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Small world, big experiences: exploring student mobility at UCL

By uclqjle, on 19 October 2017

This week, the Study Abroad team is running its annual Study Abroad Fair, celebrating the breadth and variety of UCL’s outward mobility opportunities and encouraging students to take full advantage.

UCL has exchange agreements with over 250 institutions in 40 countries across five continents, including 48 of the world’s top 100 universities.

Data compiled by GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno, indicates that in 2016, UCL students participated in outward mobility experiences in destinations ranging from Los Angeles, California to Avarua, New Zealand.

The map below highlights the cities where these experiences took place:

Cities where UCL students have participated in an outward mobility experience

UCL Study Abroad also provides students with different exchange and mobility options. This pie chart shows the percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available.

 percentage breakdown of student mobility in 2016 across the various types of mobility available

UCL students who have participated in an outward mobility opportunity – whether spending a year at a prestigious American university or a couple of months excavating historic sites in Israel – have recommended it as an extremely worthwhile experience.

Here are a few student testimonials.

Alexandra Willems, Law

“There is something very heartening about travelling halfway across the world and still finding people to complain about Eduroam with, in whatever language that may be.”

Alexandra Willems in ShanghaiAlexandra Willems was one of six UCL students to join the summer Study China Programme 2017 – an immersive three-week Mandarin Chinese programme.

Reflecting on her experience, Alex said: “The main aspect of the trip that has stayed with me was the high level of organisation. There was a clear system of support, as well as a timetable and a placement test for the Mandarin Chinese Advanced Level speakers.”

students and monks during temple visitShe added: “The programme included an afternoon of seeing the main sites in Shanghai, including the Bund, People’s Square and the Shanghai Museum, but much of our free time allowed us to explore our own personal interests in the city. My favourite place that I visited this time was the little-known underground Propaganda Art Museum, legally allowed but only in a restricted location”

“In all, the Study China Programme is an amazing opportunity that is organised to a very high standard. Many thanks to all those involved in making it the insightful and educational experience that it was, and I am only saddened that I cannot do it again. Someone else will have to live that experience for me in future programmes, and what a lucky one they will be.”

Eshitha Vaz, Population Health

“The course has shifted and tilted my perspectives as to what it means to be a student.”

Eshitha surfingEshitha Vaz was awarded one of the Study Abroad tuition fee free places at the University of Sydney.

At the University of Sydney, she got the chance to study Aboriginal Culture and History. Speaking on the impact of the course Eshitha said: “I feel I have become more culturally literate in the process and more aware of socio-political currents which have enhanced my career aspirations in turn.”

On her time in Australia, Eshitha added: “Certainly, the personal highlights of the time I spent in Australia were the friends I made and the places I got to visit. As recommended by our programme, I participated in a three-day ‘Surf Camp’ at Seven-Mile Beach in New South Wales where I learned how to surf. It was here that I formed my best friends throughout the trip, some of whom were studying at different Universities and schools in Sydney.”

“The landscape and natural beauty of Australia is undeniably powerful which is why I was so grateful that our timetable facilitated exploration. Two of my closest friends and I took a flight to Cairns, Queensland on a weekend and managed to go scuba diving and snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef: one of the seven ‘Natural Wonders’ of the world and the world’s largest coral reef – an experience of a lifetime.”

Moiz Paracha, Chemical Engineering

“From Penguin Colonies to roaming through the Hout Bay, there is so much to do.”

moiz paracha in cape townMoiz Paracha was part of the first UCL outward mobility experience to the University of Cape Town, where he joined the Sustainable Water Management in Africa course.

On his time in South Africa, Moiz said: “This was honestly an amazing experience, not just on an educational level but also on a personal one. The willingness and desire they have to genuinely make a change to the country is really what caught my attention. The experience, in general, is very eye-opening. The type of new people you can meet and the calmer pace of life is a great cultural experience.”

Reflecting on the landscape, he added: “The beauty of the country is phenomenal. Overall if you’re even vaguely thinking about applying, go do it because it’s something you won’t regret.”

To find out more about what opportunities are available to you and to read more student testimonials, visit the UCL Study Abroad website and follow them on Twitter @UCLcares.

