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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

Preparing for the Higher Education Review

By Kerry Milton, on 24 August 2015

Preparations are underway for UCL’s upcoming Higher Education Review by the Quality Assurance Agency (QAA) in May 2016.

The QAA is the UK-wide agency responsible for monitoring and advising on the standards and quality of UK higher education. As part of a common framework for quality assurance, all universities agree to be subject to an independent review by QAA every six years – it could be said that this process is the equivalent of the REF for teaching.

This is a great opportunity to showcase UCL’s achievements but also provides a space to think realistically about what we do and how we could do it better in order to benefit our students and other stakeholders.

Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice Provost (International) comments, “The HER can help us deliver our Global Engagement Strategy even more effectively. At the core of our strategy is global academic partnerships, which may include dual or joint degrees as well as student and staff mobility. It’s vital we get these right. The HER will enable us to test the robust nature and high quality of our partnership provision.”

The review is peer-led and takes place in two stages: there is a desk-based analysis of our review documentation which will start in February 2016; this will be followed by a visit of the review team in May 2016.

Over the summer, key UCL colleagues have been working on the Self-Evaluation Document (SED) that forms the basis of the review documentation.  The next stage over the coming weeks is to work with colleagues across UCL for their input on the SED and to provide examples of evidence for the review documentation.

Unlocking Doha’s past: object conservation at UCL Qatar

By Kerry Milton, on 20 August 2015

Peering through a microscope, Eleni Asderaki-Tzoumerkioti carefully scrapes at the blue-green corrosion covering a metal artifact. Eleni has been a conservator of antiquities since 1978, and is an Honorary Research Associate at the UCL Institute of Archaeology since 2002, and at UCL Qatar since 2012. She specialises in metals with an extra research interest in glass and pigments. This expertise guides her as she conserves artifacts excavated during the Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation in 2013-2014.

Objects before conservation

QMA and UCL-Qatar Qubib Mosque Excavation

Conservation of these artefacts is critical; after excavation the artefacts can corrode remarkably, sometimes disintegrating completely while kept in storage. Conservation work both preserves artefacts and can help archaeologists identify details that were missed in excavation or obscured by corrosion.

Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation

The Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation team recovered several metal objects including coins jewlery, padlocks, daggers as well as objects for everyday use. Through conservation, Eleni has brought the artefacts back to life. Delicate scrollwork adorns the padlock that Eleni is working on, but when she turns the padlock over, there is a big surprise: the padlock has been forced open!

Eleni examining the padlock

There is a large puncture in the back of the padlock, only revealed under the careful work of a conservator. Eleni also X-rays the objects, revealing their inner workings, She then determines what they are made of through non-destructive XRF analysis.

X-rays of the padlocks

As research continues on the artefacts revealed by the Joint QM-UCL Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation, we gain insights into daily life in early 20th century Doha.

EWB-UCL receives letter of appreciation from Nepal

By Kerry Milton, on 14 August 2015

In July, the Engineers Without Borders (EWB) team at UCL received a thoughtful letter of appreciation from the Team for Nature and Wildlife in Nepal thanking them for their hard work building an earthquake resistant school in the region, which survived the tragic earthquake that hit the region in April. See below for the letter in full:

To: Engineers Without Borders (EWB) University College London (UCL) and Team Members Kristy Revell, Paul Davies, OyinAdeniji, Jacob Borchers

A letter of appreciation

For building an earthquake-resistance school for underprivileged children

Dear EWB-UCL team/members,

I, on behalf on TNW, would like to extend this letter of appreciation to you in recognition of your great efforts and contribution in constructing an earthquake-resistant school building in 2012/13.

We feel extremely sad with the news that 36 people were killed in Dolakha by the 12th May Earthquake, which had its epicenter in Sunkhani VDC, of the district. This is the same VDC where TNW Nepal built an earthquake resistant school building fro the underprivileged and disadvantaged children of SaraswatiVidyaMandir, with your great support.

The school building ithat we built with your hard work, efforts and contribution is safe and without any damage.

I would look forward to working with EWB-UCL and team members in our future social initiatives too.


