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Ask an academic: Dr Florian Mussgnug

ucypsga18 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.

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

ucypsga5 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.

Defending Academic Freedom: Interview with Dr Naif Bezwan

By Guest Blogger11 April 2018

 By Miriam Matthiessen, UCL’s Cara Student Ambassador

Dr Naif Bezwan Dr Naif Bezwan is a scholar from Turkey currently at UCL as a fellow through the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara).

Founded in 1933 by Britain’s foremost academics and scientists to help refugee academics escape Nazi Germany, Cara assists those in immediate danger, those forced into exile, and many who choose to work on in their home countries despite serious risks. UCL has partnered with Cara since 2006.

Dr Naif Bezwan had been an associate professor in the Department of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Mardin Artuklu in Turkey since January 2014, when one day in October 2016, he received the news that he had been indefinitely suspended from his post and all civil service by emergency decree.

This was due to an interview he had given to a Turkish newspaper, which related to core areas of his academic interest and expertise, including Turkey’s political and administrative system, accession to the European Union, and foreign policy.

In the interview, Naif stressed the danger of using military force at home and abroad to deal with the Kurdish question and democratic aspirations of citizens at large, through tackling an essentially domestic issue by military means and conducting cross-border military operations.

Only a couple of hours after its publication, he received an order from the university administration, in which his reflections were described as evidence of support for a “terrorist organisation” and “undermining national security”, and used as grounds for suspension. The dismissal was issued prior to the outcome of a disciplinary investigation.

Alleged links

Naif is one of a number of academics, teachers and civil servants from Turkey dismissed from their jobs in the aftermath of the failed coup in July 2016.

According to a UN Report, over 100,000 people were reportedly dismissed and suspended throughout Turkey from public or private sector jobs for suspected links with the coup organizers.  Over 40,000 staff were allegedly dismissed by the Ministry of Education, mostly teachers. This included some 10,000 teachers in South- East Turkey, over 90 percent of whom were serving in Kurdish-speaking municipalities.

Interview with Dr Naif Bezwan

This was not Naif’s first disciplinary investigation. The first one took place in February 2016 after he signed a ‘Petition for Peace’ together with 36 colleagues and a total of 1,128 academics, calling on the Turkish government to end military operations against its Kurdish citizens. Signatories of the petition were targeted by a campaign of abuse, violence, and death threats.

In many public speeches, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused the petitioning academics of “treason”, “support for a terrorist organization” and of threatening “national security,” which promptly resulted in numerous investigations, suspensions and dismissals.

Naif said he sees a great risk in the increasingly authoritarian regime, which governs the country “essentially through extralegal means unbounded by rule of law and the most basic principles of a democratic and accountable government.”

Finding a fellowship

Naif left the country for the UK in November 2016 – just days before the passports of all of his colleagues, subject to the same decree-law as him, were revoked.

In early 2017 he was recommended to apply for a Cara fellowship, for which he was found eligible in February.

He was granted a full fellowship at the Department of Political Science at UCL where he has been working since June 2017, doing research on Turkey’s political and administrative system as well as issues of Kurdish Conflict resolution and authoritarianism.

Coming to the UK meant having a breathing space in comparison to his colleagues who were not able to leave the country in time, and are therefore prevented not only from taking public jobs but also from seeking opportunities abroad.

For this reason, Dr. Bezwan continues his scholarly and public engagements as far as he can while in the UK. He is involved in Academics for Peace UK, and together with colleagues, has established a charitable institution, the Centre for Democracy and Peace Research, which aims to provide funding to colleagues in need back home and beyond.

In Naif’s own words: “Living in a country without concern of being exposed to harm, unjust treatment and intimidation, having the possibility of living under decent human conditions, and working in a friendly, international and inspiring academic setting, as UCL is, is of immeasurable value.

In a very critical period of my individual and professional biography, the Cara fellowship provides me with an opportunity and essential basis to continue with my life and studies in dignity and safety. The value of this support, and the importance of the institution which has provided, and continues to provide, hundreds of scholars under risk with a dignified foundation for their personal and professional life, cannot be emphasized enough.”

Ask GEO: Dr Karen Edge 

ucypsga27 March 2018

Karen is a Reader at UCL’s Institute of Education and GEO’s Pro-Vice-Provost International, alongside Professor Gudrun Moore. Here, she explains what her role entails and the value of job shares.

