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Ask an Academic: Professor Sue Hamilton, Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology

Sian EGardiner30 May 2019

Professor Sue Hamilton is Professor of Prehistory and since 2014 has been Director of the UCL Institute of Archaeology.

Sue is Principal Investigator of the Rapa Nui (Easter Island) Landscapes of Construction Project (LOC), which has been substantially funded over the past decade by the British Academy and the Arts and Humanities Research Council. 

It has been undertaken in collaboration with UK Universities of Bournemouth (co-investigator), Manchester (co-investigator), Cambridge and Highlands and Islands, together with representatives of the Chilean Council of Monuments, MAPSE (the island’s museum) and the indigenous peoples communities of Rapa Nui.

Sue and her team were the first British archaeologists to work on the island since 1914, when the English archaeologist and anthropologist, Katherine Routledge carried out the first true survey of the island.

We spoke to Sue to find out more about her unique partnership with the local indigenous community of Easter Island, and how she navigates the relationship with both the local community and the Chilean government while conducting her research.

What is the project about?

The project studies the sites and artefacts of the Easter Island statue building period (AD 1200-1550) as an interconnected, integrated whole, on a landscape scale. It has involved excavation, mapping of monuments, assessment of threats to preservation and studies of the island’s ancient and present environment.

What’s it like to work on Easter Island?

It’s a remote place, being a tiny Pacific island some 5000 km from the nearest mainland of Chile and 2,500 km from the nearest island, Pit Cairn. The local indigenous community is highly politicised, so all sorts of major internal events continually happen. If you have just a few months away it’s likely there will be completely different ground rules when you get back.

I have been formally working on Rapa Nui (which is the local name) since 2009. Much of the island is covered in prehistoric remains and is a UNESCO designated World Heritage Landscape.  In 2017, the Chilean government and National Parks Authority signed over the management of the National Park to the local indigenous community, Ma’u Henua and in 2018 we signed an agreement with the community that ‘LOC’ would advise them on archaeological issues in the park. By the time we got back in January 2019, there were several new people involved in discussing what LOC might work on and the methods to be used. Alongside this, there were new island tensions and new agreements of access to land and methodologies of documentation. Such negotiations to undertake work and its precise format can only be resolved by face to face meetings on each occasion of return to undertake fieldwork. It’s very much based on people trusting you; being able to talk to different individuals, and importantly giving people your time.

How does this partnership differ from others you might have, say with the local community in Camden?

There’s a lot of delicacy that comes with global partnerships. There are all sorts of tiny nuances. Easter Island is famed for its colossal statues and these prompt high profile discussions of the apparent collapse of the society that produced them and of the threats to the conservation of the island and its archaeology in the present; and any work on issues of its heritage always hits the newspapers – even the tiniest thing. Today the local community do at last have a very powerful gift in their hands in managing their heritage, and equally they have had a very embittered history of enormous threats to the survival of their society and traditions, which must be touched upon with empathy and sensitivity.

From the time the island was discovered by Europeans in the 18th century the local community had all sorts of terrible things happen to it, in no small part because of European contact brought disease, and ultimately loss of access to their lands. Katherine Routledge in 1914 recorded just 250 islanders compared with a population of maybe 6,000 during the statue building period. With the increasing return of land by the Chilean government in the late 20th century, and the current role of Ma’u Henua the islanders are significantly economically empowered because they have a heritage that tourists pay a heavy Park admissions fee to see.

There are currently about 6,000 islanders and 75,000 tourists go there every year. But this means that there are things that we might think are best for Rapa Nui’s extraordinary archaeology that might not be so good for tourism. We need to take things slowly and take care in giving opinions as  ‘privileged academics’, and not for example just leap in with a comment because someone says that’ll make a great quote in a national or international newspaper.

You have to remember it’s not your past, it’s their past, and I think it’s particularly so on Rapa Nui because it’s living heritage – the statues and associated monuments still have an active meaning to the Rapanui; they are not ruins of a now dead past. So a living heritage is something you can’t dabble with and think it won’t affect people.

How did you first come to work on the island?

I was working in Italy and invited my colleague, Colin Richards who worked on similar sites in the UK to come out and see the Italian ones. He spent rather a lot of time on the beach rather than working! So I went down to the beach one day and he was reading Thor Heyerdahl’s Aku-Aku, which is a 1950s popular book about Easter Island. Colin said we ought to go visit Easter Island and when we did we were just stunned by the archaeology and its great potential for new work. It was a great leap for both of us but we ended up co-directing our AHRC funded LOC project. It’s the most amazing archaeology I’ve ever worked on.

