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Yale UCL Collaborative Poetry Competition announces winners for 2014

By Kerry Milton, on 22 January 2015

The winners of the Yale UCL Collaborative Medical and Engineering Students’ Poetry Competition 2014 have been announced. Over 121 poems were submitted for judging this year, making it one of the largest number of entries the competition has received.

First prize was jointly awarded to two UCL students – Emily Van Blankenstein (UCL Medicine) for her poem entitled ‘Morning’ and Nicholas Taylor (UCL Civil Engineering) for his poem entitled ‘Cliffs of Moher.’ Joint second prize was awarded to Hana Tsuruhara (UCL Medicine), Antonio Seccomandi (UCL Engineering) and Jacob Izenberg (Yale Medicine).

Download a PDF of all the winning entries

Yale UCL Collaborative Poetry Competition 2014 - Emily Van Blankenstein

Of her win, Emily said, “It’s easy to let medicine dominate your identity – it felt almost rebellious to submit something with no reference to hospitals, patients, scars. Having the chance to express the side of me the hospital doesn’t see was an unexpected joy.”

The judging took place by video conference between staff at UCL and at Yale and this year included Professor John Martin (Co-Director of Yale UCL Collaborative (Biomedicine) and UCL Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine), Professor Timothy Mathews (UCL Professor of French and Comparative Criticism), Professor Thomas Duffy (Professor Emeritus and Professor of Medicine), Mr Marco Federighi (UCL Sub-Dean and Faculty Tutor in Engineering Sciences) and Professor Barry Zaret (Yale Professor Emeritus and Senior Research Scientist in Medicine and Professor of Diagnostic Radiology). The judges observed that the standard of entries was the highest seen, with students willing to expose deep emotions within their poetry.

The Yale UCL Students’ Poetry Competition was launched in February 2011 by Professor John Martin using funds donated by a patient. The aim of the competition is to stimulate creativity and expression amongst students in both medical and engineering schools, and to find through the use of poetry, the commonality of experience amongst students.

Yale UCL Collaborative Poetry Competition 2014 - Nicholas Taylor

Professor Martin, who has long been an advocate of the importance of the humanities as part of medical education, hoped the competition could help doctors to understand they have both a scientific and a human function in relation to their patients, as well as being able to cope with the personal pains associated with dealing with patients.

Over 450 poems have been submitted for judging over the course of the last five years of the competition, written on a huge range of topics and drawing inspiration both from classical and modern forms. Many who decide to enter the competition are not keen amateur poets; rather, they are students who have been stimulated for the first time by the competition to submit an original piece of work.

It is hoped that a small volume of poetry containing the best poems from the competitions will be published in the coming months.

Article by Sophie Constantinou, UCL Medicine and this year’s competition organiser

BASc Programme Director presents at Japanese Symposium

By Kerry Milton, on 21 November 2014

On 20 November 2014, Carl Gombrich, Programme Director for the Arts and Sciences BASc was invited to speak at the ‘Arts and Sciences for Global Leaders’ Symposium in Tokyo.

The event was organised by Hitotsubashi University and the Japan Association of National Universities in order to explore the possibility of liberalising the educational offerings at Hitotsubashi and to discuss the relevance and growing importance of; broad-based liberal arts programmes and interdisciplinarity.

The Symposium, held at Hitotsubashi Hall was well attended with representatives from Japanese government agencies, the financial world and different levels of education among the three-hundred strong audience. Also speaking at the Symposium were Frances Cairncross (Rector, Exeter College, Oxford University), Teisuke Kitayama (Chairman of the Board of the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation) and Tamotsu Aoki (Director General, The National Art Center, Tokyo).

