

SophieVinter22 November 2019

Xiaojing Wang, graduate from the UCL-PKU MBAXiaojing Wang is one of the first students graduating from the UCL-Peking University MBA.

Launched in 2016 as part of UCL and PKU’s deep strategic partnership, the MBA combines the unique research and teaching strengths of the UCL School of Management and the Peking University National School of Development.

Based in Beijing, students have the opportunity to complete elective courses in London during the summer. They also undertake a business research project, supplemented by training and guidance on consultancy services, business planning, and business research.

  • Can you tell us more about your current job and what your role involves?

I’m working in the UK Department for International Trade Education and Skills Team (China) as the Head of Early Years Education and English Language Training.

My role is to support UK-China G2G and B2B collaboration in these two areas, both on export and investment.

  • How did you hear about the UCL-PKU MBA and what made you want to apply?

One of the stakeholders that I knew studied an MBA at PKU, so I contacted the recruitment team and was recommended the UCL-PKU programme.

The programme was appealing to me because I am promoting UK education, and I am a huge fan of UK universities. UCL as a top 10 university of the world is a huge plus for my education experience.

  • What’s been the most interesting aspect of the programme for you?

The summer study in the UK was the most interesting thing. First of all, it really made me feel that I am part of UCL rather than just PKU. It gave me more attachment to the university. Secondly, the programme and the professors were really great. They offered us opportunities to align the theory we’ve seen in class with practical cases, as they took us on quite a few company visits. Thirdly, as the university is in London, it really gave us a great opportunity to feel the dynamics of the city.

Also, as we were the first group taking part, the programme did attract quite interesting colleagues to join, which made the study quite fun.

  • What did your Business Research Project focus on?

Together with two other colleagues, we analysed the Fedex and TNT acquisition project.

We basically used the theories we’ve studied in class – including accounting, decision-making and strategic management – to analyse why it was a good option for Fedex to acquire TNT. We hope to generate some suggestions for Chinese express companies to take as reference when they consider overseas mergers and acquisitions.

I was very impressed by all the courses related to decision making and strategy, especially in the UK. The professors were very enthusiastic, and passed on their enthusiasm and knowledge to us.

  • What are the rest of your cohort like? Have you found it useful to learn from each other?

Indeed, the colleagues who joined the programme were from different parts of China and different industries. I’ve definitely learnt a great deal from them, and they also made my study experience more fun as well.

  • Do you think doing the MBA has benefited your career? If so, how?

I do think has benefited my career. I am from an Arts & Humanities background, and the knowledge I gained about accounting and decision-making etc. helped me to be more rational when looking at different projects. I could provide more profound insight to the stakeholders that I work with.

Find out more about the UCL-PKU MBA.

Peking University and UCL agree joint MBA programme.

More news about UCL in East Asia.

Visit from Zheijiang University moves an important archaeological collaboration forward

SophieVinter22 November 2019

MoU signing ceremony with Zhejiang University

In late September 2019, Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International) and Katharine Carruthers, Pro-Vice-Provost (East Asia) met with a delegation from China’s Zhejiang University (ZJU) to sign an expiring Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Founded in 1897, Zhejiang University (ZJU) is a prestigious research intensive university in China, located in the city of Hangzhou, about two and a half hours’ drive from Shanghai. With around 55,000 students across 37 colleges and schools, Zheijiang ranks among the top three universities in China. The MoU aims to deepen collaborations between UCL and ZJU in education and research across areas in Social and Historical Sciences, Brain Sciences, Population Health Science and Engineering Sciences.

During the meeting, Nicola and Katharine shared UCL’s approach to global engagement with Prof He Lianzhen (ZJU Vice President International), who was on her first visit to UCL. There are already strong existing links between UCL and ZJU in archaeology, brain sciences, global child health, women’s health, engineering and student exchange. Over the past five years, these collaborations have produced 117 co-authored papers in areas ranging from biochemistry to engineering sciences.

After the meeting, the delegation met with Professor Sue Hamiltion (Director of IoA), Professor Dorian Fuller (Executive Director of the ICCHA) and ZJU alumni at the Institute of Archaeology. Finally, they visited Dr Dominic Perring at the IoA to discuss his joint research project with ZJU, the Shanxi Digital Documentation Project.

This project aims to undertake a comprehensive survey of the ancient Daoist and Buddhist temples in the remote villages of China’s Shanxi province, using high-resolution photographic and three-dimensional photogrammetric techniques to produce digital images of temple paintings and associated architecture. There is an urgent need to undertake a comprehensive survey of these temples, which are home to numerous undocumented wall paintings and temple art. These temples, which have fallen to ruin are frequently targeted by looters, and so it is crucial that their artwork is recorded for future research and conversation before they are lost forever.

