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UCL continues to support at-risk academics and students

By Kerry Milton, on 14 October 2015

At a time when the media directs the attention of all of us to the plight of those affected by Europe’s refugee and migrant crisis, UCL is committed to supporting academics and students whose research and education has been disrupted and whose lives are at risk, through funding and placements enabling them to complete their education and research.

Working with the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara) since 2006, UCL has a track-record of helping academics who are unable to continue their research in their home country. Cara (founded in 1933 by some of Britain’s foremost academics and scientists) seeks to help academics and scientists who are fleeing from discrimination, persecution and violence in some of the world’s most dangerous places by securing placements through their UK University Network. UCL also works with the Saïd Foundation, a non-political and non-sectarian organisation which supports students predominately in Syria, Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and the United Kingdom to complete their education.

When the need to support displaced academics and students is greater than ever, UCL will continue working with organisations such as Cara and the Saïd Foundation, enabling academics and students in the greatest need to find a safe harbour at UCL in London to continue their research and study. We do this through tuition fee waivers and Fellowships with a number of students and research Fellows currently on campus. In addition, UCL has recently decided to double its annual subscription to Cara for the next three years, with immediate effect.

Stephen Wordsworth CMG LVO, Cara’s Executive Director recently commented “At Cara, we are delighted to recognise UCL as one of the strongest supporters of our work this year – generously hosting, with support from central resources, Academic Departments and DARO, while also increasing its existing contribution to Cara’s central funds, without which Cara couldn’t operate at all. With growing numbers of academics across the Middle East in particular at serious risk, and desperately needing a safe haven where they can study and work until they are able to return, we look forward to building on this outstanding cooperation in the years ahead.” Further information is available in Cara’s Annual Report.

A number of UCL staff and colleagues from other institutions met at UCL two weeks ago to discuss the recent Research Professional article “Refugee crisis ‘exposes knowledge gaps'”. UCL staff wishing to contribute to this discussion should contact Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh at e.fiddian-qasmiyeh@ucl.ac.uk

UCL signs MoU with Japanese Prefectural Government

By Kerry Milton, on 23 July 2015

On 16 July, a delegation from Fukushima, Japan, led by Governor Mr Masao Uchibori, visited UCL to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), unique in that it is one of the few agreements UCL has with a local government body.

UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur and Governor of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, Mr Masao UchiboriThe MoU will see UCL work with the region in light of the Fukushima Disaster; promoting international exchanges (in both directions) with staff and students, information exchange and explore areas of economy, industry, tourism, culture and sport.

The delegation also met with UCL President and Provost, Michael Arthur and Vice Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer, to discuss a range of topics, including Governor Uchibori’s plans for revitalising the Fukushima Prefecture with an ‘Innovation Coast,’ a new research and development hub exploring cutting edge projects in robotics and renewable energy.

UCL is proud of its historical connections with Japan, welcoming Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Choshu 5 arrival last year and 23 July 2015 marks the arrival of the nineteen young students to UCL from Satsuma in 1865.

Peking University Vice-President, Professor Jie Wang, visits UCL

By Kerry Milton, on 18 June 2015

On Wednesday 17 June 2015, Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International) hosted a visit to UCL by Peking University’s (PKU) Vice-President, Professor Jie Wang, together with some of his senior colleagues in Engineering, Physical Sciences and Linguistics.

The PKU delegation stands outside the UCL Portico

The visit provided an opportunity for Dame Nicola to outline UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy to PKU, to take stock of the collaborative activities between the two universities and to exchange views on the future direction the partnership might take, particularly on the research side.

Besides these discussions, the visit enabled the first UCL: PKU Science and Engineering workshop to take place, co-ordinated by Professor Nick Brook, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MAPS). This joint workshop was the first of a series that will be held in 2015,  the others being focussed on Management Science, Infectious Diseases, and Medical Humanities.