BK Dalit, Leadership-TNW

15th July 2015

For more information on EWB-UCL, please visit the website

UCL education continues in Africa with Citrus Saturday

By Kerry Milton, on 8 July 2015

Forty young people from Swaziland took the opportunity to show off their entrepreneurial talents on 4 July as they took part in Citrus Saturday, a UCL (University College London) initiative aimed at demonstrating the link between hard work, having fun and making money. Pupils from four schools in Mbabane and Manzini became entrepreneurs for a day, making and selling their own lemonade products at sites across the two cities. This marks the start of a summer of activity across six African countries.

In Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Kenya and Niger, charities, schools and other organisations will implement the programme into their work, continuing to bring UCL’s world-class entrepreneurship education to young people on two continents.

Saturday 4 July 2015 saw Citrus Saturday activities run in ten countries in Europe. The day started at UCL’s new business co-working space on Camley Street, BASE King’s Cross. The Swazi High Commissioner, Mrs. Dumsile Thandi Sukati was in attendance to celebrate UCL’s continuing partnership with Junior Achievement Swaziland.

Citrus Saturday, which is in its fifth year, is a hands-on education programme developed by UCL to provide an introduction to business for young people. Jack Wratten, Citrus Saturday Manager, said: “This year we helped 125 kids from 20 different London schools in our activities in London alone; there were many more across the UK and in other countries, including 6 countries in Africa.

“Citrus Saturday helps to fulfill the need for enterprise education in a fun and easy way, students directly learn skills not only valuable for entrepreneurs but for the entire workforce of tomorrow.”

Participation in the programme, which was established in 2011 by Timothy Barnes, Director of UCL Advances – UCL’s centre for entrepreneurship, has tripled since last year and aims to engage with 1 million school students by 2020.

Yale UCL Collaboration Development Fund – Award Winners

By Kerry Milton, on 1 July 2015

UCL launched the Yale UCL Collaboration Development Fund in April 2015 in order to foster research and teaching collaboration between UCL and Yale as part of the development of the Yale UCL Collaborative.

UCL received a large number of applications to the Fund from across all Faculties, with a very high standard noted by the UCL Selection Panel, making the decision making process very difficult.

Five awards have been made as follows:

UCL Recipient
UCL Department
Collaborative Project Overview
Professor Kwang-Leong Choy Institute for Materials Science To establish a close collaboration with the Yale Dept of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science through joint seminars, ‘pathways and roadmapping’ for collaboration, creation of a Network in materials science and joint funding bids.
Dr Amanda Greene Department of Philosophy To establish a multi-year multi-disciplinary research collaboration with the Yale Dept of Philosophy, Dept of Political Science and Law on the topic of ‘Political Reasoning and the Discourse of Rights.’
Dr Marc Lipman Division of Medicine To build on existing links with Yale through a two-day collaborative academic workshop in areas related to Tuberculosis (TB) with a wide range of outcomes and impact predicted.
Dr Norman Williams Division of Surgery and Interventional Science To establish strong academic links with Yale General Medicine in the area of data sharing and clinical trials.
Dr Parama Chaudhury, Dr Cloda Jenkins and Dr Christian Spielmann Department of Economics To establish a collaboration with the Yale Dept of Economics around teaching materials and methods, in order to encourage teaching excellence in both departments.

UCL recipients will work with their Yale collaborator over the 2015-16 academic to progress their project, with each funding recipient planning to build their links into longer term collaboration.

Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International) and Chair of the Yale UCL Collaborative – UCL Steering Committee said of the Fund, “The Yale UCL Collaborative is an important partnership for UCL, which began initially as a collaboration in biomedicine in 2009. Over the past year UCL and Yale have initiated a broadening of the Collaborative which now seeks to extend collaboration into Arts and Humanities, Social and Historical Sciences and Laws amongst other areas. The high number and exceptional standards of applications for funding which were received from each Faculty across UCL is very encouraging for the Collaborative and underpins the broadening nature of and academic interest in the partnership.”

UCL receives five Newton Fund Advanced Fellowships

By Kerry Milton, on 25 June 2015

The Academy of Medical Sciences, the British Academy and the Royal Society have announced the first round of recipients of their new research funding scheme, the Newton Advanced Fellowships, including five UCL academics.

The scheme provides established international researchers with an opportunity to develop the research strengths and capabilities of their research groups through training, collaboration and reciprocal visits with a partner in the UK.