 

Ask an Academic: Aimee Spector

SophieVinter21 November 2019

Aimee is Professor of Old Age Clinical Psychology in the Department of Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, UCL. Her work focuses on CST (Cognitive Stimulation Therapy), which she originally developed as her PhD thesis from 1999-2001. Since then, she has established and coordinates the International CST centre and developed the CST training course, having trained over 2000 people in CST. She is the author of numerous academic publications on CST and on the four CST training manuals. Since its initial publication in 2003, CST remains the only non-pharmacological intervention recommended for cognitive dementia in the updated (2018) Department of Health NICE guidelines.

Aimee has continued to supervise academic research on CST and other psychosocial interventions for dementia, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). In late November she visited Peking University to continue a collaboration with colleagues there into CST research.

Can you give us a brief overview of your research into Cognitive Stimulation Therapy?

The journey began in 1998, when I started my PhD here at UCL. My thesis aimed to develop and evaluate a non-pharmacological intervention for dementia, using similar methodology and outcomes to the drug trials, which at the time were the only recommended treatment for mild to moderate dementia. We ended up developing CST, a group intervention that stimulates different cognitive functions through fun activities. We found that its cognitive benefits were comparable to the dementia medication, whilst it also significantly improved quality of life. I have continued to be involved in CST research since then, including looking at its longer term effects, individualised CST and global implementation studies.

What got you interested in the subject in the first place?

When I was a psychology undergraduate, I did work experience in a care home for older people. I was shocked at the lack of stimulation that people received, particularly those with dementia, who spent so much time doing nothing. Their unmet needs and subsequent excess disability were palpable. I was very lucky to find a PhD project that so clearly matched a clinical interest of mine.

What kind of outcomes have you seen from implementing CST programmes around the world?

Several countries (including Brazil, the US, Hong Kong, Portugal, Germany and Tanzania) have subsequently translated, culturally adapted and evaluated the CST programme that we developed at UCL. Studies have repeatedly shown that CST leads to significant benefits in cognitive function, with many showing secondary benefits including significant improvements in quality of life, depression and carer well-being.

What will you be working on with your colleagues at PKU?

We are fortunate in that a Chinese CST manual is now published, and a team in Hong Kong have evaluated CST and published this work. We therefore are moving towards ‘implementation research’, which involves developing and testing methodology to bring an intervention into wide-scale practice. We will develop and publish an implementation plan for CST in China, which will involve interviewing a range of stakeholders (people with dementia and their families, health professionals and policy / decision makers). This plan will consider the barriers and facilitators of effective implementation, outlining mechanisms to overcome them. Our next step will be to collaboratively apply for grant funding to test out this implementation plan experimentally. We will use the methodology developed in a similar CST implementation programme (‘CST International’) that I currently lead in Brazil, India and Tanzania, funded by the MRC. We also plan to hold a conference at PKU on psychosocial interventions for dementia, develop the first cohort of CST trainers in China (as we have now done in Hong Kong) and are exploring opportunities for teaching and student exchange. 

How do you think the cross-cultural collaboration will support your work?

Dementia is an enormous, global problem. Bringing in a range of cultural perspectives and testing implementation in different cultures and environments can only enhance our understanding of the mechanisms of action in CST and best practice in service delivery. This perspective is particularly important given that the UK is multicultural and we are often delivering clinical interventions to people from a range of cultures and perspectives.

What would you say to other UCL academics who are thinking of applying for UCL-PKU Strategic Partner Funds?

Go for it! These funds open up fantastic opportunities to search for new partners in your area of research, facilitate collaborations that otherwise might not happen, and enable cross cultural learning. My past UCL-HKU partnership supported by UCL Grand Challenges has led to long-term collaborations (and friendships), which I hope will continue to grow in years to come.

Find out more: International CST website 

International CST on Twitter

UCL explores opportunities for collaboration in the Arab World

SimonaDuranti15 November 2019

On 7 November 2019, the event ‘UCL in the Arab World: Collaboration, Experiences and Opportunities’ was held in UCL’s Bentham House, for a full day of presentations and reflections on what it means to work in the MENA and the possibilities and challenges for existing and future collaborations.

UCL and partner experts got together for this event to explore three main themes: “Research, Innovation and Impact”, “Collaboration, Partnership and Delivery”, and “Trends and Opportunities”. Find out more about the sessions and the delegates’ experiences below.

Emerging Trends, Themes and Opportunities

Session 1 

Prof Nora Colton (Pro-Vice-Provost, Postgraduate Education, UCL) chaired a session exploring some of the opportunities in the region that exist against a challenging background. Michael Stephens (Research Fellow for Middle East Studies, RUSI), Dr Neil Quilliam (Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House), Dr Sam Evans (Director, Global Engagement Office and UCL Qatar) and John Shaw (Associate Partner, Cushman and Wakefield) took part in the panel discussion.

Critical thinking can be a challenge in teaching in several countries in the MENA region – there has been a government push back on free access to information following the Arab Spring. On the other hand, collaborations in the area can lead to students developing an interest in undertaking education in foreign universities, in particular in Europe, especially in places with some vicinity to their home countries, or for delivery in-county, with a particular interest from women.