Carl took the opportunity to speak about three distinct areas; openness, complexity, and liberal education where he drew specific examples from the BASc Programme at UCL which is now in its third year. Particularly relevant to the BASc was the talk given by Teisuke Kitayama who discussed the traits that the Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation looked for in graduates. Teisuke talked about looking for “pi-shaped graduates”, i.e. those with breadth and two specialisations. A panel discussion featuring the speakers and other academic members of staff from Hitotsubashi University followed, with similar themes discussed, along with more abstract ideas explored in relation to education and more specifically, the liberal arts model.

Summing up, Professor Yamauchi, President of Hitotsubashi University declared the Symposium a success and a starting point for further consideration of the liberal approach and how Hitotsubashi may apply it to their curricula. Professor Yamauchi backed the approach of the BASc, stating that “arts, social sciences and hard sciences need to be combined” and at Hitotsubashi, they would need to find ways to give students the freedom to think creatively.

UCL-Zurich collaboration in neuroscience: expanding our knowledge

By Kerry Milton, on 10 November 2014

UCL and the Neuroscience Center Zürich are two of the world’s leading research institutions for neuroscience, comprising over 500 research groups covering the entire spectrum from basic to clinical research. A research agreement was signed in March 2012 to strengthen the existing collaborations and foster new interactions in research and training in neuroscience.

Computer simulation of pyramidal neurons in the cerebral cortex by Michael Häusser

UCL is a global powerhouse in neuroscience and behaviour research, ranked second in the world and producing more than twice as many publications as any other European institution. There are over 400 neuroscience research groups across UCL, whose research interests span from understanding how individual components of our nerve cells work at a molecular level through to developing and testing new drugs on patients. Given the scale of research at UCL, you may wonder why there is a need to set up collaboration with another university: surely the expertise can be found ‘in-house’?

Firstly, the grand challenges that we face require knowledge and expertise from all over the world. According to EU estimates, the cost of brain diseases now exceed those of cancer, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes added together. To meet this challenge, we need stronger basic research, closer collaboration with clinical research on patients, and a greater integration of the diverse disciplines of brain research. Establishing this partnership with Zurich will allow us to bring about the application of collective expertise to some of these challenges.

Secondly, linking with another organisation will open up access to new expertise, ideas and technologies that are not available at UCL. For example, the ZNZ has a strong focus on translational research, with strength in the engineering sciences, basic neuroscience and imaging.

Thirdly, more research collaboration between institutions enables an effective coherent case to be made for public investment in research. This must still be a major priority for universities and funders to ensure sustainable funding in the future.

Two neurons of the inferior olive by Alexandre Mathy, UCL

Although smaller than UCL, the Neuroscience Center Zurich (ZNZ), which comprises the University of Zurich, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and five university hospitals, is one of the top European institutions for neuroscience. There are over 120 basic, clinical and applied research groups that cover the entire spectrum of neuroscience ranging from molecular and cellular processes in the brain, physiology and diseases of the nervous system, to computational modelling and psychology. Given the complementarity between the two institutions, both in research and strategic aims, and unique areas of strength, it was agreed to facilitate a partnership enabling scientific interactions to develop between the two universities. The aim of the partnership is to:

  • foster existing and new research collaborations by seed funds
  • establish honorary appointments for faculty members engaged in collaborative projects
  • organise joint training workshops
  • facilitate the shared use of technologies and technology platforms
  • seek funding, through external institutions and private funding, to support the activities and development of the partnership

The collaboration between UCL and the ZNZ has been running successfully now for two years, and has seen the institutions provide seed money to support 15 pilot studies and workshops into a variety of neuroscience-based research areas. The joint work has covered a number of disease areas, including epilepsy, mental health, multiple sclerosis, and stroke, and the use of imaging to guide neurosurgery.

Workshops have been held to explore and share knowledge on cutting-edge technologies such as how should robotics be used to aid upper limb rehabilitation after stroke, and how to map the connections between nerves in order to understand their function. Already some of this seed money has allowed researchers to apply for and be successful in securing funding for further collaborative studies.

