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Global Engagement Funds: diversifying UCL’s collaborations

Rachel PCorcoran7 September 2016

LargeImagev3The launch of the 2016/17 Global Engagement Funds builds on a successful pilot year, which offered support to 75 academics developing partnerships with colleagues at 93 different institutions.

Looking at the picture to the left, what quickly becomes clear is the diverse nature of UCL’s partnerships that were initiated or strengthened through these funds.

The funds are open to staff from all 11 UCL faculties – last year colleagues worked with partners in 34 countries. You can see in which region each faculty spent funds last year below.

Colleagues can apply for funds to support a range of activities:

  • to further research activity with colleagues in other countries (funds to cover travel and accommodation for inward/outbound visits, for example);
  • to facilitate the drafting of publications and/or collaborative research bids;
  • to organise workshops, symposia and festivals (inviting world-class speakers, covering the cost of venue hire, catering );
  • to carry out field visits;
  • to create new, or widen the range of, opportunities available through partner institutions to the benefit of students (for example, student exchange).

GEF by Faculty 800x500_with wordingApplicants may involve colleagues based in different countries – for example last year researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience (Brain Sciences) used the funds to finance travel and accommodation for a unique brain tumour research project in partnership with colleagues at the Humboldt University, Berlin, and the University of California, San Francisco.

The global partner – that is, the colleague(s) with whom applicants intend to collaborate – is not limited to another higher education or research institute, but can be from a charity, NGO or public/corporate body. So in this way the funds are encouraging innovative collaborations to deliver global impact.

Colleagues from UCL Institute of Education (Social Science) were awarded Global Engagement Funds to carry out explorative research on the situation of the 500+ unaccompanied children at ‘the Jungle’ migrant camp in Calais, France.  They strengthened relationships with a group of NGOs/charities with whom they will write a collaborative research bid in future.

Over in UCL Laws, an academic travelled to the USA to initiate research into the International Law Commission with colleagues at the United Nations in New York.

Mapv2Global Engagement Funds can also be used to create more international opportunities for UCL students.

A researcher from Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering received funding to visit the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore to develop a programme of student exchange alongside collaborative research in geotechnical engineering.

Shortly after the UK referendum result, Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice Provost (International), reinforced UCL’s commitment to intensifying our global engagement activity.

The Global Engagement Funds are enabling academics across the university to engage in such work.

Rachel Corcoran is GEO’s Programme Manager.

Applications for the Global Engagement Funds close on 28 October 2016 – find out more and apply here.

Ask GEO: Conor Rickford, Partnerships Manager (Europe)

SophieVinter20 July 2016

Conor Rickford, Partnerships Manager for EuropeConor is GEO’s Partnerships Manager for the Europe region. We asked him to share some key insights around Brexit.

Q: How many European partnerships does UCL have? How is UCL taking forward its collaborations with European partners at the moment?

A: UCL has an exceptionally large number of partnerships across Europe. In terms of Erasmus+ alone, we have more than 450 agreements with over 250 institutions. If we also consider the, less formal, academic-to-academic, researcher-to-researcher partnerships there are simply too many to count.

Quite simply, following Dame Nicola’s unequivocal statement, we are taking things forward with a renewed vigour. In practical terms, this means being more active in researching opportunities and fostering warm relations with potential partners; making sure that the wider world knows that UCL remains open and receptive to creative ideas from top partners, new and old.

The fact that the Faculty of Engineering signed the Alliance4Tech partnership agreement with the Politecnico di Milano, TU Berlin and CentraleSupélec on the day of the Referendum result gives me reason to believe that, whilst the structures around our engagement might change, UCL’s reputation for excellence and drive to collaborate will endure.

Q: What support can UCL academics get from GEO around Brexit?

A: The Europe Regional Network remains GEO’s primary channel for support around all matters European and I would encourage anyone with an interest to sign up. Through this group, we disseminate information about the regional funding streams from GEO, as well as information on new developments.

As we look to reconsider our strategic approach to European partnerships, Professor Jan Kubik (Pro-Vice-Provost, Europe) and I are welcoming contributions from members. They can email me directly.

UCL's ERASMUS+ Agreements in Europe by city

UCL’s ERASMUS+ Agreements in Europe by city

Q: How do you think Brexit might impact on UCL’s involvement in the Erasmus scheme?