Social, political and ethical aspects of working with certain countries should be brought into the thinking about why we want to establish a partnership for transnational education projects. Making the relationship strong and fruitful will take a long commitment, possibly decades, and it will be necessary to be clear with the client about the red lines that we will not cross and the objectives and the method of collaboration.

Collaboration, Partnership and Delivery: A Recipe for Success

Session 2 

“Useful information and practical tips from colleagues who have wide experience in the region.”

The session was chaired by Prof Sara Mole (Professor of Molecular Cell Biology, Group Leader, Laboratory for Molecular Cell Biology, UCL) and explored some of the practical considerations on working in the region and establishing successful overseas collaborations. Hannah Balogun (Director of Human Resources, UCL Qatar), Kevin Coutinho (Athena SWAN Manager, Equality Diversity and Inclusion Team, UCL), Jonathan Dale (Director of International Leadership Development, Institute of Education), Alex Hall (Legal Counsel, UCL), Richard Homer (Head of Global Mobility, UCL), Jack Lightle (Acting Head of Student & Academic Services, UCL Qatar), John-George Nicholson (Business Manager, MSEC) were part of the panel discussion.

The need to conduct a thorough due diligence process before establishing any partnership was discussed at length, as well as the need to involve all key stakeholders and identify contacts who will facilitate operations and who are the right signatory for agreements. Stakeholder management is a key activity to take care of, since much of the success of these overseas projects is based on developing mutual trust in the relationship, a real interest from the stakeholder and a genuine interest from the provider.

Values and ethics were brought into the conversation: if we want to establish a fruitful dialogue it is necessary to distance ourselves from our own concept of values and ethics and look at it from the destination countries’ point of view. It is necessary to take into consideration what choices people need to make, and be aware of both cultures’ sensitivities. In the words of Kevin Coutinho, “in order for dialogue and successful relationships, we need to understand the perspectives that people come to us with, and we have to challenge ourselves to listen.”

Research, Innovation and Impact: Exploring UCL’s Regional Contribution

Session 3

 “Excellent case studies… great opportunity to network. Valuable information and insights into societal change in Qatar.”

Dr Ian Scott (Director, Grand Challenges and Cross-Disciplinary Development, UCL) moderated session three, which provided an insight into some of the research projects UCL is delivering and their impact within the region. Prof Murray Fraser (Professor of Architecture and Global Culture, Bartlett), Prof George Grimble (Principle Teaching Fellow, UCL Division of Medicine), Prof Dina D’Ayala (Professor of Structural Engineering, Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering), Dr Georgios Papaioannou (Associate Professor, Museum Studies, UCL Qatar) presented some of their projects.

How do we ensure impact and sustain this when the research itself is completed? Depositories of datasets and ground-breaking collaborative projects with local organisations play a big part in ensuring there is ongoing impact locally; for example the UCL Qatar – Qatar Museums, Cultural Heritage Law Project will create a law in Cultural Heritage for Qatar to facilitate protection and promotion of the local cultural heritage for the years to come. The continuation of collaborative professional education programmes and research projects will also leave a lasting footprint behind.

Dr Grimble provided a case study demonstrating the impact, over a number of years, of graduates from UCL’s Masters in Nutrition programme and the lasting impact of this in the region and elsewhere.

UCL alumni in the region and elsewhere are a living legacy of UCL’s teaching and research initiatives.

It was suggested that establishing UCL centres of innovation in the region would be a good initiative for capacity development. This could be achieved with well-organised and well-taught distance learning activities, as well as by establishing research clusters.

Realising Our Global Opportunities: Case Studies with International Application

Session 4

“[The event] challenged UCL thinking and considered what we could learn.”

Roger de Montford (Managing Director, UCL Consultants) chaired the last session, which drew on the outcomes from the day and explored emerging global opportunities and the approach to these, with the presentation of case studies from MENA with international application. Dr Sam Evans, John-George Nicholson, Prof Norbert Pachler (Pro-Director: Teaching, Quality and Learning Innovation, UCL Institute of Education) and John Richards (Associate Partner, Cushman & Wakefield) presented their case studies.

Traditionally, international enterprise activities fall within the academics’ remit. The case studies presented showed that this can be challenging and demonstrated the importance of having a dedicated person to progress business development and enterprise activities – a person who needs to have the skills to identify a market and opportunities, deal with all the aspects of its development and establish proper relationships with local stakeholders.

Sam Evans and Norbert Pachler introduced a pilot project and the results from recent market research which showed that there is appetite across the region for establishing educational partnerships in several disciplines, Medicine, Engineering and Cultural Heritage in particular. However, it was not easy to understand how to tap into this, and whether there was an existing pool of students and research opportunities or if this needed to be created. UCL’s existing relationships in the region were also not clear which suggested the need for a thorough audit of existing UCL ventures there, in order to examine the relationship between them and possibly build on both existing skills and the strategic needs.