Data visualisations courtesy of GEO’s Strategic Data Manager, Alejandro Moreno

‘How to Change the World’ programme to equip South African engineers

By uclqjle, on 21 July 2017

Earlier in the year, UCL’s Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy (STEaPP) trained faculty from three South African universities to run a pilot version of UCL’s How to Change the World (HtCtW) programme for undergraduate engineers.

HtCtW prepares engineering and management science students for today’s global challenges by emphasising creative thinking, collaboration and the societal impact of their work.

With funding from the Department of Higher Education and Training in South Africa, STEaPP provided training to faculty from the Central University of Technology (CUT), Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) and University of the Witwatersrand (Wits).

Viv Crone, acting director of the Academic Development Unit of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment (FEBE) at Wits, was one of the academics who took part.

He said: “As an observer I found the experience extremely enjoyable, especially interacting with the student groups, UCL staff and outside industry and academic experts who showed real interest, innovation and passion in addressing and solving the real-world problems.”

HtCtW forms part of UCL Engineering’s Integrated Engineering Programme, which was developed as a response to the changing education needs of future engineering.

The programme provides a blend of scenarios and classroom learning, which take place alongside specialist training and give students from across the faculty the chance to come together to engage in interdisciplinary research and design projects.

“The working in multi-disciplinary groups is particularly valuable as it mimics the requirements and skills necessary for engineers’ future success,” added Viv.

“The emphasis is not only seeking pure technical solutions, but including facets such as environment, finance, sociology, politics and industry in the potential solution.”

Wits FEBE is currently reviewing its engineering curriculum and initial discussions have been held to introduce a similar course into their engineering programme.

STEaPP will provide further curricular support and materials before a UCL team flies out to Wits, CUT and TUT later in the year to run pilot versions of HtCtW with students over three days.

Ask GEO: Clare Burke, Partnership Manager (Africa and Middle East)

By uclqjle, on 24 May 2017

Clare_5901_SquareClare is GEO’s Partnership Manager for Africa and Middle East. She gives us an update on her work and recent visit to Ghana and South Africa.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions.

Since GEO was established in November 2015, I have spent time developing links with UCL colleagues who are working across Africa and the Middle East and have learned (and still continue to learn) about the type of collaborations that colleagues are engaged with. I have been amazed with the breadth of collaboration taking place across both the institution and the number of UCL Faculties and Departments who are working across these regions.

To date, I have information on almost 200 collaborations taking place on the African continent and around 45 collaborations taking place across the Middle East but I have just scratched the surface of this work and I plan to build on this data over the summer.

In terms of intensifying our engagement, UCL is exploring how we can strengthen our existing partnerships with a number of institutions including the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) , the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).

You recently returned from a visit to Africa. Could you tell us what countries you visited and how the trip went?

I recently visited Ghana and South Africa as part of a larger UCL delegation to meet with universities and to learn about their research strengths and to identify potential areas of collaboration.

In Ghana, together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, I attended the inaugural ARUA Conference. The African Research Universities Alliance or ARUA , as it is more commonly known, comprises of 16 of the top research intensive universities from 9 countries across the African continent. Led by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, ARUA’s Secretary General, this ‘Russell-Group type’ alliance will boost higher education across the continent and encourage more Western collaborations with African universities outside South Africa.

In South Africa, the delegation led by the Vice-Provost (International) visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal to strengthen the existing partnership with the university in relation to the wider African Health Research Institute (AHRI) collaboration and to explore collaborations within other disciplines (beyond health) including Arts and Humanities and Laws.

What’re you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am following up on post-visit actions. For example, the UCL delegation met with over 40 UKZN colleagues in South Africa so I am identifying possible areas of synergy and facilitating introductions between UCL and UKZN colleagues to see if there is scope for future collaboration.

Similarly, we held a data-sharing day with UZKN colleagues here in London to build on some of the initial conversations held in Durban so that UCL and UKZN colleagues could meet each other face to face.

I am also working with SLMS colleagues on the AHRI collaboration, while we explore if this type 2 partnership could become one of future strategic partnerships given its close alignment to a number of the Strategic Drivers of the Global Engagement Strategy (GES).

Finally, over the summer, I will continue to build on the regional data mapping exercise and will capture more information on UCL’s activities and collaborations across the region so that we can share this across the institution. If your work is not included, let me know!

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in Africa and Middle East?

