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UCL-HKU collaborations offer solutions to the world’s Grand Challenges

By Guest Blogger25 September 2017

By Greg Tinker, Communications Manager, Office of the Vice-Provost (Research)

A new partnership between UCL and Hong Kong University (HKU) was established during academic year 2016-17 to encourage joint research relating to the UCL Grand Challenges.

The joint scheme encourages cooperative projects on pressing global issues, as identified by the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Its highlighted priorities include urbanisation and sustainable cities, healthy ageing, global health, translational medicine, food and water safety and security, transformative technology, transcultural studies including China studies, and justice and equality.

UCL’s Grand Challenges programme – addressing Global Health, Sustainable Cities, Cultural Understanding, Human Wellbeing, Transformative Technology and Justice & Equality – provides an inter-institutional strategic framing for the joint scheme.

The first awards were made in April this year, to two projects:

  • ‘Writing in the City’ – to Professor Li Wei of the Culture, Communication and Media department at the UCL Institute of Education, collaborating with Professor Adam Jaworski at HKU’s School of English
  • ‘Non-pharmacological interventions in dementia’ – to Dr Aimee Spector, of UCL Clinical, Educational and Health Psychology, collaborating with Dr Gloria HY Wong and Professor Terry YS Lum of HKU’s Department of Social Work and Social Administration

Dr Spector has already begun work on her project, focusing on treatments like Cognitive Stimulation Therapy for dementia sufferers. The collaboration will result in a conference in Hong Kong to be held in December, featuring presenters from China, Hong Kong, the US, New Zealand, Italy, Brazil and Denmark. It will also include CST training for attendees from around the world.

The joint UCL – HKU team has also been working on a joint publication, involving a systematic review of Mindfulness-based interventions for people with cognitive impairment. The collaboration has built a close relationship between Dr Spector and her HKU counterparts, leading to exchanges of doctoral students between London and Hong Kong. The students will benefit from working and studying abroad and their engagement will hopefully lead to further joint publications.

Dr Ian Scott, Director of the UCL Grand Challenges and cross disciplinary development, said: “It’s good to know that the first projects in UCL’s joint scheme with Hong Kong University are making great progress. At UCL we are confident that there will be strong downstream research and societal benefits from bringing UCL and HKU researchers together to address globally significant issues from London and Hong Kong perspectives.

“The HKU-UCL joint scheme holds promise to be an important model for other international strategic partnerships between UCL and other world-class universities like HKU, framed by a mutual determination to harness the best expertise in the world in actions designed to prepare now for the challenges of the 22nd  century.

“While the 2016-17 UCL-HKU projects are still in progress, we look forward to the outcome of the current call for the next proposals for joint work in academic year 2017-18, to support further high quality joint initiatives in tackling and finding novel pathways to solutions to the world’s Grand Challenges.”

UCL delegation visit Japan, こんにちは!

uclqjle19 September 2017

UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur and a delegation from UCL is currently visiting Japan to strengthen collaborations there.

The relationship between UCL and Japan dates back 150 years to the Choshu Five’s arrival at UCL.

The visit, from from 25 September to 5 October, is part of UCL’s long-term commitment to build on historical links through partnerships with leading Japanese institutions and governmental bodies, research collaborations and student exchanges with top universities.

It is also an opportunity to connect with and celebrate our Japan-based alumni.

Non-exhaustive map of UCL collaborations in Japan

Non-exhaustive map of UCL collaborations in Japan

Historical Legacy

After leaving UCL, the Choshu Five went on to become the founding fathers of modern Japan.

Choshu Five

Choshu Five

The Choshu Five included Hirobumi Ito, who became Japan’s first Prime Minister and is otherwise known as ‘the Father of the Japanese Constitution’ and ‘the Father of  parliamentary government in Japan’. The other men were Kaoru Inoue, who became Japan’s first Foreign Minister, also known as ‘the Father of modern Japanese diplomacy’, Yozo Yamao, ‘the Father of Japanese engineering’, Masaru Inoue, ‘the Father of Japanese railways’, and Kinsuke Endo, ‘the Father of the modern Japanese mint’.