The day offered many angles on the different questions analysed and a rich pool of considerations, creating the basis for a continued dialogue in an area of mutual interest among the different parties involved in the event.

You can find snippets of the event on UCL Qatar’s twitter feed here

You can download the full event programme here

UCL Student Recruitment: International Visits Schedule 2019/20

GuestBlogger27 September 2019

International competition for overseas students has never been fiercer, with recent reports showing that the UK’s main competitors are increasing their international student numbers faster than the UK and eating into our share of the global market. Prospective students will use many different sources of information to whittle down their choices, but the opportunity to speak with representatives in person is still highly valued by all those who have the opportunity to meet us, and still forms a key element of the international student recruitment strategy.

Each year during the planning phase, the student recruitment team will assess what worked well in the previous year and what can be improved and revamped from our trip schedule. We approached this year with a new tactic, using a matrix to tier countries based on size of market and potential for recruitment to UCL programmes. Based on these results we have invested more in markets with the greatest potential at the same time maintaining a presence in lower-tiered markets in order to diversify the student body. We noticed that applications from certain markets were growing yet conversion from offer to enrolment could be improved. For this reason, we have shifted away in some markets from mainly application generating trips in the fall to be more focused on conversion activity in the spring. We have added conversion trips to the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. We will be monitoring the application, offer and acceptance numbers for each market against activity within that market to evaluate the success of the additional conversion activity.

Details of UCL’s international student recruitment activity for 2019/20 are now available in the UCL Visits You section of the international pages of the UCL website. The event list is regularly updated as we add more details about forthcoming events, so bookmark the site and check it regularly for the latest information. Members of the Student Recruitment team will represent UCL, and academic staff and other departmental representatives will join us at selected events. Each overseas trip includes a range of activities such as attendance at an education exhibition, university visits, school visits and meetings with key contacts in-country, such as funding bodies and alumni. Each trip aims to include a mix of events to cover all levels of study.

The 2019/20 recruitment activity is scheduled to include visits to a wide range of countries, covering every continent except for Antarctica. Most of the countries on the list are places we visit regularly. It is important for us to be constantly reviewing our activity, and we must be both alive to new opportunities and bold enough to change what we do not feel is working. The education sector welcomed the government announcing that international students will be allowed to stay in the UK for two years after graduation to find a job, reversing the decision made in 2012 by then Home Secretary Theresa May. We anticipate this will generate an influx of applications, especially from India the market that saw the largest decline in students coming to the UK when the scheme was pulled in 2012. The additional trip added to India in the spring is timed very well to not only focus on conversion but also address the new visa scheme.

All the trips are thoroughly researched beforehand and analysed afterwards, to ensure that we are participating in the most appropriate events and reaching as wide an audience as possible. Overseas visits also provide the Student Recruitment staff with invaluable opportunities to meet key contacts and influencers, as well as to get the latest market information. If you would like to know more about any of our overseas recruitment events, please contact Katja Lamping, Director of Student Recruitment at k.lamping@ucl.ac.uk .

UCL Qatar: Introducing Innovation Labs to Zambian Cultural Heritage Institutions

GuestBlogger25 September 2019

By Milena Dobreva-McPherson, Associate Professor, Library and Information Studies, UCL Qatar.

Over the years, UCL academics have contributed in different ways to the six Grand Challenges. One of them is Cultural Understanding, and it looks at the differing, complex, and evolving relationships between people, communities, and culture in the interconnected world of today.

After many years of digitisation in libraries, museums and archives around the globe, there is a vast accumulation of digital content. We are used to it at our fingertips on any digital device. But imagine that you are interested in the diaries and other objects related to the explorations of David Livingstone in Zambia. They have already been digitised, but you must take a trip to consult the digitised collection of the museum on-site because it is not available online.

This is still the case with plenty of cultural and scientific heritage digital content from the Global South, a region which suffers the digital divide.

The digital divide results in many deficits in access to knowledge due to missing, or the very slow adoption of, modern technology. In the cultural heritage domain, the digital divide results in the lack of exposure of digital content which exists but is not made available online. There are various explanations why this is the case – ranging from lack of suitable infrastructure for digital asset management to inadequate or missing policies for user engagement with the digital content.

Led by the desire to explore what this means in the Sub Saharan African context, I submitted a proposal to the most recent call for teaching activities in Africa and the Middle East of the Global Engagement Office at UCL. It aimed to deliver the first workshop in innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions for Sub Saharan Africa in Zambia.

Having two major obstacles in mind – inadequate infrastructures and lack of user engagement policies – we designed a workshop which addressed both areas. In a world where Open Science becomes increasingly popular, the opportunities for digital presence are changing. One solution to the issue of not sharing content online due to inadequate institutional infrastructure is to start using open platforms.