For more information about this visit please contact Andrew Pink, UCL Office for International Affairs at a.g.pink@ucl.ac.uk

UCL delegation heads to South America in first trip of 2015

By Kerry Milton, on 26 January 2015

From 19-23 January 2015, a UCL delegation visited Brazil and Colombia to discuss opportunities for partnership and collaboration in higher education.

The group visited a number of institutions and organisations including various Brazilian and Colombian universities and national agencies. Highlights included high level meetings at Universidade de Sao Paulo and UNICAMP in Brazil; Universidad Nacional de Colombia and Universidad de Los Andes in Colombia; and two inspiring UCL alumni events jointly hosted with UCL by the British Consulate General, Sao Paulo and the British Ambassador to Colombia.
Brazil Colombia Events 2

In addition, the delegation met with FAPESP, a public agency funded by the State of Sao Paulo with a mission to support research projects in higher education and research institutions in all areas of knowledge in order to discuss developing a potential relationship with them.

In Colombia, the delegation met with Colfuturo, with whom UCL already has an existing relationship and Colciencias, the national agency for Science, Technology and Innovation to discuss development of UCL’s relationship with them.

Discussions spanned across higher education with a particular focus on public health, transport, medical sciences, sustainable cities and social sciences. Of particular note were discussions around mutually beneficial partnerships, the Newton Fund, which is part of the UK’s official development assistance and other potential and other potential funding streams to support development of collaborations.

Brazil Colombia Events 1

The delegation was led by Professor Alejandro Madrigal, UCL’s Pro-Vice-Provost for the Americas. Joining Professor Madrigal were:

  • Dr Jenny Mindell, Reader, Epidemiology and Public Health
  • Ciaran Moynihan, Partnership Officer, Office for International Affairs

The delegation spent time in Sao Paulo and Bogota as part of UCL’s plan to develop its relationship with countries in Latin America, with Colombia and Brazil being key priorities.

UCL’s Latin America Network, which meets throughout the year, is helping to shape UCL’s engagement with Latin America. The delegation plans to liaise with the Network over the coming weeks to disseminate opportunities identified on the visit in order to support development of the relationships with key partners in both countries.

In our next UCL Global News e-newsletter, we will have an update on the specific outcomes and developing relationships/collaborations in these countries, as well as an interview with an amazing alumna from Colombia. Subscribe at our UCL Global website

If you would like to join the Latin America Network, please email Ciaran Moynihan at ciaran.moynihan@ucl.ac.uk

Town Hall meeting – the next phase of consultation begins

By Kerry Milton, on 16 October 2014

On Tuesday 14 October, nearly 100 staff gathered for the first ‘Town Hall’ meeting to discuss the development and direction of UCL’s new Global Engagement Strategy.

The meeting was chaired by Vice Provost (International), Dame Nicola Brewer who emphasised the importance of partnerships, commenting, “Our partnerships, of shared values and objectives, of trust, respect and generosity, are key to success. That’s part of the reason why I’ve shifted to a Global Engagement Strategy, rather than an International Strategy: it’s more about wider engagement than a narrow focus on international student recruitment, brand or reputation.”

The Provost and President, Professor Michael Arthur, in opening the meeting had emphasised the importance of the international agenda in realising the ambitions of UCL 2034

Professor Arthur was joined on the panel by Vice Provost (Enterprise), Professor Steve Caddick; Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Lori Houlihan; and Vice Provost (Education and Student Affairs), Professor Anthony Smith who fielded questions from the audience, covering international alumni, study abroad and the student experience, support for international engagement, communications, funding opportunities, teaching, enterprise and London.

There will also be a series of consultation meetings with groups of staff and students over the Autumn Term.

It is hoped to have the new Global Engagement Strategy approved by Easter 2015 at which stage we’ll move on to the excitement of implementation.

Vice Provost (International): Partnerships start at home

By Kerry Milton, on 16 October 2014

We are London’s Global University.

And we have a new strategy, 2034, that says we will deliver global impact through a network of innovative activities, collaborations and partnerships.