How closely are you now working with the Island’s local community?

We are currently doing research into the impact of soil erosion on the island’s archaeology and have been working on the massive ceremonial monuments by the sea and recording the extent to which many are near collapse. Conservation-related work is a good way to be working with the local community and stakeholders, and trying to do something that they want. For instance, they will put their effort into sites that tourists would particularly want to go and see, because that makes current economic sense. For us, this concurrently generates research information about the range and distributions of different categories of archaeological site. There are however numerous archaeologically very important sites beyond the tourist trail that may be key for better understanding Rapanui’s past and we have to find a pathway between both considerations.

Currently, most media people contact me about Easter Island to ask about climate change and rising sea levels and threats to the statues and their associated ceremonial monuments which wrap the island’s coastline. In many cases it’s not actually the sea that’s the most significant problem; it’s mismanagement of the landscape in modern times and the erosional impact of increased rainfall. Huge surfaces of the island are losing their soil. There are about 1,000 statues – which people don’t realise, and a lot of them at the main site where they were quarried are buried so there might be around 3,000. They are variously deteriorating due to lichen growth and the effects of atmospheric salt which penetrates the whole island environment.

Residential fieldwork uniquely creates local friendships; we stay with a local family business for a month each year, and the family have become special friends and are very supportive.  A few years ago I obtained a bursary  for a Rapanui archaeology student, Fran Pakomi, to come over to the UK and she was  trained on our UCL fieldwork course and stayed in my house. It’s these types of visits and exchanges that maintain and solidify connections and trust with distant local communities because they are at the cross-over between work and friendships.

What’s been your best archaeological discovery over there?

I suppose that one of the most dramatic is something that people knew a little bit about, but which we’ve documented and rediscovered many more of, are the carved  giant pairs of eyes on the walls of  the statue quarry. I always remember reading that in the Marquesas they believed rock to be living and that when rock was taken for monument building, the rock regrew again. We’ve found eyes that you can no longer see by using photogrammetry .

The other one’s a bit more esoteric – it’s just how interconnected things are and how many little stones were moved and how in being impressed by the physically big (such as enormous statues) you can lose the insights provided by small scale things. The builders of the statue period took giant flat cobbles from the beach and must have moved millions of them inland to make pavements and terraces outside of the houses they built. On land, large screes of volcanic rubble were move to create rock mulch, to protect the soil. The kind of human chains involved in moving millions of stones hand-to-hand from seashore inland and redistributing the volcanic rubble is quite incredible.

In the 20th century, the local community was provided with Chilean social housing, which is now seen by many as something to be rejected and demolished. We are now studying this housing and how interestingly a lot actually incorporates aspects of ancient traditions. Now on Rapa Nui there is beginning of building a sort of Polynesia of the modern imagination and an aligned very inventive local architecture that incorporates what they and potentially tourists may think Polynesia is. It’s fascinating to live through these changes as a regular visitor and it gives and insights into local priorities.

Fieldwork in distant places, and living with a local community over numerous years, accretes to make the dynamics of ancestry and heritage recording and isolating conservation and preservation priorities a mixture of diplomacy, empathy and co-production of research to secure the futures of a living past.

UCL international student recruitment: Connecting closer to home

GuestBlogger16 May 2019

In this guest blog, UCL’s International Student Recruitment team explain the ways in which they connect with international students already studying here in the UK.

When considering UCL’s international engagement, it is all too easy to overlook the UK and assume that recruitment activity here is aimed solely at UK secondary school students.

But as we all know, education is one of the UK’s global strengths and international students come for all levels of study, not just university degrees. Having already made the choice to come to the UK, such students are more likely to remain here to pursue the next stage of their education, especially those who are here at school.

Feeder institution 

We meet international students at all sorts of events across the country such as recruitment fairs, roadshows and school visits. But we do not need to go far to encounter students who are interested in what UCL can offer them – students are enrolled with us already. The UCL Centre for Languages & Education (CLIE) offers Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates, which are foundation courses for high-achieving students from countries whose qualifications do not meet our direct entry requirements.

On average around half of these students remain at UCL (and typically a further 30% go on to other leading Russell Group universities), and departments are encouraged to liaise with UCL CLIE to connect with these students at an early stage.

Many students will move on to other institutions for their graduate study, but growing numbers choose to stay with us: We are our own largest feeder institution at graduate level. A Graduate Open Day now takes place every December, and other events are held later in the academic year such as information evenings organised by departments and faculties. Drop-in sessions run during the summer term which cater exclusively to UCL students wherever they are from, who are still weighing up their options and looking beyond their final year.