The Fellowships awarded will last for up to three years and are support researchers across the natural sciences, medical sciences, social sciences and humanities. Recipients will receive up to £37,000 for each year.

The UCL award winners are:

UCL academic and department
Partner academic and university
Dr Huiliang Li, Wolfson Institute of Biomedical Research Dr Wenlin Li, Second Military Medical University in Shanghai, China Towards rapid and efficient production of oligodendrocyte precursors from human pluripotent stem cells
Dr Paola Oliveri, Department of Genetics, Evolution & Environment Dr Jiang Liu, Beijing Institute of Genomics, Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, China Epigenetic control of development: Inheritance and reprogramming of parental DNA methylomes in sea urchins
Professor Stephan Beck, UCL Cancer Institute Professor Andrew Teschendorff, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Shanghai Institute for Biological Sciences, China Dissection of Intra-Sample Epigenetic Heterogeneity using Blind Source Separation Algorithms
Professor Richard Catlow, Department of  Chemistry Professor Hasani Chauke, University of Limpopo, South Africa Computational Modelling for Titanium Development
Dr Emiliano De Cristofaro, Department of Computer Science Professor Alptekin Küpçü from Koç University, Turkey Password-based and Social Authentication: Preventing Phishing and Malware

The Newton Advanced Fellowships are supported through the Newton Fund, a £375 million fund (£75 million a year for five years) which, through science and innovation partnerships, aims to promote the economic development and welfare of poor people in developing countries. The fund is overseen by the Department for Businesses Innovation and Skills (BIS) and delivered through 15 delivery partners in collaboration with 15 partnering countries.

Further information on the scheme is available at the British Academy website

Three new MA programmes in African Studies to launch

By Kerry Milton, on 23 June 2015

In the 2015/2016 academic year UCL will launch three new masters programmes in African Studies, with pathways in Health, Heritage and the Environment.

It is perhaps remarkable that UCL has not pursued African Studies until now. For many years UCL has been the centre of Africanist scholarship in Anthropology and Geography and became the UK’s first venue for the study of African Historical Archaeology and Heritage in the 1990s. In terms of full-time, permanent scholars whose primary area of research lies in the African continent, a total of 37 academic staff, we are on a par with SOAS. Unlike SOAS, our expertise ranges principally across the Social and Natural Sciences.

The African Studies Masters programmes are set to take advantage of UCL’s traditional strengths in the anthropology and geography of African environments, research into regional health, epidemics and medical infrastructure, and the cultural and archaeological heritage of the continent and its management. This is NOT a typical approach to African Studies. Historically, African Studies has been deeply embedded either in the Humanities (with strong linguistic leanings) and/or in areas of political science and international policy. Its post-colonial creation as a discipline was largely shaped by the needs of the Foreign Office and Commonwealth NGOs.

We are proposing a new concept of African Studies at UCL as a fully inter-disciplinary nexus point for collaboration and information sharing across the sciences, social sciences and humanities. This approach will have utility both for international policy making and business bodies, as well as enhanced relevance for those working within African national infrastructures.

The initiative to launch African Studies at UCL was put forward by Anthony Costello, Mary Fulbrook, Jonathan Wolff, and Kevin MacDonald. The academic lead of this new programme, MacDonald, is a senior scholar in African Historical Anthropology and Archaeology, with inter-disciplinary research on ethnic ambiguity in Africa, slavery and memory in West Africa and the Diaspora, pre-colonial West African political systems, and heritage management.

The programme as a whole is coordinated by a steering committee of Africanists, drawn from across a range of disciplines: Ben Page (Geography) Sara Randall & Jerome Lewis (Anthropology), Michael Walls (DPU, Bartlett), Paul Basu (Institute of Archaeology), and Anthony Costello (Health). This summer two new Lecturers in African Studies will join UCL: Hélène Neveu Kringelbach (formerly of Oxford) and Matthew Davies (formerly of Cambridge).

Expect a range of African events next year at UCL, including major guest speakers from the continent, new seminar series, photographic exhibitions and concerts.

UCL African Studies is situated within the Centre for Multicultural and Interdisciplinary Inquiry and the Institute of Advanced Studies.

Passion for research, commitment to education: the archaeology programme at UCL Qatar

By Kerry Milton, on 4 March 2015

Dr Jose C. Carvajal Lopez, Lecturer in Islamic Archaeology at UCL Qatar, reflects upon the establishment of the MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World degree programme, and aspirations for growth.