Dame Nicola Brewer

Tuesday’s Town Hall meeting marked the formal start of an open consultation process on a new Global Engagement Strategy to set out why and how we’ll achieve our goals, and what it will look and feel like. (I’ve shifted from talking about “international” to the phrase “global engagement”, to emphasise that we’re thinking more broadly than, say, just recruitment or brand awareness, and making engaging with others a central feature.)

Where we’re starting from

In the First Impressions piece I wrote for The Week@UCL back in July, I offered a starter for 10 for our new international strategy:

To be a force for good in the world by developing a targeted set of reciprocal international relationships in research and education [I’d now add enterprise], in ways that increase UCL’s impact and enhance UCL’s reputation for producing wise, shared solutions to global challenges.

I’ve had some critical feedback on the ‘force for good’ phrase – is “force” the right word, and isn’t it better to stick to the language in 2034 about working “for the long term benefit of humanity?” But otherwise people seem to like the general direction that’s pointing us towards. Other core themes that keep coming up in informal consultations include: enduring partnerships, listening and learning and helping to build capacity, co-creating knowledge, widening access and dismantling barriers to quality Higher Education, all of which are in tune with UCL’s founding remit and ethos. And there’s a repeated theme about outreach.

Partnership is definitely integral to how people are seeing our new international approach. We currently have thousands of individual academic collaborations, driven by curiosity, the search for excellence or for solutions to shared problems, initiated by UCL faculty. I call these the sea of academic freedom and creativity we swim in. They are our natural element, part of our DNA.

My interest in those individual-led partnerships is threefold – to avoid doing anything to get in the way of them, and to make them easier if possible, for example through framework agreements; to see what currents they form or patterns they make, so we can all tell the story of UCL’s global impact better; and very occasionally to steer away from the odd reputational iceberg!

As John Tooke wrote in The Week@UCL last month, “The successful academic institutions of the future will be those that can build the mutually beneficial collaborative networks and partnerships to answer the questions that no one institution, however, prestigious can answer alone.”

Partnerships are a prerequisite and they start at home.

Existing activity and what you could call development of ‘business as usual’

In terms of international business as usual, we’ve started discussions on shifting the operating model of UCL Australia to focus even more on partnership working; in Qatar, we are recalibrating our relationship with the Qatar Foundation; in Kazakhstan we are rounding off our successful operations there; and UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur has just led a cross-institutional visit to discuss widening the UCL Yale Collaborative into other discipline areas beyond biomedicine and taking it into ‘Phase 2.’

We’re also following up the visit in May of the Japanese Prime Minister and 12 Japanese universities, to explore tapping into their new government funding for international university partnerships, and to consolidate the historical reason why Japan sees UCL as the gateway to the UK Higher Education sector.

I won’t do a complete world tour, but just as another example of how we’re looking to focus our efforts, in Europe we are increasingly emphasising how we can leverage networks like LERU. And we’re beginning to consider the difficult choices inherent in strategy: if we try to do everything, we’ll have less impact than if we concentrate our attention on where we can make the biggest difference.

Together with the five regional Pro-Vice Provosts and the Office for International Affairs, we’re also putting another round of effort into mapping or capturing a picture of that sea of individual academic collaborations, to help us tell UCL’s global story more vividly and raise the profile of what UCL is good at, and what we are good for.

Emerging ideas and activities

We are developing some new activities where I am confident they will be in line with the emerging Global Engagement Strategy. I’d highlight the scoping work we are doing on a partnership with a leading university in Beijing; the bid we’re making to the Wellcome Trust to become the host university for the Africa Centre in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, and seeking to set that in the context of our long standing work in Malawi.

We’ve also initiated a new conversation with the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg about partnership between universities of the global south and north, and how we can support a network of African universities wanting to enhance their research capacity. And we are exploring five particular markets in South America. Next in my sights is a coherent approach to our engagement with India – but I‘ll leave that for next year.

What happens next?