Tell us about your role in the GEO as Pro-Vice-Provost International (PVPI).

I job share the role of UCL’s Pro-Vice-Provost (International) with Professor Gudrun Moore, from the Institute of Child Health. Our core role is to lead and collaborate with UCL’s networks of Vice-Deans International and Regional Pro-Vice-Provosts.

We bring people together once a month for lunches to share information about what’s going on across UCL. We also serve an ambassadorial role and also act as Nicola [Brewer]’s deputy when needed.

That’s the formal part of our role – the informal role is being a bridge between the academic community and the professional services community. A lot of what we do relates to the translation of how a particular set of institutional policies will influence the academic community. I also try to make sure that we are very evidence based in our work and bring UCL research into our decision making and practice.

You’re an academic by trade – what led you to apply for the PVPI role?

I’m Canadian, I’ve worked and conducted research and consultancy for DFID [the Department for International Development], Action Aid and the British Council. I’ve worked in over 30 countries conducting research, so I’ve always had a strong commitment to working internationally. I’m also interested in what an institution can do to support academics interested in working in that way, with their partners overseas.

As a graduate student, I was hired as a consultant to help develop the international strategy for the Ontario Institute for Studies and Education at the University of Toronto, so I’d had a bit of experience in the international side. As Nicola and the GEO team were developing the Global Engagement Strategy, I had a vested interest in thinking about how it would sit within UCL and the Institute of Education. When Nicola pointed out that there was the possibility of the PVP role as a job share, it became incredibly attractive.

What are the benefits of job sharing the role?

I don’t think there are very many people who’d be willing to give up their entire academic practice to take on a role centrally. Sharing the role has meant that I could continue doing research and working with my doctoral students and serving the IOE, but also be an advocate for academics and provide a leadership function within the GEO.

Job shares are important because they open up opportunities to a range of different people. There’s great value within professional services of trying to work closely with academics. A job share, like we have, allows academics to work alongside professionals and contribute to the work. The role has allowed me to grow and develop a new sense of UCL from the GEO perspective.

What are you working on at the moment?

One of the projects I’m working on with Human Resources and other departments is developing a set of global leadership competencies, which will be a set of practices that will align very closely with UCL’s revised values and behaviours. They will signpost a core roster of skills and knowledge that faculty, staff and students should consider developing to assist them in their global working. We are planning to create a resource to show where training and development is already on offer and work to see where additional supports may be possible.

What’s your favourite part of working in the GEO?  

I think we have an amazing team. We recruit people from a lot of different backgrounds who bring different skills to the question of what we can do to support UCL staff and students in making the most of their current and future global engagements.

My most favourite part is when GEO actions make a difference to academics on the ground. That happens almost daily – whether that’s support with an MoU or making a connection in country. We’re always able to answer a question and if we can’t, we can push them towards someone who can.

Lastly, with International Women’s Day this month, could you share your top piece of career advice for women?

I think the best advice is to ask people if they’re comfortable “ordering off the menu”. One of the things I noticed moving to England was that people are less inclined to do this: when you go to a restaurant you take what’s there, and if something’s wrong you may hesitate to send it back. Globally, the approach to ordering is completely different.

So my career advice to a lot of women is to ask yourself if you’re comfortable ordering off the menu, and if something’s not right, are you willing to say it’s not right? And if something’s not as it should be, are you willing to put in the effort to make it better? I think those are the two things that can accelerate your career.

Ask an academic: UCL Summer School

uclqjle26 July 2017

Hayley Gewer, UCL Centre for Languages & International EducationHayley Gewer (UCL Centre for Languages & International Education) runs a UCL Summer School module called ‘Global London: Contemporary Urbanism, Culture and Space’.

The course enables students from around the world to take a global city (London) as a pivotal concept from which to explore a range of considerations around contemporary cities, including their own.

Could you tell us more about the course?
The course was set up specifically for the summer school. It is a short three-week course that really invites students to look at urban complexities, urban contradictions and urban opportunities within a very short period. Students are invited to come and learn about London, to explore theoretical concepts and to practically engage with what the city has to offer in terms of contemporary urban processes.

We look at considerations around multi-ethnicities, transnationalism, inclusion and exclusion to understand how migration has shaped the city of London and how it represents the global world through one city. We look at considerations around urban culture, cultural production and urban change – looking at processes like gentrification, vernacular culture, ordinary culture and manufactured culture – to understand how London is currently a city of cultural diversity but also a city of cultural homogeneity.