Open Days

There is a wide outreach programme for prospective undergraduates, and students are able to interact with UCL representatives at events across the UK. However, nothing beats the opportunity to experience UCL directly, and right now organisation is in full swing for this year’s undergraduate Open Days. On Friday 29 and Saturday 30 June and Saturday 8 September, the campus will be taken over by up to 6,500 visitors, all wanting to find out more about what UCL offers.

We welcome students from all over the world to our open days including students based in the EU and overseas. International students will be well represented and not just those who are already studying in the UK. The timing of the events coincides with the summer holidays for many schools overseas, and students from all over the world take advantage of the opportunity to explore all aspects of UCL, from the academic to the social. Current students from many different countries work as ambassadors at the event, sharing their advice and experience.

Increase in campus tours 

Not everyone can visit at this time, especially those students who live overseas, so the number of campus tours throughout the year has been increased to give more prospective international students the chance to see and experience us for themselves.

Linking with international students who are already in the UK will continue to be an important element of our recruitment strategy. Making sure that we are open for business on campus so that we build on an existing interest in the UK and turn it into a desire to come – or stay – at UCL remains a high priority.

If you would like more information on the Open Days please contact: Hayley Simpson (Graduate) and Sandra Baerens (Undergraduate)

Ask an Academic: Dr Adriana Silva De Albuquerque

Sian EGardiner22 March 2019

Dr Adriana Silva De Albuquerque is a Research Associate at the UCL Division of Infection and Immunity. Her research interests broadly relate to the study of clinical models of human immunodeficiency.

She was among recent recipients of the UCL Global Engagement Funds, and last year used the seed funding to travel to a lab at the Karolinska Institutet in Solna, Sweden. We caught up with her to find out more about her research and her partnership with scientists in Sweden.

What are you working on at the moment?

My current project aim is to understand the pathogenic mechanisms of a group of rare, inherited conditions where individual components of the immune system are missing – known as ‘primary immunodeficiency syndromes’.

Our clinical team cares for the largest UK cohort of adults with primary immunodeficiencies for which whole genome sequencing has been performed. I’m developing new immune assays on patients’ cells as well as in cell lines and genetically modified cells, in order to assess the impact of novel genetic variants on immune cell function. With this project, we hope to expand our understanding of the underlying causes of primary immunodeficiencies, as well as to contribute to the development of new diagnostic tests that will hopefully lead to improved treatment of patients.

You were among recent recipients of UCL’s Global Engagement Funds (GEF). What led you to apply for the funds?

The possibility of visiting another lab [at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden] and the chance to become involved in the cutting-edge research they are doing. Having a curious mind and being very enthusiastic to learn more about immunology, I thought this would be a great opportunity for me on a professional level.

 Could you give a brief summary of the project that the funds supported?

We are interested in understanding the mechanisms underlying ‘LRBA deficiency’. LPS-responsive beige-like anchor (LRBA) deficiency is a severe primary immunodeficiency characterised by increased susceptibility to infections associated with autoimmune and inflammatory complications. The immune dysregulation caused by this disease results in a significant morbidity and mortality. The only curative approach is hematopoietic stem cell transplantation, which has only been done in a small number of cases.

How did your partnership with the Karolinska Institutet work?

UCL’s Global Engagement Funds enabled me to visit Dr Lisa Westerberg lab at the Karolinska Institutet, our collaborators on this project. Dr Westerberg has a strong expertise in primary immunodeficiencies and I was able to learn and exchange experiences with the PhD students and Post-Docs working in her lab. The time I spent in their lab was very rewarding as I was able to learn new techniques important for our current projects. I also had the opportunity to discuss our data with them, which contributed to the development of new research ideas.

During my stay in Sweden, I also visited the clinical lab based at the Karolinska University Hospital that does all the immunological tests for the diagnosis of primary immunodeficiencies. This was very interesting as I was able to learn some of the tests they are performing and also participate in the daily routine of a top level diagnostic lab.

How did you find the experience of collaborating overseas?

The experience of spending some time in the Karolinska Institute was very positive for me. What contributed most for the success of my stay was that I was able to analyse the LRBA knock-down cells we have genetically modified by electron microscopy, as the Karolinska Institute has a strong expertise in this technique and it was key for this project.

What would your advice be to anyone else hoping to collaborate globally?

Try to identify specific groups you might be interested because of their expertise, knowledge of specific techniques you want to learn or specific projects and ideas you would like to discuss with them. I would say the best way of approaching them would be in international conferences. Try to engage in discussions with scientists of different backgrounds and different levels of expertise. From my experience, scientists are very receptive to this kind of approach.