The exciting work started when my proposal received support, and we scheduled our workshop to be delivered on 1 August 2019 at Livingstone Museum, Zambia.

Fig. 1. Zambian digital content is mostly available for consultation in-house – thus world users cannot access it as a consequence of the digital divide

The rationale of the workshop was to spread the innovative knowledge accumulated at UCL Qatar to setting up successful innovation labs in cultural heritage institutions in Zambia. The workshop targeted professionals from Cultural Heritage Institutions who have responsibilities to manage digital collections and those with future intentions of engaging in the curation of a digital collection in Zambia. The workshop aimed to:

  • Equip museum and library professionals in Zambia with knowledge on the approaches to setting innovation labs and discussing how local institutions can work towards creating such labs.
  • Raise awareness on the role cultural institutions offering digital content play in boosting the digital skills of scholars, educators, learners, and creatives.

UCL Qatar worked with several institutions in Zambia to prepare and deliver the workshop, including the National Museums Board of Zambia – an umbrella institution for national museums, the National Archives of Zambia, and the Department of Library and Information Science from the University of Zambia (UNZA). It also included online interventions from the British Library.

We focused the content of the workshop on state-of-the-art digitisation, examples of digitisation projects from Zambia, and setting up innovation labs in libraries, museums, and archives. There was also plenty of discussions and a practical exercise on understanding better the needs of users of digital collections.

Participants

Initially designed for 15 participants, the workshop was delivered to a total of 27 participants (see Fig. 2)

Fig. 2.  Profiles of participants
Figure 3: Workshop participants

Feedback and impact

Eighteen out of the 27 participants provided feedback and it was overwhelmingly positive. The participants were asked to rate the content of the workshop and also to comment on the value of the knowledge for themselves and their institutions.

One participant said:

“The programme should be repeated for other professionals in Zambia and if it comes I will recommend it to others.”

There were also opinions on how to take forward the knowledge shared at the workshop:

“Put the knowledge acquired in the workshop to use ASAP, conduct a follow up workshop to determine progress in created innovation labs, and massive awareness creation of the existence of the innovation labs created to potential users”

“Embrace new trends and technologies relating to digital platforms and information sharing through innovation labs”

“I’m suggesting that maybe if its possible to continue having such workshops every year so that we learn more new techniques on how to improve our libraries. Also, the workshop should have taken at least three days to allow participants learn more”.

The workshop received media coverage from three newspapers and some local radio stations.

Another innovative outcome from this event was that UCL Qatar added the first-ever dataset of the potential for Innovation labs in Africa on the UCL repository: Dobreva, M., and Phiri, F.. (2019, August 20). Cultural Heritage Innovation Labs in Africa (Version 1). figshare. https://doi.org/10.5522/04/9685127.v1

A Google folder with all the presentations, press coverage, and photos of the event is also openly available: Innovation Labs Workshop – Zambia

Conclusion

The Funding from GEO made it possible for UCL Qatar to host this first-of-its-kind workshop in Sub Saharan Africa.

This has resulted in a beneficial collaboration with local institutions in Zambia such as the National Museum Board of Zambia, University of Zambia and National Archives of Zambia to deliver of the first-ever workshop on Innovation Labs in Sub Saharan Africa.

The workshop also inspired a new sense of enthusiasm in participants to make their digital collection accessible online.

Acknowledgment

I would like to thank Dania Jalees for the infographics, Fred Nuyambe for the photograph and Fidelity Phiri who collaborated on this project.

New Report on Study Abroad and Student Mobility: Stories of Global Citizenship?

GuestBlogger20 September 2019

By Nicole Blum
Development Education Research Centre, UCL Institute of Education

In 2017 we received funding from the Global Engagement Office to identify some of the reasons young people decide to study abroad and what they think they gain from the experience. The research, conducted by myself with support from Douglas Bourn, set out to understand whether the learning students have gained resonates with UCL’s global citizenship and student mobility strategies.

The term ‘global citizenship’ has been around for a while, but is often used in different ways. Key authors in the field suggest that it can have a number of dimensions, including a focus on increasing global employability and competitiveness, cultivating greater understanding and appreciation of difference, or critical engagement and radical transformation of inequitable global structures and relationships.

UCL’s definition includes elements of all of these dimensions, and describes global citizens as individuals who: understand the complexity of our interconnected world, understand our biggest challenges, know their social, ethical and political responsibilities, display leadership and teamwork, and solve problems through innovation and entrepreneurship.

Our work was motivated by the common assumption that international experiences for students – including study abroad, overseas volunteering and work placements, and international travel – will result in positive learning about diverse cultures and global concerns.

While there is plenty of research which strongly supports this idea, it has tended to be based on quantitative data from questionnaires completed at the end of an experience. Relatively little research has looked in-depth at student’s own perceptions about their learning while abroad or when they return home.

We interviewed undergraduate students on UCL’s Arts and Sciences (BASc) programme to gain a better understanding of their perceptions.