Their legacy is still very much celebrated both in the UK and in Japan. In 2013, UCL took part in a high-profile celebration of the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the ‘Choshu Five’ in the UK.

The Choshu Five were followed soon after, in 1865, by a second group from Japan. This group of 19, a mix of students and supervisors, mostly came from the Satsuma region, hence their name ‘the Satsuma Group’. Members of this group went on to be successful diplomats, bring in compulsory education for all and founded Japan’s first modern factory.

satsuma1

Satsuma Group

satsuma2

To symbolise this significant history, the Japan Monument stands in the garden next to the South Cloisters at UCL. The names of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma Group are engraved on the granite monument next to a Japanese waka (poem).

jpnPMatMonument

Japanese Prime Minister Mr Shinzo Abe & UCL President & Provost Professor Michael Arthur at the Japan Monument during the Prime Minister’s visit to UCL in 2014.

jpnMonClose

Japan Monument

 

The inscription on the side of the monument reads,
はるばるとこころつどいてはなさかる
(Harubaru to kokoro tsudoite hana sakaru)

‘When distant minds come together, cherries blossom’

Current Student Trends

Following in the footsteps of the Choshu Five and the Satsuma group, many Japanese students have studied at UCL.

UCL is the second biggest recruiter of Japanese students in the UK and the number of Japanese students welcomed every year has remained fairly consistent over the past decade. There are currently over 150 students from Japan enrolled at UCL (2016/17).

Japanese Students at UCL by School (2016/17)

In addition to a vibrant and growing UCL Japanese Society, the UCL Japan Club – alumni group for Japan-based alumni –  has established a tight and strong community to keep in touch with friends and generations of UCL alumni.

UCL also hosts the annual UCL-Japan Youth Challenge. Initiated in 2015, this is a special summer school that welcomes pre-university students from the UK and Japan to UCL. The programme consists of various intercultural learning activities and events for both students and teachers from the two countries.

UCL-Japan Youth Challenge

UCL-Japan Youth Challenge

Current activity between UCL & Japan

There is an exciting amount of engagement between UCL and Japan. UCL Global is currently celebrating the iconic history UCL shares with Japan, as well as highlighting a number of contemporary collaborations. To be part of this and to keep up-to-date with our activities in Japan during the visit, follow us on Twitter.

Ask GEO: Alejandro Moreno, Strategic Data Manager

uclqjle15 September 2017

Alejandro_5796_SquareAlejandro is GEO’s Strategic Data Manager. Through analysis of the various databases that UCL uses and produces, Alejandro monitors the levels, patterns and progress of global activity underway across the university, which helps track delivery of the Global Engagement Strategy. He tells us more about his work and reveals some interesting statistics about UCL’s collaborations abroad.

Tell us more about your role in GEO
My role is to map UCL’s relationship with the world, one map at a time. The idea is that we have a database into how we interact across the globe, for example: How many students from Japan study in UCL? How may UCL graduates work in South Africa? How do we make an impact on South America rural areas? How many collaborations do we have with American Universities? Answering those questions is broadly speaking my role.

How could you be of support to UCL staff outside of GEO?
If there is a question as to what UCL is doing in certain geographical areas, or where we are collaborating with a specific institution, that is a query I can help with. Let’s assume an academic is travelling to Colombia for a conference: he could contact us and we could let him know which other academics have links in the country. That way he would be aware of UCL’s relationship with Colombia and know more about the specifics of collaborating there from first-hand experience.

Could you share some interesting statistics on UCL’s global activity we might not ordinarily be aware of?
Sure, below is a sample showing our wide geographical reach in terms of institutions we have collaborated with. UCL has collaborated with around 1,000 institutions worldwide.