I regularly circulate details of upcoming regionally-focussed events and funding calls as well as our termly newsletter which includes regional highlights and success stories. Together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), I also coordinate termly meetings which all network members are invited to. We hold region specific events each year; our successful Knowledge Africa 2017 – Africa Unheard event took place in February and the next event, UCL in the Middle East 2017: The Middle East re-mapped will take place on 5 June. Network membership has increased significantly in the last 12 months and I would encourage colleagues with an interest in the region to sign up to our mailing list.


Contact Clare on:

+44 (0)20 3108 7776 / internal 57776

Are there limits to global engagement?

By Sophie Vinter, on 10 April 2017

The Cardiology, Diabetes & Nephrology At the Limits’ meeting was held at the University of Cape Town, South Africa in April 2017In April 2017 UCL Vice-Provost International Dame Nicola Brewer gave a speech at the “Cardiology, Diabetes & Nephrology At the Limits” conference in South Africa, on “Are there limits to global engagement?”

This post is adapted from the speech Dame Nicola delivered.

At The Limits is organised by UCL’s Hatter Cardiovascular Institute in collaboration with the University of Cape Town, to set new standards in medical education for these closely linked disease areas.

By Dame Nicola Brewer (UCL Vice-Provost International)

I was delighted to attend the 19th annual ‘At The Limits’ conference. In addition to UCL’s longstanding association with the conference through Professor Derek Yellon (UCL Hatter Cardiovascular Institute), I had personal reasons for accepting his kind invitation: five years ago two South African heart specialists saved my husband’s life – he had an emergency quadruple bypass in the Vincent Pallotti clinic. Elwyn Lloyd spotted the problem and Suzanne Vosloo was the surgeon.  I’m not one of those people who think cardiologists are cold and clinical: the hug Suzanne gave me when we met in the Intensive Care Unit was almost as restorative as the bypass.

But clearly there is a prejudice about distant and superior surgeons. I Googled jokes about cardiologists and found one that struck me as relevant to what I was going to speak about – are there limits to global engagement? I refer mostly to diplomatic global engagement, from my time in the British Foreign Office, though I work now on academic global engagement for UCL.

“So, a famous heart surgeon goes in to a car repair workshop. A mechanic is fixing his car. The mechanic straightens up, wipes his hands on a rag and says, “I’ve opened her up, taken her valves out, put in new parts, and now she’ll drive like new. How come you get paid so much more than me for doing the same thing?” The surgeon replies, “Now try doing it with the engine running.”

Like surgeons, diplomats do it with the engine running. And there are limits to what you can do without stalling. If you’re a diplomat, it’s not your engine for a start – you’re not in the driving seat. The car belongs to, it is, another sovereign nation. So you need to be invited even to look under the bonnet. In fact, that’s the second step: you have to ‘receive agreement’ first – the host government has to agree to accept you as ambassador. Refusal is not unknown. Before you get agreement, you have to keep your posting a secret, out of courtesy to your future hosts – and a bit of superstition, like not counting chickens before they hatch.

When I became British High Commissioner in 2009 I learned rapidly just what a beautiful, complicated, self-critical and resilient country South Africa is. My first piece of confidential advice for the Foreign Secretary, I chose to present as Diagnosis and Prescription. I forget whether I included a Prognosis. But I was always being asked to predict what was going to happen next in South Africa.

The diagnosis first. Diplomats have to work out the underlying condition or conditions causing a multiple set of presenting conditions in foreign populations. What makes a country healthy, or sick; robust or vulnerable; wealthy or poor? It helps if the diplomat in question is also self-aware about the state of their own country. A little humility never hurts. As the scientist Isaac Newton said: “Tact is the knack of making a point without making an enemy.”

Prognosis in my world is about what’s likely to happen next economically or politically, when and with what impact. You draw historical or contemporary evidence from which you extrapolate. But every country is different, as is every patient. In my first overseas posting I predicted that the ruling party would lose power. I was right. Eight years later. If a doctor’s diagnosis proved correct after 8 years, I’m not sure that would be a great comfort to the patient. The experience taught me humility and patience.

So diagnosis and prognosis are relevant to the medical and the diplomatic professions. Both involve expertise and experience, and judgement – and there are human limits to all of those things. No-one gets it right all the time, and the important thing is to learn lessons from your failures.