How do students interact with the city?
The course really hopes to provide students with an opportunity to explore how cities have been shaped, who is involved in shaping them, who benefits from shaping them, and who doesn’t, and to take a critical lens to not only London but their own cities and cities all around the world.

Students are also given the opportunity to share with each other in the classroom; this is complemented by fieldwork where students are encouraged to use a range of research methods to explore the urban. It is quite experimental – they are encouraged to use sound and film as a way of engaging with specific places that we visit. They are also urged to really explore how the theoretical approaches that we do in the class room apply or don’t apply to the areas that we are visiting.

How does the course cultivate a global perspective?
The course uses ‘Global London’ as a pivotal concept to explore a range of urban considerations. We take the concept of global cities as a starting point where we explore the process of globalisation and the ‘world cities/global cities’ concept that has emerged from that.

Students are invited to critique the concepts and to think about the broader implications of these hypotheses. We then counteract the global cities hypothesis with more post-colonial considerations of cities around the world and all the time students are encouraged to reflect on their own cities, to share information and to learn from each other.

Students come from all over the world to study on the summer school and this course really invites them not only to experience, learn and think about London, but then also to go back to their own cities and hopefully to relook at their cities with new eyes, given what they’ve experienced on the course.

How has this been for you, participating in the summer school?
It has been a very enriching experience, because it is really invaluable to hear from a wide range of experiences, to learn from students themselves about their own unique urban spaces but also for them to share. Students are young so they are bringing in a lot of new information I might not have been exposed to and they are also able to create linkages between information I might not have been able to make. It’s a very rewarding experience.

I think for UCL as a whole it is great to have students from all the world, even for a short period of time, because students are able to see how well-located UCL is, the facilities that at here, the professionalism of the teaching and the environment that students learn in.

Even though some students might only be here for a short time, it might be that students return to do post graduate studies in the future.

Innovative approaches to faculty exchange: UCL MAPS and SNU

uclqjle25 July 2017

UCL Professor Nikos Konstantinidis (Vice-Dean International, MAPS) recently facilitated a new student exchange with Seoul National University (SNU) in South Korea, with support from UCL Study Abroad.

The students will work with each institution’s academics on their ongoing research projects, learning more about the local culture and research landscape.

In this short video, he explains how the exchange came about and considers the opportunities available to UCL faculties wanting to develop similar links with international institutions.

Filmed and edited by UCL graduate Jason Lewis.

The idea was sparked during a fruitful visit to UCL by a delegation from SNU in December 2016.

Nikos was able to explore the possibility further during a GEO-supported visit to SNU in January 2017. It was then that talks were finalised and an agreement was made to trial the exchange between the two physics departments, with scope for extending to others.

UCL Study Abroad worked in collaboration with colleagues from Physics and Astronomy at UCL and SNU, to ensure that there was a framework in place to support the research exchange.

The team provided support to the participating students through pre-departure guidance and continues to offer support to the students while they are abroad.

Commenting on the support available from UCL to facilitate such exchanges, Nikos said: “It was originally thanks to the Global Leadership Funds from the Global Engagement Office that I covered my expenses for my visit to Seoul. Also, it is thanks to the same funds that we were able to find some bursaries for the three students from the UCL department of Physics and Astronomy who are currently in Seoul. If there is interest and we have enough funds, we will extend this to other departments.”

He added: “I think there is a lot of interest from our students wanting to take up this type of opportunities, and we should really try our best to pursue these types of opportunities with universities of good reputation.”

Owain Evans, Short Mobilities Coordinator at UCL Study Abroad, said: “The feedback we have received from the students so far has been extremely positive; we look forward to hearing more about their experiences at SNU and in Seoul when they return to London at the end of the summer.”

The Global Leadership Funds are provided to UCL’s academic leadership network of Vice-Deans International and Regional Pro-Vice-Provosts to deliver activity aligned with the Global Engagement Strategy.

  • To explore international undergraduate research opportunities on behalf of the students in your department through existing or new collaborations, contact UCL Study Abroad on studyabroad@ucl.ac.uk or +44 (0)20 3108 7773.

Second Year of UK – Mexico Visiting Chair Mobility Grants

ucypcbu30 May 2017

The Consortium of Higher Education Institutions that are part of the United Kingdom-Mexico Visiting Chair (UK-MX Visiting Chair) are pleased to announce the launch of this year’s Mobility Grants scheme.