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

Sian EGardiner23 July 2018

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

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

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

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

Distributed in Doha libraries

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

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

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

Inspiring the next generation

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

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

Ongoing archaeological work

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

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

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

Sian EGardiner23 May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask GEO: Professor Gudrun Moore

Sian EGardiner22 May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What support will the new Academic Communications Support Centre provide?

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

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

What are next steps for the project?

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

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

What does gender equality have to do with global engagement?

Sian EGardiner11 May 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CEU head endorses academic freedom for the wider good in UCL speech 

Sian EGardiner23 April 2018

Prog Michael Igantieff speech at CGHE conferenceIn an increasingly authoritarian era, it is more important than ever to defend academic freedom as a right with huge benefits for wider society, rather than merely a “privilege for professors,” the Central European University (CEU)’s Professor Michael Ignatieff has argued in a speech at the annual Centre for Global Higher Education conference at UCL.

Appearing as the conference’s 2018 Burton R. Clark lecturer on 11 April, the Rector and President of the CEU in Budapest used the platform to urge people to see universities as “counter-majoritarian institutions,” just as a free press and an independent judiciary are seen as essential to counteracting majority governments.

Following an introduction from Dame Nicola Brewer, UCL’s Vice-Provost International, the CEU head’s speech touched on authoritarian turns to higher education in countries including Russia, China and Turkey, with Ignatieff warning of an emerging picture in which “single party regimes are everywhere privileging control over academic quality and openness to international academic life because they see academic freedom as a regime threat.”

Fighting back

Professor Ignatieff and the CEU have experienced the threat he referenced first hand. The institution is embroiled in an ongoing battle with the Hungarian government over its location in Hungary after it passed a law in April 2017 imposing varying restrictions on overseas universities in the country, including the mandate to maintain a campus in their home country.

Michael Igantieff and Nicola BrewerIgnatieff explained however that the subsequent outpouring of support for the CEU, which has included 75,000 marching through the streets of Hungary in opposition to the government decision, taught him that “universities should not underestimate their public support [nor] the power of their networks.”

Importantly, he realised, despite the institutional disposition of universities to be quiet, thoughtful and avoid conflict, “You sometimes have to fight a political battle to defend academic freedom.”

Academic freedom matters

Professor Ignatieff went on to admit that before this threat to the CEU, so close to home, he had “never really thought that hard about academic freedom. It seemed to be one of those little perks that middle-class educated people get to have.”

Now, however, he has realised, “We are not just fighting for a corporate privilege for ourselves; we are defending a counter majoritarian institution whose function is to serve and protect and defend the whole society’s capacity to know anything at all. That’s why academic freedom matters. If we defend it as a corporate privilege, we are done for. And that’s a central message that I have learned.”

Uncertain future for CEU

Professor Ignatieff said that the “thumping two-thirds majority” for Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary’s recent parliamentary election means that the prime minister “now holds all the cards” when it comes to the CEU’s future.

The CEU boss added however that the outcome will depend on whether closing the university “turns out to be sufficiently unpopular inside his own party”.

Search for truth 

Professor Ignatieff closed his speech by urging universities across the world to continue with its “unpopular job”. Institutions, he said, “have to train students that knowledge is extremely hard, that it’s a discipline you have to follow and once you’ve got it you have access to the most important thing a democratic system needs, which is the capacity to find out what is true.”

“It is an unpopular job and it’s a job that people may not want to hear. But it is our job and we have to defend it with courage and without any embarrassment. This is the moment when we really, really have to believe in what we do.”

Speaking to UCL’s global student body on International Women’s Day 2018

Sian EGardiner8 March 2018

To celebrate International Women’s Day, this month the GEO spoke to women from across UCL’s student population to find out what they make of studying at London’s Global University.

See the original series on Instagram: @UCL_Global.

Carly, MA Archaeology

Originally from Atlanta, Georgia in the US, Carly says: “Before I came to UCL I went to Princeton which is quite cut off from things in New Jersey, and I much prefer studying here – there’s just so much happening.

“I’m from Atlanta which is also a big city, but one of my favourite things about London is the markets: Borough, Spitalfields, Maltby Street… I also live right by Regents Park, so I can walk to class in 20 minutes.”

Vandita, MA Computer Graphics, Vision and Imaging

Originally from Delhi, India, Vandita says: “I came to London back in September. I chose UCL because of the faculty of Computer Science: I’d heard a lot about the facilities here; the labs and the teachers.