But that’s where the comparison between doctors and diplomats probably breaks down. When I talked about ‘prescription’, I meant what the UK should do with South Africa, not to South Africa. I built my whole strategy for the four years I was there around what the UK and South Africa could do together. I guess progressive doctors these days take a shared approach to treatment decisions with their patients.

Ambassadors are like two-way interpreters: you’re explaining your own country to your host country. You’re explaining your host country to your own. And you’re trying to find shared understanding, common ground, between the two.

So, limits to diplomacy and global engagement? Yes and no. There are no limits, in the sense of the number of potential competing interests you have to understand, and the scope for trying to find common ground. And I’d say there’s no limit to how much engagement or diplomacy is worthwhile. The world will always need diplomats just like it will always need doctors.

But there are external constraints. Circumstances matter. I wouldn’t have chosen to arrive in South Africa at the beginning of a global economic crisis. Events in Libya and Syria didn’t make my job there easy. But other things did help. The 2010 World Cup and the 2012 London Olympics. Sports is ready made common ground: being the daughter of a former Welsh rugby international was more of a conversation opener than being the British High Commissioner.

Crises and tragedies can also have the effect of bringing countries closer rather than driving them apart – Marikana happened while I was in South Africa – in diplomacy as in medicine.

So my final word about limits to diplomacy and global engagement is something I learned in South Africa and have never forgotten. It’s an African proverb: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to walk far, walk together.”

The message is, get engaged with other people. Be globally engaged. That’s the way to go beyond the limits.


New resources to support LGBT staff and students working abroad

By Sophie Vinter, on 14 July 2016

The charity Stonewall has launched a set of Global Workplace Briefings to support LGBT employees travelling overseasForty per cent of the world’s population live in countries where lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people can be imprisoned, just for being themselves.

UK charity Stonewall is fighting to change this and has launched a set of Global Workplace Briefings open to UCL staff and students to access the latest information.

UCL has a history of opening up education to people previously excluded from it, and was the first UK university to join Stonewall’s Global Diversity Champion programme for international employers, helping to promote equality around the world.

The new Global Workplace Briefings shine a spotlight on the situation for LGBT people in different countries, which will enable UCL staff and students planning to work overseas to keep up to date on changing laws and the potential implications.

Protecting from discrimination

In more than half the world, LGBT people are not protected from discrimination under workplace law.

The first set of briefings, which are available via UCL’s Equalities website, cover Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Italy, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa and Turkey.

Further briefings will follow later this year.

Each briefing outlines the legal, socio-cultural and workplace situation for LGBT people in the specified country and showcases progressive workplace practices from Stonewall’s membership.

They provide an important summary of in-country contexts for global mobility teams, helping them to identify where colleagues may need additional support when travelling internationally.

Supporting UCL’s LGBTQ community

Dr Fiona Leigh, a member of UCL’s LGBTQ+ Equality Advisory Group (LEAG), said UCL is now working further with Stonewall to produce additional briefings specifically for those working within higher education.

She said: “UCL is committed to providing resources and information for the safety and support of all of our staff and students, when travelling and working internationally.

“These briefings provide a very useful background in this endeavour, whether for LGBT staff or students or those supporting others with international visits.”

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

By Sophie Vinter, on 5 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.”

Funding for collaborative research: Higher Education in Africa

By Sophie Vinter, on 16 March 2016

UCL researchers collaborating with partners in South Africa can apply for new funding to support their work.

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) are inviting collaborative proposals that contribute to the economic development and welfare of both South Africa or wider Africa more broadly.

Proposals should offer additional value to existing programmes of education research, addressing the following themes:

  • Organisation of higher education systems, higher education institutions (HEIs) and alternative providers
  • Equity in higher education access and participation
  • Curriculum, pedagogy and modes and levels of provision
  • Higher education for the public good
  • Higher education and the labour market.

Between four and six projects will be funded through the scheme, to which the ESRC has allocated up to £2.5 million and NRF has allocated RAND 10 million.

Each joint proposal may request £415,000 – £630,000 (at 100% Full Economic Costing) from the ESRC and R1.67m to R2.5m from NRF over 20 months in duration. Each project will require both a UK and a South African principal investigator.

For further information visit the ESRC website.

The deadline for proposals is 3 May 2016.

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]