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

GuestBlogger25 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.”

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

SophieVinter29 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

Bridging the gap: social media use in China

SophieVinter13 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.”