The reason I am so keen for us to tell UCL’s story better is that there’s so much interesting and impactful stuff going on – but not enough people know about it, or about UCL. The news of John O’Keefe’s Nobel Prize echoed around the world. But not even UCL can produce a Nobel Prize winner every year! So we have to articulate ourselves how we add up to more than the sum of our amazing parts. Thank you to Gregory Thompson for a better ‘more than the sum of its parts’ image – the winning 2014 FIFA World Cup team – than the one I used at the Town Hall!

We’ve already had the first few in a series of smaller consultation events, with Faculty Managers, with SLMS Partnership Board, at the Bartlett’s Away day, with the Africa Regional Network. There are plenty more to come, with the various groups, with Heads of Department, and with students. Shortly, we will be adding all of our upcoming consultation activities to our UCL Global website, so you can see who we are engaging with.

We’ve set up a small steering group, which I chair. It includes Vice Provost (Enterprise and London) Steve Caddick, two Deans, two Directors, and a student volunteer is about to join it. It will meet for the third time later this term and three times next term. I hope to get a first draft of the Global Engagement Strategy to SMT in early 2015 and will be revising it in light of feedback from more consultation groups. The aim is to send it to Council for final approval at the end of March 2015.

In the meantime, please do complete our Global Engagement Strategy Staff Survey  and encourage your colleagues and friends to sign up to the UCL Global News e-newsletter which will give regular feedback on emerging themes and findings throughout the consultation period.

Nicola Brewer

UCL President and Pro-Provost for the Americas visit Brazil

By Kerry Milton, on 22 August 2014

As well as attending the third Universia Vice-Chancellors Meeting in Rio, Brazil, where Santander Universities announced 700 million Euro investment in universities until 2018; UCL President and Provost, Professor Michael Arthur and Pro-Provost to the Americas, Professor Alejandro Madrigal, met with some of Latin America’s top universities and organisations to discuss opportunities for partnership and collaboration in higher education.

Engagements included meeting with the Rector of Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile (PUC) to deepen the developing institutional relationship between UCL and PUC through the Engineering 2030 Programme.

The Engineering 2030 initiative provides funding from the Chilean Economic Development Agency (Corfo) to universities that plan transforming their Engineering Schools into world-class entities, with a particular focus on the four pillars that are increasingly important in the engineering field: applied research, technology development and transfer, innovation and entrepreneurship.

UCL formally supported PUC’s successful proposal and over the coming months will explore further opportunities for working under this partnership.

Another highlight was a meeting with the Rector of Universidade de São Paulo (USP), the oldest university in Brazil and one of the most prestigious higher education and research institutions in Latin America, to discuss a potential high-level relationship between USP and UCL.

A final meeting took place with the President of Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico (UNAM), one of the world’s largest universities with an excellent international reputation, and a long-standing collaborator of UCL.

Discussions spanned renewing a highly-successful research agreement in biomedical and life sciences, as well as exploring new subject areas for potential collaboration and partnership.

To discuss UCL’s current links and on going plan for the Latin America region, contact Professor Madrigal at a.madrigal@ucl.ac.uk or Julia Dawson, Assistant Director at the Office for International Affairs at julia.dawson@ucl.ac.uk

UCL delegation visits China

By Kerry Milton, on 1 August 2014

At the end of July 2014, a UCL delegation visited China to discuss opportunities for partnership and collaboration in higher education.


Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International); Dr. Vivienne Lo, Director of CCHH, UCL Department of History; Vice President, Dr. Li Yansong, Peking University

Led by Vice Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer and Professor Xiao Guo, UCL’s Pro-Provost for China, the delegation also included:

  • Vivienne Lo, Director of China Centre for Health and Humanity (CCHH)
  • Therese Hesketh, UCL Institute of Global Health
  • Dr Bert De Reyck, Head of UCL Management Science and Innovation
  • Dr Michael Morris, Corporate Partnerships Manager, UCL Advances
  • Nigel Percival, Director, Office for International Affairs
  • Alan Goulbourne, Assistant Director, Office for International Affairs

Discussions spanned across higher education with a particular focus on the prospect of establishing a UCL presence in China, meeting with the British Embassy and British Council in Beijing to gain a clearer understanding of the education system in the region.