Looking forward, we see the important benefits that maintaining the partnership will generate for our neuroscience research. We are now working closely with Zurich to secure the financial support that will allow this enterprise to continue to flourish.

Image credits: First image, computer simulation of pyramidal neurons in the cerebral cortex by Michael Häusser, UCL. Second image, two neurons of the inferior olive by Alexandre Mathy, UCL.

27 nationalities represented in UCL Qatar’s third student intake

By Kerry Milton, on 3 November 2014

UCL Qatar welcomed 51 new students from 27 countries on to its Master’s degree programmes and Diploma course in September 2014. The third intake of students to join the department, they are the biggest and most diverse cohort to date, reflecting the growing demand for the programmes both locally and internationally.

UCL Qatar’s most popular programme continues to be the one-year MA in Museum and Gallery Practice, where 17 of the 51 new students are enrolled, closely followed by the one-year MA in Library and Information Studies with 13. The nine students enrolled on the Diploma in Academic Research and Methods are each aiming to progress onto their chosen Master’s degree programme in 2015.

Among the nationalities, Qatar is the most represented, with Qatari students making up 24% of the year-group. The majority of Arab countries are each represented, with students from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Tunisia enrolling this year.

Outside of the region, students hail from the UK, Greece, USA, France, Spain, Somalia, India, Belarus, Montenegro, Malaysia, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Nigeria, South Korea, Canada, Pakistan, Kenya and Singapore.

The programmes draw a combination of long-term Qatar residents and professionals, as well as students coming from overseas who hold a specific interest in the heritage and culture of the Gulf region. The majority of graduates remain in Qatar, pursuing roles in the rapidly growing museums and heritage sector.

This year’s new students join 27 returning students who are enrolled on the two-year MA Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World or MSc Conservation Studies, or who are undertaking a Research degree.

Other key facts from UCL Qatar’s 2014 cohort:

  • 70% female, 30% male
  • Age range from 21 to 62
  • 27 students in their 20’s
  • Average age of 30
  • English and at least 20 other languages are spoken, including Arabic, Swahili, Somali, Pashtun, Urdu, Greek and Montenegrin
  • Current and former careers include: archaeologist, Egyptologist, artist, curator, museum manager, ethnographer, photographer, architect and translator

(In)forming the next generation of city leaders

By Kerry Milton, on 29 October 2014

The City Leadership Initiative (CLI) is a joint project of UCL, UN-Habitat and the World Bank aimed at understanding the role of city leaders in the wake of global challenges, and at better informing urban policymakers in global cities, and beyond.

Based at the new Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (UCL STEaPP) established by UCL in 2013, CLI is collaborating with major international players to improve understanding of how city leadership translates into long-term strategic visions and to foster a governance of the urban environment that is informed, responsible and forward-looking.

Why do we need city leaders?

The United Nations recognises the importance of urbanisation in its ‘New Urban Agenda’ (Habitat III) to be released in 2016 and major international actors like the World Bank are making strides in charting the path for the evolution of cities in the 21st century.

However, little is known and discussed about those who are deemed to be responsible and at the very heart of these momentous challenges: city leaders. Recognizing this substantial gap, UCL STEaPP has teamed up with UN-Habitat’s UNI and Safer Cities programmes, as well as with the World Bank’s Leadership, Learning and Innovation Vice-Presidency, to encourage an innovative dialogue on the future of cities and the global political role of their leaders.

CLI will act as an open initiative designed specifically with those key policy practitioners like UN-Habitat, that are tasked with delivering and enhancing city leadership.

What will CLI do?

The Initiative is working towards Urban Connections, a global overview of city leadership covering over 200 local governments the world over, in collaboration with UN-Habitat, World Bank and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), and has already partnered with a number of other key urban actors to expand its focus on specific challenges for city leaders. For instance, in collaboration with the Japanese Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR), CLI has developed a project on the influence of city branding and the responsibilities that city leaders are taking when presenting their visions to the world, titled Branding the City

World Urban Forum 2014

With Palgrave Macmillan, CLI is launching a new series on Cities and the Global Politics of the Environment that is based on Palgrave’s Pivot platform, offering affordable and rapid publication monographs gathering challenging research on the interplay between global urbanism and environmental governance.