The data highlighted a range of push and pull factors which influence young people’s study abroad decisions, as well as a wide range of ways in which the experience encourages (or does not) reflection on global issues and on students’ sense of themselves in the world.

Students highlighted the personal aspects of being a ‘global citizen’ when talking about their study abroad experiences:

Studying abroad was the first time I felt like I could call myself a global citizen. Before this, I had some awareness and interest in international issues, but had never left Europe and only travelled for brief periods of time. On returning, I found I had a reverse culture shock, and could relate better to international students studying in the UK.

The evidence also suggested that a number of different kinds of learning take place during study abroad, including about particular topics/ issues, experiences of particular places and/ or exposure to new ideas:

I really do think my sense of history has changed and sense of international politics has changed, and also a sense of what an English person is had changed.

Learning about colonialism and racism in the Netherlands taught me to reflect more on my own country’s issues and ugly history. Thus, making me think more globally about the lives of individuals who have suffered as a result of colonialism.

While these experiences can be highly significant for individuals, it is important to recognise that transformative learning may not happen without support. Students in this research clearly recognised the value of their study abroad learning and experiences, but also the need for more ways to reflect on this with programme organisers and with peers, particularly if they are to be able to take their learning forward.

UCL clearly sets out the potential outcomes of study abroad, with a strong emphasis on the benefits to participants’ enhanced employability, new experiences and skill development. The students we interviewed tended to agree with these benefits, although they often emphasised one aspect as most relevant to their own experience:

I’m actually probably more open now to going and working in other countries or studying in other countries, and it doesn’t feel impossible, it doesn’t feel like this huge ordeal, like this huge challenge, because ‘Oh I’ve done it now’.

I really thought I was just going to learn French, but actually I got a lot out of it academically. I took quite a lot of … studies in creative art, so video games and the cinema and comic books…. there’s a huge games industry out there but also the arts are quite strong in Montreal. And it sort of convinced me that that was a legitimate career choice. I think before then I’d sort of seen that as … you know creative industries is kind of a pipe dream, or it’s something you do if you get lucky. But actually, out there [in Canada] there are people writing scripts for video games or films or … and the fact that I could study it as an academic discipline made me realise that this is a legit thing … it’s not just this fanciful dream. So actually, I’m now hoping to go into radio.

While this study reveals some of the reasons behind the decision to study abroad, more research is needed to explore more deeply how students themselves understand their experiences of study abroad and the ways in which their learning informs their lives in the future. This is perhaps particularly important in the context of increasingly diverse student groups as well as a rapidly changing world.

For more details about the study, access the full report here: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/10078730/

Yenching Academy Scholarship: A life-changing opportunity in China

GuestBlogger7 August 2019

By James Ashcroft

The Yenching Academy of Peking University aims to build bridges between China and the rest of the world through an interdisciplinary master’s program in China Studies. UCL History graduate James Ashcroft was among the first recipients of a fully funded scholarship to the programme. Here, he blogs about his experience at the Academy.

I still remember being asked by my then tutor Dr Vivienne Lo to forward an email to my fellow students about a new scholarship programme at Peking University. I had seen so many emails in my time at UCL that I didn’t bother to open it, so I just shared the email and left it at that. For some reason, I later on decided to open that email. I am so fortunate that I did because it quite literally changed the course of my life.

The Yenching Academy Scholarships give graduates from around the world the opportunity to experience China in a very international environment. It’s a fully funded scholarship at one of the best Chinese universities in the world. You get your flights paid for and your accommodation paid for, and you’re taken care of in the most incredible way.

Authentic Chinese experience

It’s a programme which gives you the opportunity to study alongside and make lifelong friendships with some of the brightest and most talented people you’ll ever meet. And for me anyway, it goes beyond your average study abroad programme in a way which makes it a truly authentic Chinese experience.

In my experience, the Yenching Academy Scholarships are relevant to anyone at UCL, whether or not they speak Mandarin or know much about the country. As someone who grew up with lots of friends who spoke multiple languages, it was always jarring that I could only speak English.

The Yenching Academy Scholarships didn’t seem like an obvious fit for me and I couldn’t speak a word of Mandarin at the time I applied. I also didn’t know much about China or its history. This is a really important point to make as I wouldn’t want any student to miss out because they don’t see the relevance to them.

Extremely rewarding

I grew so much during my time at PKU and always felt empowered to step up and contribute to the community of scholars and the university more broadly. One of my highlights was sitting on the executive organising committee for The Yenching Global Symposium, which brought together 100 or so Yenching scholars, alongside 50 graduates from PKU and 50 other students from around the world. The event has taken place every year since and it’s been extremely rewarding to see it become the success that it has.

My education at PKU was essentially a Masters in China Studies, and the qualification included elements of economics, history, international relations, law and society. I was also required to study four hours of Chinese a week, and could choose between attending classes taught in English, Mandarin or both.