The group also met with some top universities, including Peking University, Jiao Tong University and Zhejiang University to explore potential partnerships and collaborative opportunities, including the Newton Fund, CSC Scholarships and Horizon 2020.

The trip coincided with the prestigious China Science Festival, attended by Professor Guo, who gave a keynote speech on the obligations of a global university. Professor Guo was interviewed by China Science Daily, S&T Daily and Beijing News.

Further information about UCL at the China Science Festival can be found on the UCL Corporate Partnerships website and photographs can be viewed on the UCL FlickR website

To discuss UCL’s current links and ongoing plan for China, contact Professor Xiao Guo at z.x.guo@ucl.ac.uk or Alan Goulbourne, Assistant Director in the Office for International Affairs at a.goulbourne@ucl.ac.uk

Vice Provost (International): First impressions

By Kerry Milton, on 9 July 2014

Since I started at UCL, I’ve met hundreds of amazing people who research, teach and study here or who support those who do. I’ve been able to sit down and listen to around 50 colleagues and students talking about UCL’s current international activities, our global impact and the future direction of our international strategy. Thank you all very much indeed for your warm welcome, time and frankness.

What follows is my distillation of what I’ve heard so far – which may not be exactly what you said, or meant! It combines some blindingly obvious observations about this wonderful university, aspects which we must hang on to at all costs, with a few things people are telling me they’d like to change about UCL’s global impact. Please let me know at vpi.global@ucl.ac.uk if anything in this article provokes a strong reaction – positive or negative – from you, or if you think I’m missing something important.

Firstly, how proud everyone is of UCL. In Whitehall, civil servants bemoan the lack of thinking time. Bloomsbury (I haven’t ranged wider yet, except for a short excursion to Arizona to see what Arizona State University is doing internationally and online), is a sea of intellectual creativity, with a strong tide of interdisciplinary working. A long way from my experience as a doctoral student in linguistics back in the 1980s, when I was urged to keep my research focused on one discipline only.

To extend the ‘sea’ metaphor, I see my job as not getting in the way of the many thousands of individual academic international interactions taking place, but as identifying the ‘currents’ – where institutional-level attention, effort and investment can make UCL activities more than the sum of their parts. I want to apply my knowledge of the geo-political ‘wind and waves’ to help those currents take us in a positive direction, towards solving global problems and grand challenges – and avoid the rocks!

Awareness of UCL’s current international strategy is very low. The International Strategy Board, earlier this year, defined the “previous approach” as “increasing UCL’s global footprint through… research-intensive overseas campuses associated with postgraduate education”. There’s a sense that our international institutional presences, in Kazakhstan, Qatar and Australia, don’t quite ‘wear the strategy on their faces’. Our teaching activity in Astana will conclude by August 2015; our relationships in Qatar need to be reviewed in light of a changed political context there; and our operation in Adelaide has now shifted to the Faculty of Engineering Sciences, and is concluding a strategic review that will see an enhanced focus on energy and natural resources engineering.

Also in the pipeline is ‘rebooting’ the UCL Yale Collaborative, building on Professor John Martin’s sterling work, now that both institutions have new Presidents keen to explore opportunities to extend that strategic alliance. We’re exploring other ‘anchor’ partnerships with leading universities and organisations, in China, Hong Kong and Japan. Starting with those countries is deliberate. We are also thinking hard about how to engage in North and Latin America, Africa, Europe and India. I am pretty confident that new overseas campuses are not going to be part of our revamped international strategy. Introducing a new undergraduate international summer school might be.