A: At the moment, we are reviewing and renewing over 300 of our Erasmus agreements and that work will carry on. We will continue to host students from around Europe and will continue to offer excellent opportunities for our students to study abroad. It is clear to me that partners across Europe remain fully committed to working with us.

For our continued participation in the Erasmus scheme, I would hope that we are granted with non-EU programme status, like Norway. Some will look at the Swiss situation for a precedent, where they were suspended from full engagement in the Erasmus scheme following a 2014 referendum on free movement of people, but I think this might be a pessimistic comparison. The scale is completely different; in 2013/14, the UK received over 27,000 students, compared to around 4,000 to Switzerland and, in light of that, I suspect that there will be pressure, from both the UK and remaining EU states, to retain the UK as a full member.

Q: UCL is the most successful university in Europe for attracting Horizon 2020 funding. What impact do you think Brexit might have on this?

A: UCL’s researchers, supported by the ERIO team, have been incredibly successful and ensuring this continues has got to be a key consideration. It is too early to speak of the impact of Brexit on H2020; we are full members and the judging criteria have not changed. Post-Brexit, given the incredible depth and breadth of research capability in the UK, we may yet remain as an associated member of H2020, in a similar model to Norway.

The lack of clarity around our future engagement in H2020 is a risk that precedes Brexit and will not be resolved until well into the exit negotiations. That lack of clarity might make some colleagues in Europe slightly hesitant to involve UK academics in a joint bid but our proven success record in attracting H2020 funding should mean that is a very rare occurrence.

Q: How is UCL currently working with the wider sector?

A: As one would expect, UCL is working in concert with the key voices in sector. Our key European affiliation, the League of European Research Universities, has just published a very welcome statement, reaffirming its intentions to work with UK universities. Likewise, we will continue lobbying Government through the Russell Group and UUK. The Vice-Provost (Research)’s office have been co-ordinating contributions back to the Science and Technology Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

As Partnership Manager for Europe, Conor helps develop collaborative projects from inception through to delivery. He can also provide strategic guidance for ERASMUS+ activities, including student mobility and funding bids.

Contact Conor on:

c.rickford@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7785 / internal 57785 

UCL at Going Global 2016, South Africa: exploring the impact of international university partnerships

SophieVinter5 May 2016

Dame Nicola Brewer with Professor Zeblon VilakaziDame Nicola Brewer, UCL’s Vice-Provost (International), joined a panel of higher education leaders from around the world at the British Council’s Going Global conference in Cape Town this week.

Speaking at the session ‘University partnerships: delivering international impact?’, Dame Nicola – who was formerly British High Commissioner to South Africa – presented UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy and our collaborative approach to partnership working with the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

She outlined how both institutions have been taking forward a number of initiatives as part of their emerging partnership. These range from classic forms of international activity (visits and lectures by faculty in each university, exploring funding opportunities to support student mobility) to more ambitious plans for joint appointments, as well as an idea for a co-designed and co-hosted conference about ‘equal partnerships in an unequal world’.

Dr Peter Clayton, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Rhodes University, chaired the session, and fellow speakers represented Brazil’s University of Campinas, The University of Tokyo and Heriot-Watt University.

Wits University Vice-Chancellor Professor Adam Habib and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Zeblon Vilakazi (pictured above with Dame Nicola) also attended the session.

Dame Nicola Brewer addressing delegates at Going Global 2016 in South Africa“As London’s Global University, UCL is looking to build reciprocal relationships of mutual trust and respect with partners around the world to co-create fair solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges,” said Dame Nicola.

“Our Global Engagement Strategy provides the framework and the focus for this approach. UCL’s partnership with the University of the Witwatersrand is a great example of how diverse and geographically distant universities can work together and learn from each other to deliver greater impact together than they could apart.”

Professor Vilakazi said the partnership is a perfect fit for Wits, adding: “Wits is located at the heart of a large metropolis that is grappling with a set of dynamics that are often characterised as a collision between the challenges of the ‘developed global north’ and the ‘developing global south’. This makes Wits and UCL ideal partners, as Global City Universities, to share expertise and make a unique contribution in addressing some of these challenges.”

Going Global is an annual conference offering an open forum for global leaders of tertiary education to discuss issues facing the international education community. This year’s theme was “Building nations and connecting cultures: education policy, economic development and engagement.”