My thesis analysed the Chinese government’s long-term development plan for the game of football in China in order to explore the intersection between economics, politics, and the country’s sense of place in the twenty-first century world order.

Incredible conversations

Education was only part of the picture though – as with any programme like this – and whenever I think about my time in Beijing, I think about the people I met there. I got a tremendous amount from speaking to my classmates, and we had the most incredible conversations and invigorating debates on some really important global issues.

When you’re living in another part of the world, these things can really bring you together. I’m still in touch with so many people with whom I studied – some even on a daily basis. I often meet up in person with Yenching Scholars when they come to London and I’ve visited a number of them in their home countries too.

Truly global environment

My time at Peking University has opened my eyes to working in the 21st century within a truly global environment, and I am certain that countless other students would benefit from this great opportunity.

I am always happy to speak to UCL students about my experiences as I feel very passionate about the university being represented each year in the latest cohort of Yenching Scholars. When that email comes round this year, please think carefully about opening it because it might change your life as well.

UCL alumni interview: Himani Gupta, artist

Sian EGardiner1 August 2019

Himani Gupta, UCL alumnusHimani Gupta studied international real estate and urban planning at The Bartlett from 2011-2012. Having worked as a spatial designer and a consultant for Ernst & Young in Delhi, Himani is now working full time as an artist, specialising in painting.

We spoke to her to find out more about her experience at UCL and how she stays in touch with the UCL community.

How did you come to study at UCL?

Firstly, because I love the campus and I’d been following it for a while. Secondly, I found the work that’s been done at the Bartlett very relevant to the direction I wanted to go in professionally. Before doing my masters I used to be a spatial designer, but I wanted to get onto the other side which was understanding the business of cities and how infrastructure and real estate are developed around them.

How did you find studying at UCL?

It was a really enriching experience because I got to learn about the politics of space in Europe and the real estate markets in China and the Middle East. The freedom we had in terms of things like choosing our dissertation was great. I could also make it more India-centric, which helped me immensely after UCL in terms of getting a job in Management Consulting in the Urban field in India, as I’d written on similar topics for my masters.

Compared to my undergrad degree in Business Studies in India, UCL was more analysis-based. It took some time but once I got used to the structure of the course it opened up a new way of looking at things, which helped me in my job in the real world and still helps me now.

What was it like living in London?

I’ve always loved London so the city was very familiar to me. I lived in Bayswater in West London so I’d cycle or walk down to the campus. We organised Thursday drinks at the UCL bar, which became a hub for us each week. I found the balance between a lot of study and a lot of socialising quite enriching.

It’s all so centrally located and I liked that we had classes in different locations across the campus; I explored all sorts of hidden buildings. Now I’m an artist and my work is about psycho-geography and understanding layers of space, and the fact that I walked quite a bit while studying in London has shaped my approach to my work.

What would your advice be for a student in India looking to study at UCL?

Figure out funding very early on and give yourself a strict budget. Once you have that figured out life at UCL and in London is very easy.  At UCL, you have an account to access a student/teaching portal where all the modules and submissions are in one place. It’s really cool because one can study anywhere. UCL has a lot of libraries and quiet corners to study, which was one of my favourite parts. I’d say try and explore as many nooks and corners as possible around the campus.

What aspects of the culture did you enjoy?

The fact that you get to hear a different language every square foot or two. Because I’m a walker I take in and absorb London as I walk through it, and as you do you get an insight into how many cultures and backgrounds exist together in this city.

The art scene and the number of galleries in London is phenomenal and the shops that offer material really works for me. Also, the food! Which is a direct function of the number of cultures that exist here.

Even after graduation, I make it a point to visit UCL on my trips to London to catch up with old and new connections.

How have you kept in touch with the UCL community?

I moved back to India in 2013 but I recently wrote to another good friend of mine from my course who’s very active in New York with the UCL alumni group there. He put me in touch with UCL’s alumni team, and through them I got involved with volunteering in Delhi. I organised a reunion event in Delhi a few months ago – about 26 of us came together for a casual mixer event at the art-themed homestay I run.

I was curious to bring together people from different professions and initiatives not just for myself but for everyone present. It’s also a great way to form new social groups. I now look forward to more events and more people volunteering in Delhi. I’m happy to open up my studio (which can accommodate up to 35 people) to those interested in having an Arts and Culture themed reunion mixer.Himani Gupta art

Tell us about your work.

I’ve got my hands in a lot of pies! I used to work in spatial design before doing my masters then I came back to India and I started working as a consultant with Ernst and Young. So I used to be in management consulting in the infrastructure and smart cities team.

I’ve also been a painter for the last fifteen years and after deciding to leave consulting I wanted to focus on it full time. My visual arts practice is drawn from my very diverse experiences in education, professions and travels. Urban and spatial exploration has been a research interest of mine for a long time and what I try and study through my art is the idea of psychogeography and understanding the materiality of space. My medium in art is painting primarily and I create large pieces of work. I work with pigments and paint. Lately, I have been creating a lot of smaller works based on mapping.