The clearest messages I’ve been picking up include: UCL needs to have a higher profile and reputation globally, in line with our world leading university status; our international strategy should be aligned with the 2034 Strategy, particularly the Global Impact theme, have a clear purpose and be based on a set of principles consistent with our radical history and ethical values; and we need to give more support to and opportunity for our students, as global citizens and professionals. As means to achieving those goals, we need: a finite set of strategic or ‘anchor’ partnerships, which could be with corporates, NGOs or Trusts as well as universities; networks across the globe especially with the fastest growing parts of the world; closer links with other world cities; better ‘mapping’ of and coordination between our existing international activities, with clearer responsibility and accountability for them; more investment in marketing and in relationship management, including with our alumni networks; deeper area expertise, on the lines of SSEES, the European Institute and the Institute of the Americas, joined up with or applied to our interdisciplinary strengths; and improved communication.

That’s my initial diagnosis. Where we go from here depends on the feedback on this message, and on a process of open consultation which we’ll kick off in the new academic year. The International Strategy Board met on 1 July. We’re aiming for a ‘town’ meeting in early October. We may set up a small steering group to oversee the consultation process. In the meantime, the various UCL teams with international responsibilities will be getting together to pool their analyses of the critical stakeholders to engage in developing our new international strategy, starting with students and staff. I’ll continue my one-to-one conversations with colleagues – now that I’ve met the Deans, Vice Provosts and Pro Provosts, I’m looking forward to a session with Faculty Managers and to meeting more Heads of Department and the new SABs and STARs. And we are commissioning a piece of research into the international strategies of other world class universities. We don’t want to copy them – our international strategy needs to be distinctively UCL in character – but it’s good to get the literature review out of the way before getting down to your own research. If I have a ‘starter for 10’ notion of what might be at the core of our new international strategy, it might be, ‘to be a force for good in the world by developing a targeted set of reciprocal international relationships in research and education, in ways that increase UCL’s impact and enhance UCL’s reputation for producing wise, shared solutions to global challenges’.  I’m sure that together we can refine that and work out what it would look like in practice.

Nicola Brewer

UCL delegation heads to Mexico

By Kerry Milton, on 1 May 2014

From 7-11 April 2014, a UCL delegation visited Mexico to discuss opportunities for partnership and collaboration in higher education.

The group visited a number of institutions and organisations including various Mexican universities and highlights included high level meetings at Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico (UNAM) and a UCL alumni event held at the British Embassy in Mexico City.  In addition, the delegation met with the National Council for Science and Technology (CONACyT) to discuss developing and strengthening UCL’s existing relationship with them. The visit was supported by the British Embassy and UKTI in Mexico City.


Discussions spanned across higher education with a particular focus on medicine, energy, sustainable cities, innovation, entrepreneurship, social sciences and humanities. Of particular note were the discussions around the Newton Fund, which is part of the UK’s official development assistance. The fund aims to develop science and innovation partnerships that promote the economic development and welfare of developing countries.

The high profile delegation was led by Professor Alejandro Madrigal, UCL’s Pro-Provost for the Americas. Joining Professor Madrigal were:

  • Professor Michael Heinrich, Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, UCL School of Pharmacy
  • Professor Ann Varley, Department of Geography
  • Dr Joanna Evans, Department of Spanish and Latin American Studies
  • Ian Hamilton, UCL Energy Institute
  • Nigel Percival, Director, Office for International Affairs
  • Julia Dawson, Assistant Director, Office for International Affairs

Professor Madrigal said, “There is a long tradition of Mexican students studying at UCL with 83 students currently studying in London. It is important to us to continue to develop our partnerships and collaborations with Mexico in order to further enhance the opportunities and research links we can offer.”

The delegation gained substantial media attention, with news of the visit covered by over 50 online media outlets, including an interview with Mexico’s City’s biggest newspaper, Reforma.

The delegation spent time in Mexico City and Monterrey as part of UCL’s plan to develop its relationship with countries in Latin America, with Mexico being a key priority. UCL’s Latin America Network, which meets throughout the year, is helping to shape UCL’s engagement with Latin America.

To discuss UCL’s current links and ongoing plan for the region, contact Professor Madrigal at a.madrigal@ucl.ac.uk or Julia Dawson at julia.dawson@ucl.ac.uk