UCL collaborations infographic
Also, since I am from Mexico, here you can see the places where Mexican institutions have downloaded UCL e-books though JStor:

Mexico infographic
What are you working on at the moment?
I’m working on mapping the collaborations that UCL has with China, and which faculties collaborate in which city:

China infographic

Contact Alejandro on:

a.moreno@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7789 / internal 57789

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.

UCL graduate wins One World Media Award for China documentary

Sophie Vinter8 June 2017

UCL graduate Minmin Wu won the Student Award at the One World Media Awards for her graduation film 'Waste'UCL graduate Minmin Wu (MA Ethnographic and Documentary Film 2016), has won the 2017 Student Award at the One World Media Awards for her graduation film Waste.

Waste follows Yanin Ma, an 11-year- old girl living with leukaemia in China. Having spent the last month undergoing chemotherapy in Guangzhou City, she now wants only to go home. But Yanin’s hometown in Shantou is one of the most heavily polluted cities in the world and some believe this could be a cause of her illness.

Minmin is the second Open City Docs School MA graduate to receive the accolade, after Fernando González Mitjans’ win for his graduation film Limpiadores in 2016.

She was one of 25 who formed the second cohort of Masters students in UCL’s new MA in Ethnographic and Documentary Film. Her film exemplifies the kind of work the MA’s tutors set out to encourage – rooted in the research culture of a great university but made in the highly personal voice and cinematic vision of the filmmaker.

Minmin said: “I want to thank UCL, Open City Docs School, my tutors and my friends who helped me make this film. I made this film not just because I wanted to raise attention to environmental pollution in China but also because I had similar experiences to what the characters go through in my film. I wanted to share their feelings and story with a wider audience.”

Read the full story here.

Scholarship opportunity in China – apply by 13 February

ucypcco5 January 2017

An excellent funding opportunity is again running for UCL students with an interest in China.

The Chinese Government Scholarship scheme covers tuition fees, medical insurance, accommodation and a living allowance for successful applicants to study in China for a period of up to one academic year.

Students must satisfy the following criteria in order to be eligible to apply:

  • Be a national of a country other than China
  • Be under age 45 and with at least two years of undergraduate level study

UCL will be shortlisting nominations for this scholarship scheme.

How to apply

In order to submit an application for consideration by the UCL panel, please send the following documents by email to Chris Cook (c.cook@ucl.ac.uk), Global Engagement Office Partnership Officer, as soon as possible and by 9am on 13 February 2017 at the latest:

  1. CV
  2. Academic transcripts (find more information on how to obtain UCL transcripts here)
  3. Two recommendation letters from UCL academics
  4. Study Plan (minimum of 500 words)

For more information visit the Chinese Government Scholarship website.

 

Ask GEO: Tom Windle, Senior Partnerships Manager (East and South East Asia)

Sophie Vinter29 November 2016

Tom Windle, East and South East Asia

Tom is GEO’s Senior Partnerships Manager for East and South East Asia. Here he tells us more about his work and UCL’s recent activity in both regions.

What is your role in GEO?

I develop and manage the portfolio of existing and potential partnerships for UCL in East and South East Asia, in line with UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy.

UCL has some really fascinating partnerships in both regions – from the UCL Institute of Education Confucius Institute leading the £10m Department for Education-funded Mandarin Excellence Programme, to UCL School of Life and Medical Sciences collaborating with the HRH Chulabhorn College of Medical Science on widening access to healthcare in Thailand.

You recently returned from a visit to China, led by Provost. How did the trip go?

The China visit went very well, incorporating visits to university partners as well as to the Chinese Ministry of Education, Chinese Academy of Sciences and the British Ambassador. UCL has been enjoying a deeper strategic partnership with Peking University (PKU) and during the trip we launched the Beijing International MBA – a collaboration between PKU’s National School of Development and UCL’s School of Management. The agreement represents a shared commitment that our two institutions have to collaborate and have a greater impact.