The UK – Mexico Visiting Chair scheme provides mobility funding for a research visit of up to two weeks to visit a new potential collaborator within a Consortium of 12 Mexican and 12 UK universities. A full list of participating Mexican institutions can be found in the Guidance Notes.

The scheme was created with the support of Mexican and UK governments to increase research collaboration and strengthen relations between HEIs in Mexico and the UK. UCL researchers interested in working with partners in Mexico can apply for funding to support their collaboration.

To be eligible, applicants need to hold a doctorate degree in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) or Social Sciences and Humanities as well as being employed by any of the HEIs included in the scheme.

Activities accepted and encouraged include attendance at workshops, research symposia and conferences, as well as meetings to scope collaboration, share best practice or develop new initiatives. Please note: there is a minimum requirement to spend at least four days at the allocated HEI.

Costs covered under the scheme include flights, accommodation, workspace, insurance, internal travel and incidental expenses.

How to apply

Applicants must read the Guidance Notes in full before completing the research project proposal form. They will need to list their top three possible destinations for their proposed visit to Mexico – this should include confirmation from the host academic/department in each institution.

Applications should be submitted to Clare Burke by 17.00 on Friday 18 August 2017. They must be made in English and include the documents below:

a.    A completed research project proposal form
b.    Curriculum vitae, including relevant publications
c.    Confirmation from the host institution

The results will be announced on Monday 2 October by email and published online thereafter.

Applicants should be aware that if successful, the location of their placement will depend on finalisation by the Commissions of both their home country and that of their partner.

UCL for Refugee Education

Sophie Vinter4 April 2017

By Wes Durdle, UCL Student Support & Wellbeing

Bucket SignBack in February, UCL Student Support & Wellbeing collaborated with UCLU Student Action for Refugees (STAR) on a major project in support of refugee education issues.

UCL for Refugee Education was a week-long programme of fundraising and awareness events across the main campus, that brought together students, staff and external organisations in support of a worthy cause.

Although it’s no longer top of the headlines as it’s been in recent years, the worldwide refugee crisis is certainly still ongoing. One sadly overlooked aspect of the crisis is education. Refugee children are often unable to access this fundamental human right, with only 50% attending primary school and only 1% going on to reach higher education.

Given that one of UCL’s founding principles is that of equal access to education for all, we felt that this issue was close to the hearts of many here at the institution.

StallWe had multiple aims throughout the week, as follows:

  • Highlight the difficulties that refugees face in accessing education
  • Raise money for the charities Edlumino Education Aid and Action for Refugees in Lewisham (AFRIL)
  • Give students and staff the opportunity to work together on an important global issue
  • Provide a platform to showcase UCL’s outstanding research on refugee issues and leading work in support of refugees in higher education, including the launch of new scholarships

To do this, we hosted a range of events, some of which were purely fundraisers, such as charity yoga classes, a charity pub quiz in the IoE and events run with the generous support of the UCLU Women’s Football Club and the UCLU Indian Society.

Overall, we raised around £1,000 for our charities, and also led a drop-off collection, which resulted in a small mountain of clothes and food being sent to refugee camps through Donate4Refugees!

Other events were informational or practical sessions around refugee issues, including a campaigning workshop with Citizens UK, a ‘craftivism’ workshop with UCLU Amnesty International Society and a film screening. Refugee storytellers and poets from the charity Hikayetna also came in to share their experiences.

CollectionIn our panel discussion, UCL academic Dr Francesca Meloni was joined by alumna Joana Dabaj from the charity Catalytic Action and Tom Martin from AFRIL to ask if we are at risk of creating a lost generation, by not doing more to support refugee education initiatives.

The research showcase that started the week saw Dr Rachel Rosen from the IoE and Nerea Amoros Elorduy from the Bartlett School of Architecture presenting their innovative research.

This was followed by Raphaela Armbruster from CLIE and Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh from Geography explaining both the important work of the Refuge in a Moving World network, which brings together researchers involved in refugee issues, and efforts to support forced migrant scholars at UCL.

ResearchShowcaseIt concluded with Lesley Hayman from the Global Engagement Office announcing £500,000 of new funding through UCL’s Access Opportunity Scholarships, to support undergraduates unable to attend university because their immigration status does not entitle them to apply for a student loan.

The week was a tremendous success, and we would like to thank all those who participated and donated. Please continue to support refugee education initiatives at UCL, and contribute to the charities and organisations above.