Likewise, in collaboration with the UK Government Office for Science, and in particular its Foresight project on the Future of Cities, CLI is currently conducting a national review of the strategic priorities and challenges of city leadership in 37 UK cities, The Future of City Leadership in the UK, and is planning on extending this national review to several developing and developed countries beyond Europe.

The Initiative is charting new collaborations with key international players like the World Health Organisation or leading centers of research like the Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’ and the Australian National University, to expand in 2015 its research on city networks, strategic planning and city diplomacy.

What has CLI discovered so far?

CLI’s research has already evidenced the challenge and merits of thinking cities ‘in context’, beyond North-South and ‘global city’ divides, and has been testifying as to critical role of strategic planning, city networking and city diplomacy in a time of pressing more-than-national challenges.

We need, however, to pay closer attention to the capacity, leadership structures and catalytic capacity of cities, perhaps pointing towards the wider need for ‘new’ city leadership positions like Chief Resiliency Officers, city diplomats or urban Chief Scientific Advisers. CLI has been promoting these changes, for instance, by collaborating in underlying the role of city (health) diplomacy with WHO on phase V of its Healthy Cities network, or by collaborating with Clingendael and the Robert Bosch Foundation on a China-Europe “city diplomacy consensus.”

As of 2015 CLI will also lead the establishment at UCL of UN-Habitat’s Safer Cities Hub, one of eight core research hubs connecting universities from around the world to provide advice and promote collaborations in the area of urban safety and security. The path towards Habitat III, and beyond 2016 in the implementation of a fair, responsible and innovative new urban agenda is a challenging one, but the growing interest and sustained international support

Find out more

Interested in the Initiative or keen on engaging? Visit CLI’s website or contact us – today’s urban challenge require cross-disciplinary and science-policy collaborations more than ever!

What is the Newton Fund?

By Kerry Milton, on 27 October 2014

The Newton Fund is part of the UK’s official international development assistance. This new funding is designed to promote the long term economic development and welfare of people in partner countries and unlock new opportunities for HEIs to contribute and build partnerships.

The fund is worth £75 million each year from 2014 for 5 years, predicated upon reciprocal funding in cash or kind from each partner country.

The partner countries have been confirmed as 15 fast-developing economies, identified by OECD:

  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • China
  • Colombia
  • Egypt
  • India
  • Indonesia
  • Kazakhstan
  • Malaysia
  • Mexico
  • Philippines
  • South Africa
  • Thailand
  • Turkey
  • Vietnam

The fund has a governance board chaired by the Minister for Universities and Science, while BIS will oversee the management of the fund via a core group of ‘delivery partners’, including various academies, the British Council and International Higher Education Unit, Research Councils UK, Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Met Office.

The fund is organised into a wide-ranging series of collaborative programmes grouped into three ‘pillars’: People, Programmes, Translation.

Each UK delivery partner has a particular role in promoting different programmes; see Newton Fund Programme Descriptions [PDF] for further information.

Each partner country decides upon its own priorities in consultation with the UK delivery partners and UK diplomatic centres in-country, according to local need and the local availability of reciprocal matching resources.

How to apply

UCL applications for Newton funding will follow the applicant’s usual departmental procedures in line with the relevant Newton Fund delivery partner’s requirements. Further guidance if required can be obtained from the research facilitation team member for the appropriate School, visit the Office of the Vice Provost for Research website for contact information

Useful information

An overview of the BIS policy [webpage]

The Newton Fund Programme Descriptions [PDF]

Government Newton Fund Presentation [PowerPoint]

Frequently asked questions [PDF]

Universities UK International Unit maintains an up-to-date web page as a one-stop for all current calls [webpage]

Universities UK International Unit runs an email alert service for all new calls, and UCL colleagues are encouraged to sign up for this [webpage]

DPU awarded Comic Relief grant for Sierra Leone project

By Kerry Milton, on 23 October 2014

The Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU) has been successful in a grant application to Comic Relief, and has been awarded £830,776 for the project, “Sierra Leone Urban Research Centre (SLURC): Capacities and knowledge for improving the well-being of slum dwellers.”