At Hong Kong University, UCL’s Vice-Provost Research announced a call for collaborative research proposals that address UCL Grand Challenges, under the new three-year HKU-UCL Global Strategic Partnership Fund. The purpose of this funding is to provide the necessary initial support to enable HKU and UCL academic staff to enhance existing collaboration or to pursue new, multilateral or cross-disciplinary research projects. This will complement UCL’s Global Engagement Funds in supporting grassroots international partnerships development across all UCL faculties.

It was also very exciting launching the Campaign for UCL in China. We have an enthusiastic alumni network across China and the campaign is proving a great way to engage them in supporting the ongoing work of UCL’s diverse academic and student body to work with partners to address some of the biggest challenges we face in the 21st century.

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in East and South East Asia?

UCL’s collaborations in both regions are very varied, ranging from academic partnerships with overseas universities to engagement with governments, funding bodies and corporate partners.

Our regional networks, led by Director Katherine Carruthers (Pro-Vice-Provost, East Asia) and Professor Nicholas Phelps (Pro-Vice-Provost, South East Asia) are the best way to keep up to speed in terms of UCL’s collaborations there and funding opportunities. You can sign up here.

There are some great initiatives for students in both regions too. For example, the Yenching Academy at PKU is currently inviting applications from UCL students to spend a year in Beijing doing a fully funded Master’s programme in China Studies – an incredible opportunity.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’m currently preparing for a delegation visit to Australia in December, led by the Vice-Provost International Dame Nicola Brewer, which will take in visits to various partners and stakeholders in three cities: Brisbane, Sydney and Adelaide.

UCL Engineering enjoys a continuing strong partnership with the Future Industries Institute at the University of South Australia (UniSA), focusing on education and research in the sustainable management and use of minerals, energy and natural resources. This year, the collaboration launched a new Post-Graduate Taught MSc Programme on Global Management of Natural Resources. The upcoming visit will be a great opportunity to touch base with our colleagues in Australia and discuss our ongoing and upcoming collaborations.

Contact Tom on:

t.windle@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7784 / internal 57784

Yenching Academy Scholarship and Global Symposium: Apply now

Sophie Vinter3 November 2016

Yenching Academy Scholarship posterUCL students wanting to develop their understanding of China and its role in the world can apply for a fully funded Master’s scholarship at Peking University (PKU).

The Yenching Academy is offering the chance to complete an interdisciplinary Master’s in China Studies at the heart of PKU in Beijing.

Applications are open to graduates of any discipline until 31 January 2017 and can be submitted directly through the Yenching Academy website.

Students can also apply to attend the Academy’s flagship event, the Yenching Global Symposium, taking place from 23-27 March 2017 . This year’s theme is “Xinnovation: Identity of Innovation in China” and applications close on 15 December 2016.

Professor John L Holden, Associate Dean of the Yenching Academy, and UCL History graduate James Ashcroft, who was among the first cohort of scholars, visited UCL to encourage students with an interest in China to apply.

They explained how the residential programme attracts outstanding graduates from all over the world, helping to shape a new generation of global citizens with a nuanced understanding of China.

“The best year of my life”

James, who is now working as a consultant at Deloitte, described how the experience offered the chance not only for intercultural and academic exchange, but also for personal and professional development.

Chinese cultural activitiesHe said: “I principally studied 16th and 17th century political thought at UCL, but also Chinese history. I’d never been to China or studied Chinese before, but the Academy flew us out one month before to do an intensive language course which was a very useful survival kit to have.

“I focussed less on the academic things and more on the experience I could get out of being in China – it was the best year of my life. Afterwards I moved to Taiwan and stayed with a host family. It’s a really stimulating environment to be in and by the end you have friends for life from all over the globe.”

Working closely with their academic mentors, Yenching Scholars create their own study paths by choosing from six academic concentrations – ranging from Economics and Management to Politics and International Relations – and participating in a variety of extracurricular activities.

Changing the world

Professor Holden said the programme attracts a variety of high-profile speakers including international ambassadors and renowned authors such as Yu Hua. Some scholars also undertake internships as part of their time in China.