Bridging the gap: social media use in China

Sophie Vinter13 September 2016

UCL's Xinyuan Wang doing field work among young Chinese factory workers“While ‘Made in China’ products have become pervasive in our daily lives, the people who produce them remain mysterious. However, our research reveals that Chinese factory workers actually exhibit an unexpected and sophisticated use of social media to bridge the gap between their rural roots and their industrial lives.”

Author Xinyuan Wang is referring to her new open-access book, Social Media in Industrial China, which launched on 13 September along with its sister title Social Media in Rural China in a special online broadcast from Hong Kong University.

A PhD candidate at the UCL department of anthropology, Xinyuan spent 15 months undertaking fieldwork in a small factory town in southeast China, living in one of the factories and tracking the workers’ use of social media.

By studying this marginalized population – who have, in many ways, embraced the potential of social media to the fullest – her in-depth research sheds light not just on Chinese social media usage, but also on the nature of contemporary China.

Xinyuan’s research is part of the UCL-led global social media impact study, ‘Why We Post’, which The Economist has described as “the biggest, most ambitious project of its sort.”

From 13-23 September Xinyuan is joining Professor Daniel Miller, the lead researcher of Why We Post, and fellow author Tom McDonald, who received his PhD from UCL anthropology and is currently an associate professor at Hong Kong University, in giving a series of talks about the project in nine top universities in Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Beijing and Shanghai.

Social media as education

Tom McDonald, Xinyuan Wang and Daniel Miller at the online book launchWhy We Post saw a team of nine anthropologists each spend 15 months living in villages or towns in eight different countries.

As well as two fieldsites in China, locations included a town on the Syrian-Turkish border, low income settlements in Brazil and Chile, an IT complex set between villages in South India, small towns in south Italy and Trinidad and a village in England.

In China, Xinyuan found that social media is playing a key role in filling the gap left by the lack of education and schooling. She said: “For young migrant workers who dropped out of school early and became factory workers before adulthood, social media is the ‘post-school’ education and this schooling implies their ‘coming of the age’.

“For many migrant workers, social media is less of a bridge that connects with what they have left behind in villages, than a projector which illuminates an ideal modern life these people are longing for. Therefore it is a study of two paralleled migrations: one from rural to urban, but simultaneously another migration from offline to online.”

Open access

All the books from Why We Post are being published by UCL Press as open access in 2016-2017.

Xinyuan added: “The free online knowledge provided by Open Access allows the possibility of a significantly extended readership, which is extremely important for books focusing on how the digital can possibly change the lives of marginalised populations and low income populations.

“To bring this knowledge of Chinese social media in the context of the global comparative study back to China is a big commitment the project aims to make, with the ultimate goal of free global education.”

New resources to support LGBT staff and students working abroad

Sophie Vinter14 July 2016

The charity Stonewall has launched a set of Global Workplace Briefings to support LGBT employees travelling overseasForty per cent of the world’s population live in countries where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people can be imprisoned, just for being themselves.

UK charity Stonewall is fighting to change this and has launched a set of Global Workplace Briefings open to UCL staff and students to access the latest information.

UCL has a history of opening up education to people previously excluded from it, and was the first UK university to join Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champion programme for international employers, helping to promote equality around the world.

The new Global Workplace Briefings shine a spotlight on the situation for LGBT people in different countries, which will enable UCL staff and students planning to work overseas to keep up to date on changing laws and the potential implications.

Protecting from discrimination

In more than half the world, LGBT people are not protected from discrimination under workplace law.

The first set of briefings, which are available via UCL’s Equalities website, cover Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey.

Further briefings will follow later this year.

Each briefing outlines the legal, socio-cultural and workplace situation for LGBT people in the specified country and showcases progressive workplace practices from Stonewall’s membership.

They provide an important summary of in-country contexts for global mobility teams, helping them to identify where colleagues may need additional support when travelling internationally.

Supporting UCL’s LGBTQ community

Dr Fiona Leigh, a member of UCL’s LGBTQ+ Equality Advisory Group (LEAG), said UCL is now working further with Stonewall to produce additional briefings specifically for those working within higher education.

She said: “UCL is committed to providing resources and information for the safety and support of all of our staff and students, when travelling and working internationally.

“These briefings provide a very useful background in this endeavour, whether for LGBT staff or students or those supporting others with international visits.”