Freetown by Alexandre Apsan Frediani

The DPU will be running this project with Njala University in Sierra Leone, and in particular working with DPU alumnus Joseph Macarthy from Njala University’s Institute of Geography and Development Studies. The project is set to run over 36 months and due to start in 2015.

While the current Ebola outbreak presents challenges for this project, at the same time it re-emphasises the importance of developing the knowledge needed for actions to improve living conditions in informal settlements which are particularly vulnerable to these health crises.

The project builds on a feasibility study of existing information and knowledge on Freetown informal settlements, supported by Comic Relief in 2013, which DPU’s Alexandre Apsan Frediani contributed to, and is part of a broader city initiative that Comic Relief is funding in 4 countries (Cape Town, Freetown, Kampala and Lusaka) as part of their broader work on informal settlements. The feasibility study findings revealed the fragmented and limited data on informal settlements in Sierra Leone, largely due to insufficient institutional capacity for the generation, and dissemination, of urban research.

The project will therefore focus on working with Njala University to set up an urban research centre in Freetown, and working to build the capacity of the centre and its wider research networks (including residents of informal settlements and their organisations) as a research and data dissemination hub, with a view to ensuring its sustainability beyond the frame of the project.

The proposal was put together by DPU’s Andrea Rigon and Joseph Macarthy on behalf of Njala University, with support from DPU’s Caren Levy and Julian Walker, who joined Andrea for the assessment meeting with Comic Relief, as well as Alexandre Apsan Frediani, and Michael Walls (who will be on the project steering committee).

The DPU looks forward to starting work on this proposal, which we anticipate will lead to important impacts on the lives of slum dwellers in Sierra Leone, provide an opportunity to work with current Comic Relief funded partners in Freetown (and the other cities), as well as generating interesting research and collaboration opportunities for the DPU, Njala University and their wider urban networks (including the African Centre for Cities and the African Association of Planning Schools, who will also be represented on the steering committee.)

Making Museums

By Kerry Milton, on 1 September 2014

UCL has opened its doors to museum professionals from around the world through a new Museum Training School (MTS) – an innovative CPD programme developed in partnership with the British Council Global Skills Unit.

A group discussion at the Museum Training School

Participants from over 16 countries attended, selected from more than 450 applications.

100 cultural institutions and museums provided speakers, expertise and visits during the four weeks of the summer school, the programme made up of four courses each exploring the major facets of museum working:

  • How to build local, national and international partnerships
  • How to develop exhibitions
  • How to develop schools and learning programmes
  • How to develop community engagement programmes

Each course followed a project-based model of learning. Students in the ‘How to develop exhibitions’ course, for example, had the opportunity to handle authentic objects from the world renowned Petrie Museum Collection, then immediately apply this knowledge to a contemporary art exhibition which they curated at the end of the week.

In the ‘How to develop community engagement programmes’ course, participants created innovative projects to improve museum practice in their host institutions and countries.

How to build local, national and international partnerships course

A group get to work on developing an exhibition

At the end of their course, each participant presented partnership proposals to develop their museum’s practices. The Director of the National Museum Bangkok presented an innovative idea of getting staff training from a local airline to develop his staff’s customer service and people skills, essential for any museum.

How to develop exhibitions course

Participants on the Exhibitions course learned about the ground skills of exhibition work, from object handling to airport couriering. At the end of the week curatorial teams displayed a mini exhibition using the British Council’s contemporary art collection. The objects ranged from Hirst to Nicholson, but Shrigley’s headless ostrich proved a bit too tricky!