“I love London! In the past few years Delhi hasn’t been the safest place for women, but here I have a lot of freedom of movement. I can come here at 11 at night and stay in the grad hub listening to music and doing my work and I love that freedom so much. I love being able to move around without having to worry too much about my safety.

“I feel like London is a global city. You meet people from all over the place: in my class I have friends from China, from Ghana, from Europe. It really is global! If I get a chance I’d love to stay.”

Risa, third year Anthropology

Risa is now in her third year of Anthropology. “This is my third year in London. Before moving to London I lived in Jakarta, because my parents are diplomats.

“I knew I wanted to study either in the UK or the States and I chose UCL because it has a big name, and for Anthropology it’s one of the leading departments.

“I really like London – other than the weather! I love that there are so many things to do here; you’re never bored.”

Saskia, third year Biomedical Science

Saskia is originally from Germany, near Frankfurt. “I chose London first, and then UCL! I just love to be in an international setting; it’s a great way to meet different people. I live with two French people and most of the people on my course are international.

“When I graduate I’m going to take a year off to do some internships and hopefully combine it with some travelling. My first internship is in Cyprus and I’d like to go to Barcelona. In Cyprus, I’m going to be working for a stem cell bank; they collect the umbilical cords from all over the world and extract culture the stem cells.”

Explaining her subject choice, Saskia said: “I was always into biology. I work in a lab where there are almost only women. My supervisor is a woman too.”

She also joked, “The last lab that I worked in had an internship at the Cancer Institute and there were only one or two men working there – I’ve been lucky!”

Afikah, second year Medicine

Asked what she makes of UCL so far, second year Medicine student Afikah says: “Well, it’s in London and I don’t think there’s a better city! It’s also one of the best places to study Medicine. The research here is innovative and beyond anywhere else – especially in neuroscience, which is an area I’m really interested in.

“I keep changing what I want to specialise in. In sixth form it was paediatrics. In my next year I’ll be intercalating and I’ve chosen oncology, so I don’t know what I’ll end up doing.

“I live in North West London. I love the multiculturalism in London. Being a person of colour, it’s so nice seeing other people from different ethnic backgrounds and being able to connect with them. The diversity is absolutely amazing.

“You can do anything you want here; everything is around. I’d love to travel – that’s something I’m really interested in – but London’s where it’s at!”

Pauline, MA Financial Mathematics

“I did my undergrad in France, close to Paris, at an engineering school called Centrale Supelec,” says Pauline. “There’s a joint diploma between my school and UCL and so instead of going back to my school for the last year, I decided to come to UCL.

“I’ve lived in London since September. What I like about UCL is how huge it is! It’s like a campus within the city. You always have loads of students all around and there’s such diversity. I love the fact that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want; it’s completely different to France, which is a lot stricter. Here I like that I have more time to study by myself.

“I’d like to start my career in London and then eventually move back to Paris. In the industry I work in, finance, it’s moving a lot, and there are lots of opportunities here.”

Global Health 50/50 report launch set for International Women’s Day

Sian EGardiner2 February 2018

Global health 50 50This International Women’s Day, the UCL Centre for Gender and Global Health will launch the inaugural report of Global Health 50/50 at UCL.

The launch event, in collaboration with UNAIDS, will take place on 8 March at UCL’s Kennedy Lecture Theatre in London, from 18.30-19.45.

Hosted by UCL’s Vice-Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer, the event will showcase key findings from the Global Health 50/50 initiative, which aims to promote gender equality in global health. The first report of its kind, it will take an in-depth look at the gender policies and practices of the world’s most influential global health organisations.

140 organisations

The extensive report takes a unique, 360 degree approach to the topic, analysing both the gender-responsiveness of external programmes and operations, as well as the internal workplace policies and practices of over 140 organisations.

Global Health 50/50 will also look at the extent to which organisations commit and take action to promote gender equality, help identify where change is needed and share examples of best practice for effecting this.

Driving action and accountability

The event next month will feature an interactive panel with speakers including Jocalyn Clark, Executive Editor of medical journal The Lancet, and Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, with discussions set to cover the steps needed to advance gender equality in global health.

Speaking ahead of the event, Dr Sarah Hawkes, Professor of Global Public Health, said, “Global Health 50/50 is much more than just a report.

“Global Health 50/50 is a policy initiative that will help drive action and accountability for gender across global health through advocacy based on evidence, transparency for accountability, and a core belief that progress is both possible and necessary.”

Later this month, Professor Hawkes is also set to join Difficult Dialogues 2018, a three-day event in Goa which will see academics from UCL’s Institute of Global Health join global media, policymakers and practitioners to address challenges to gender equality in India and beyond.