Professor John Holden is encouraging UCL students to apply for the Yenching Academy scholarshipHe said: “There is no place like PKU in China; it is where all major Chinese social movements have been initiated. We’re able to recruit spectacular people who want to change the world and make a difference.

“This year we are rolling out a new course, ‘China in Transition’, which is an interdisciplinary look at China since 1978. We provide funds for each scholar to go out and research for that course on trips, and there is also a field trip in the autumn.”

Both urged applicants to make their personal statement stand out and to prepare well for the short Skype interview.

James added: “Make sure you have a good recommendation from people who know you well. Use your personal statement to help us understand who you are – it’s not just about your academic quality, think about why you want to participate and how this will tie into your future.”

 

 

Ask GEO: Rachel Corcoran, Programme Manager

Sophie Vinter22 September 2016

Rachel Corcoran, Programme ManagerRachel is GEO’s Programme Manager. We asked her to tell us more about her role and the recently launched Global Engagement Funds.

What is your role in GEO?

UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy launched in May last year – it’s an ambitious strategy which sets out a number of objectives: from ramping up the university’s collaborations with institutions abroad, to increasing student mobility and raising UCL’s global profile, to name a few.

As with any strategy, it’s all well and good deciding what you want to achieve, but the more difficult part is in the delivery. In UCL’s case, my office, the GEO, has a team dedicated to partnership development, with much of the other activity actually delivered by lots of other departments across the university – a ‘hub and spoke’ model (see image below), with GEO as the ‘hub’.

As Programme Manager, my role is to be a central point of oversight – to plan, monitor and evaluate success, ensuring that progress against objectives across UCL is captured in one place, identifying areas of overlap between different initiatives and supporting delivery offices where needed.

One part of the strategy which I specifically work on is managing the funding to academics to develop their overseas collaborations – recently I was pleased to launch the second year of the Global Engagement Funds.

The 'Hub and Spoke' model for delivering UCL's Global Engagement StrategyWhat are the Global Engagement Funds for?

Global Engagement Funds cover the costs associated with UCL academics collaborating with higher education institutions, organisations or companies abroad.  The aim is to facilitate activity for which there might not be another funding source, but which could be the start of an exciting new initiative.

There were some fascinating projects last year – I remember there was one from Archaeology, involving a researcher partnering with a Dutch NGO to tackle the black market in looted antiquities from Iraq and Syria, through jointly building a database of such objects. Or the lecturer from the Institute for Global Health who funded travel to Kigali to work with the University of Rwanda on the prevention of gender-based violence – including a joint seminar, meetings with key individuals, and visits to potential field sites, with a view to writing a grant proposal.

I’m not part of the decision-making though – the panels are led by Vice-Deans International (VDIs) and regional Pro-Vice-Provosts (PVPRs).

What is the role of the VDIs and PVPRs in the wider strategy?

The PVPRs play an important strategic role as a catalyst for UCL’s engagement in their particular region. Each term they chair the Regional Network meeting; they welcome international delegations to UCL and act as ambassadors for UCL abroad.

While the PVPRs focus on a specific region spanning all of UCL’s faculties, the role of the VDIs spans all regions in a particular faculty. They are a point of contact for academics and work with the Dean to ensure that the faculty’s global partnerships (e.g. teaching, research, consultancy, knowledge transfer) are in line with the wider strategy.

Map showing UCL activity in Europe as at September 2016How do you think the vote for Brexit has impacted on UCL’s plans for global engagement?

I think that it just shows that it is now more important than ever that UCL remains open and engaged with the world, sending a clear message to our partners (see my colleague Conor’s comments).  As our Vice-Provost (International) says, we are redoubling our efforts to meet those objectives set out in the strategy, especially with regard to Europe, one of the regions where we have a significant amount of activity.

Not only that, but I am excited to be part of reviewing, in the light of the Brexit vote, the way in which we intend to go about achieving objectives.

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.”