How to develop schools and learning programmes course

Working with experts at the Museum of Childhood, the participants produced educational games for children based on the displays and materials in the museum. The international cohort provided a mixed discussion on teaching methods and experienced practical examples of museum education for them to analyse.

How to develop community engagement programmes course

Participants for this course experienced community engagement programmes in local authority museums, national institutions and even outdoors. This broad range of experiences led our participants to produce community engagement action points ranging from corporate access events (Philippines) to an Arts farmers’ market (China).

The future

The Museum Training School was a huge success, with 80 people already registering interest in next year’s course.

A participant from China commented, “The highlight of the course was to meet with so many museum professionals. I learned new skills and met people only possible through this course.”

For any enquiries or comments on the Museum Training School, please email Edmund Connolly, Finance and Course Manager at museumtrainingschool@ucl.ac.uk

UCL is the first university to join new Global Diversity Champions programme

By Kerry Milton, on 11 August 2014

University College London has become the first university to join Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champion programme.

The university has 11,000 international students from 154 countries as well as campuses in Australia and Qatar.

It is illegal to be gay in 78 countries and punishable by death in five. Employment protections exist for LGB people in only a quarter of the countries in the world. Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champions programme gives organisations the network and expertise to ensure they are kept informed of changing laws and the implications for staff and students.


UCL’s Vice Provost International, Nicola Brewer said, “I’m delighted that UCL became, earlier this year, the first university to sign up to Stonewall’s new programme to enable global organisations – like UCL, London’s Global University – to effectively support their lesbian, gay and bisexual staff wherever they are in the world. UCL has a history of opening up education to people previously excluded. Our International Strategy needs to be infused with that liberal tradition, and we welcome Stonewall’s support to help us achieve that.”

Stonewall’s Head of Workplace, Simon Feeke, said, “Too many members of staff and students turn down chances to work or study abroad because they’re scared that their sexual orientation prohibits them. It’s inspiring to see UCL engaging with Stonewall and other organisations to promote equality around the world. This will benefit lesbian, gay and bisexual people who work and study with UCL as well as people around the world.”

For more information about Stonewall and its Global Diversity Champions programme, visit the website

Celebrating success with UCL’s international scholarship students

By Kerry Milton, on 3 July 2014

On Wednesday 2 July, international scholarships students came together for a special reception to celebrate their achievements with fellow students, UCL staff and sponsors.

Scholarship recipients from over 60 different countries attended the event, along with UCL’s President and Provost Professor Michael Arthur, Vice Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer, ambassadors, High Commissioners and representatives from some of the funding organisations that support UCL.

Yunci Cai, from Singapore is currently studying MPhil/PhD in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology and is holder of a UCL Overseas Research Scholarship and UCL Graduate Research Scholarship.Yunci remarked on how much the scholarships helped with her studies, “I completed my MA in Museum Studies at the Institute of Archaeology at UCL in 2009/2010 on a scholarship from the Singapore government. I had such a fantastic experience at UCL then, it reignited my passion and interest for research on culture heritage and museums and sealed my commitment to return to UCL some day to do a PhD here. I am very happy that I have realized this dream, and this would not have been possible without the generosity of the UCL scholarships.”

Fellow scholarship holders meeting at the event

Pablo Mora, from Chile is currently studying MSc in Building and Urban Design in Development at the Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit (DPU) and is holder of a Becas Chile (Conicyt) Programa de Magister en el Extranjero Scholarship.

Pablo enjoys the international community at UCL, commenting, “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my studies at UCL, from the variety of languages you hear in the hallways, to the different approaches staff use to engage with students, the campus, it’s architecture and location at the core of the city, working with classmates from all over the world and knowing that we can talk to each other with respect and at the same level of knowledge.”

For further information on the scholarships and funding opportunities at UCL, please visit the website