Jose C. Carvajal Lopez, UCL Qatar

One of the privileges of teaching at UCL Qatar is to find highly motivated students who need only minimal guidance to set up and accomplish interesting and valuable research projects. The first generation of our students on the MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World degree programme have addressed such varied issues as the ethnography of nomadic campsites in the Qatari desert, the technological transformations of Serbian pottery after the Ottoman conquest, the development of characteristic types of wares of the late Islamic period in the Gulf, the cultural connections of a piece of Fatimid woodwork conserved in Doha’s Museum of Islamic Art, and the creation of a recovery plan for the heritage of the war-ravaged town of Aleppo, Syria.

Each one of these topics reflects the passion and commitment of our students, who have in many cases travelled long distances and adapted to a different culture in order to have the chance to give everything in their projects.

The first generation of our students hailed from countries as diverse as Lebanon, Serbia, Qatar, Syria and the UK. The second generation, already preparing their dissertation, have added new countries to that list: Egypt, Italy, USA, Libya, Czech Republic, Mexico, Yemen and Jordan. And the third generation, just starting, includes students from such distant places as Indonesia, Spain and Canada, only mentioning those countries that have not appeared previously in this list.

When looking at students across the whole department, enrolled on one of our five different programmes (MA Museum and Gallery Practice, MSc Conservation Studies, MA Library and Information Studies and Diploma in Academic Research and Methods), we teach more than eighty individuals from nearly 40 countries. The environment is exciting and enriching, as cultural exchange between us, the UCL Qatar academic staff, and these highly motivated students forms part of our daily experience.

The first generation of our archaeology students has set a very high standard, but this is in fact something that makes us proud and eager to follow up. Each single dissertation was a piece of innovative research that brings something new into the field of archaeology and, above all, conveys to the reader that the author loved and cherished the topic on which they wrote. This is a brilliant start, but it is nowhere close to where we want to go.

The archaeologists lecturing and researching at UCL Qatar vibrate with the passion lived in this environment, and we do worry about providing our students with the opportunities that they search and have worked so hard to find. Our flagship projects in Qatar, Sudan and Egypt have provided numerous chances of internships for some of them, and our involvement in projects with institutions in Spain, Palestine, Iraq, Greece, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Netherlands, Albania, Kuwait, Turkey, Uzbekistan and the UK have been exploited in field placements, exchanges and internships. The students demand and deserve more still: some of them look for projects and placements in Central Asia and India, and this is something that of course we take very seriously, as we are proud to be a Global University.

This is ambitious, but it is not without a realistic aim: to provide our students with the chance to develop their own potential and to satisfy the passion that has taken them away from their more or less distant homes to a place where education and research are heads and tails of the same coin.

Celebrating the Year of the Goat… or is it Ram? Or Sheep?

By Kerry Milton, on 25 February 2015

On 24 February, nearly 160 UCL students from China and Hong Kong gathered in the North Cloisters to celebrate Chinese New Year.

For over a decade, successive UCL Pro-Vice-Provosts have marked the Chinese New Year with an informal drinks reception for staff and students from China, and for staff working with Chinese partners.

The issue of whether it was in fact the Year of the Goat, Sheep or Ram, a debate hotly contested in the media this year, was raised by Pro-Vice-Provost for China, Professor Xiao Guo, who suggested that if the year was anything like UCL students, who are independent and auspicious, 2015 must be the Year of the Goat.

“People born in a Year of the Goat are generally believed to be gentle mild-mannered, shy, stable, sympathetic, amicable, and brimming with a strong sense of kindheartedness and justice.

They have very delicate thoughts, strong creativity, and perseverance, and acquire professional skills well. Although they look gentle on the surface, they are tough on the inside, always insisting on their own opinions in their minds. They have strong inner resilience and excellent defensive instincts.”

China Highlights

Speakers and guests at the event included:

  • Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President and Provost
  • Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice Provost (International)
  • Sir John Boyd, Chairman of Asia House
  • Lord Tim Clement Jones, UCL Council and House of Lords All Party China Group
  • Professor emeritus, Michael Worton

Visit the UCL Global China webpage for the latest information on partnerships and collaborations in the region, current activities and details on how to join the UCL staff China Regional Network