What are you working on with the Slade?

Through my work as a UCL volunteer, I was introduced to Deborah Padfield, an artist and professor at the Slade who is exploring how chronic pain is communicated through the arts in a project called Visualising Pain.

She wanted to work with a local artist and although pain is not my direct subject, the fact I could use paint and pigment in order to help chronic pain sufferers communicate their pain better motivated me to get involved. I ended up co-facilitating a workshop with Deborah (and others) in Delhi in May 2019. It went really well and made an impact on our participants who battle chronic pain everyday.

How has UCL helped you to achieve your ambitions?

It’s interesting because before coming to UCL I wasn’t particularly motivated to do ‘well’ in the conventional sense – whether that’s an educational qualification or a job – my pace was a lot slower. Which is not necessarily a bad thing but in my case I wasn’t achieving too much or doing too much with my time.

I think UCL and my experience of living in London really inspired me and opened up a channel which I never knew existed in me, which is that of wanting to achieve and working hard. I got into the habit of maintaining a diary, organising myself better, understanding before speaking or describing. I started being meticulous about my work and had I not gone through this change I would still be very bohemian and less results orientated.

UCL would love to hear from more alumni in India and around the world.  

Get in touch and find out more about volunteering at ucl.ac.uk/alumni

Ask an Academic: Professor David Osrin

GuestBlogger24 July 2019

By Ian Morton

Professor David Osrin is Professor of Global Health at UCL and a Wellcome Trust Senior Research Fellow in Clinical Science. Based in Mumbai since 2004, he works in an urban health research collaboration with SNEHA (the Society for Nutrition, Education and Health Action).

Researching within the broad remit of urban health, he is particularly interested in complex social interventions and research ethics, and art and science’s utility in raising public awareness of health. We spoke to David to find out more about his life and work in India…

Can you give us a brief overview of your research in India?

My research has come a long way since I first began working in India in 2004. I started out looking at ways to improve the health of newborn babies in the Mumbai region, working with an excellent organisation called SNEHA. More recently though I’ve been working with organisations like SNEHA to tackle violence against women – an increasingly important issue in India.

I also work closely with the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai, the Family Planning Centre of India, and other health professionals in the area.

What got you interested in the subject in the first place?

When I first began working here, I noticed how committed and passionate everyone was about improving public health in India. It was this passion which inspired me to pursue my research to the extent that I have.

While public health has been an issue for a long time, it’s only in the last decade that violence against women has been a mainstream topic in India. Thanks to a number of landmark legal cases the Government has begun to take the issue much more seriously, and I’m so pleased our research techniques are being used to make a difference.

What difference do you hope it will make?

My vision is to contribute to a social transformation that is taking place throughout the world with respect to equality. In the case of India, my hope is that it will continue to lead to a reduction in violence against women. One of the things that stands out for me is that when we bring the local community together, anything is possible!

Can you tell us about the Institute’s relationship with India?

The Institute of Urban Health is not the only part of UCL working in India of course, and there are other colleagues at the Institute doing great work here too. Together with our partners, we’ve succeeded in engaging state level government in India to bring about some significant policy changes. As well as the work I’ve been doing there, Dr Audrey Prost has also achieved some great results with another Indian NGO called Ekjut – on improving the health and nutrition of new born children and adolescents.

What can UCL learn from your time working in India? What can the UK learn?

Aside from collaborating with people with a different background and outlook to my own, I’ve seen the power when communities come together to tackle societal challenges like public health. Legal intervention, emotional support and shelter are needs that we all share, so what we learn in India can be applied to the UK and vice versa.

What are some of your highlights from living in India?

Having being involved in some hugely important and large-scale research projects, in true collaboration with equal partners, to deliver world-class research.

I’m proud of the fact that during my time here we’ve seen the transformation of countless individuals. I’m also really proud of the public engagement work we’ve done, bringing together the disciplines of health, art and science, which led to a hugely successful festival called Dharavi (or Alley Galli) Biennale.

What has it been like working in the Indian slums?

I am very privileged to spend my working days in an informal settlement but not to live there. Not everyone has that privilege. The impact on me has been profound, and the importance I place on certain things is very different now to when I was living in the West.

The challenges associated with finding clean water, a shelter to withstand the elements, and the need for electricity have all given me a greater appreciation of the basic health and wellbeing needs we all share.

What would you like to say to other academics at UCL thinking of collaborating with others in India?

I think they should absolutely collaborate here if they can. In my view, the academic and research capability of teachers in India is on a par with the UK. Also, I’ve never experienced being hampered by the government structures in place in India. In fact, quite the opposite.

The number of people who are willing to participate in the research has also been incredibly valuable for my research. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in India among the public for taking part in research – perhaps more so than the UK.

It goes without saying that the intercultural interaction which informs my research has also enhanced my experience here.