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Vice-Provost views



Helping put knowledge to work globally

By ucypnmb, on 11 October 2017


In the Global Engagement Office (GEO), we’ve been taking stock of the past academic year and planning for the new one. In July, we reported to Council on the progress of Principal Theme 6 of UCL 2034, the Global Engagement Strategy (GES). This week, we were due to present our global achievements and challenges at Academic Board but a busy agenda meant that we didn’t get the opportunity.

Council wanted to know the cost of implementing the GES, both through the work GEO does directly and through the other central offices like Student and Registry Services and Student Recruitment Marketing. The answer is £4.9m, which is less than half a percent of UCL’s overall expenditure.

This doesn’t include what Faculties spend on international activity that’s aligned with the GES, including the time they commit through their Vice-Deans (International). We value this contribution highly, and are working on how we might reflect it in our cost estimates for next year’s report.

GEO is the smallest Vice-Provost’s office, both in terms of size and budget. We’re able to keep costs low while still delivering global impact because we work in partnership both internally and externally.

The achievements that really stood out for me last year include:

  • the anchor partnership with Peking University (PKU), which is the result of more than two years of sustained work and commitment from across UCL;
  • the success of our seed funding schemes which have already leveraged £2.1m external funding; and
  • embedding a ‘hybrid’ model of working, where professional services staff manage and support academic-initiated projects.

You can read about the progress we’ve made against the five GES objectives on our website.

Collaborative working

Dr. Tarek Mitri Director of the Issam Fares Institute at AUB speaking at the RELIEF Centre launchThe ‘hybrid’ model of working is only possible because UCL has many brilliant and committed academics who are internationally active and generously give their time to join inbound and outbound visits. Last year, 17 academics joined cross-disciplinary delegation visits to nine partner institutions across continental Europe, the USA, India, Singapore, Australia and Japan.

Outside formal visits, our academics have continued to work with global partners on a broad range of projects. I’ll mention just one of the most recent ones.

In the Lebanon, Vice-Provost (Research) Professor David Price attended the launch of Professor Henrietta Moore’s exciting new RELIEF Centre, set up to respond to the challenge of creating inclusive prosperity in the context of mass displacement, in collaboration with the American University of Beirut (AUB) and the Centre for Lebanese Studies.

Strategic partnerships

We’ve learned a lot this year, including the fact that cultivating a lasting strategic partnership is hard work and takes sustained effort and commitment from both sides. One conclusion from that, and from the feedback we’ve had from our academic colleagues, is that we are emphasising quality and impact over quantity for UCL’s anchor partnerships.

The Presidents of UCL and PKU opened the new teacher training and research facility at the Confucius Institute in JuneWe announced our first anchor partner, PKU, at the same time as announcing a new joint MBA Programme with them through UCL’s School of Management. In June, PKU’s President visited us to open the new teacher training and research facility at the UCL Institute of Education Confucius Institute. It was very encouraging to hear President Lin publicly refer to UCL as PKU’s priority global partner.

Crossing continents, our partnership with the University of Toronto (UofT) is progressing well, and we already have strong collaborative links in a range of areas including child health, education, big data and cancer research. In May, I led a UCL delegation visit to UofT after which we agreed to launch a joint funding stream to support collaboration. In June, Professor Mike Raco, from The Bartlett, organised a joint UCL-UofT workshop on affordable housing, to discuss research collaboration in this area.

Funding global engagement

Last year, 60% of GEO’s non-staff spend, that’s £730k, was allocated to academics to drive implementation and strengthen partnerships across the world, with a host of individual partners as well as strategic ones like PKU, UofT, the Africa Health Research Institute and Yale. 92% of recipients of the Global Engagement Funds told us they’re considering, or have already applied for, additional external funding, which is exactly what we hoped this seed-funding would lead to. The combined value of successful external bids so far is £2.1m (nine recipients; another eight awaiting a response and 36 planned or in progress). So that’s £180k of UCL money already leveraging £2.1m.

This year, through the Global Engagement Funds, we’ll be supporting 167 UCL individuals working with partners in 62 countries. You can read more about who won the awards on our website.

Top of the list for 2017/18

We got lukewarm feedback on the idea of a pilot overseas office, so we’ve dropped that. Instead, we’re developing plans to launch a series of academically-driven events with partners in major cities, starting in Europe (because of Brexit). We’re working with a group of academics and professional services colleagues to get this up and running, and will update you on progress in the coming months on what we’re calling our ‘Seasons In’ project.

We’re also launching new match-funded partnership development initiatives representing a total UCL investment of £290k. Significant pots of money include funding for three fellowships per year with PKU (to 2019/20); £60k per year with UofT (until 2019/20); as well as smaller pots with Hong Kong University, Paris Sciences et Lettres, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile and Colegio de México. Sign up to the Global Update to receive updates on these funding streams. We are also considering investing in support for collaborations with the Max Planck Society and New York University.

Provost-led delegation builds on links between Japan and UCL

Japan pic for blog

The Provost has just returned from a delegation visit to Japan, where he was accompanied by academics with expertise in dementia, disaster management, smart cities and immunology, as well as professional services colleagues from GEO and the Office of the Vice-Provost (Development).

The main aim of the visit was to build on UCL’s historical ties with Japan, explore possible partnerships with universities and industry and of course, to celebrate our fantastic Japan-based alumni. We really do have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to Japanese alumni: from the Choshu Five, perhaps the most famous, to the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the novelist Natsume Soseki. This is partly why the Provost had a private meeting with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the STS Forum in Kyoto. It was one of only two one-to-one meetings that Abe gave that day, the other being with the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia. This bodes well for our partnership development in Japan.

I’d like to thank again all the academic colleagues who went on this trip for their tireless work on behalf of UCL. They gave talks to specialists and non-specialists, visited labs, met with university counterparts, gave interviews to the media, met with dementia patients and carers and were brilliant ambassadors for UCL. And I hear that some had to do it without their luggage!
Some promising partnerships are emerging from the trip, and I’ll update you on developments.

Snapshot of global activity


  • It’s coming up to a year since UCL and PKU announced a new MBA Programme at UCL’s School of Management. The programme has 50 MBA students enrolled for the first academic year.
  • The inaugural projects supported by the UCL-PKU Strategic Partner Fund have been getting underway – congratulations to all the winners.
  • The winners of the second round of the UCL-HKU joint funding stream, led by the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research), will be announced imminently.
  • The Provost will lead a UCL delegation to China in November, both to strengthen the deep, strategic partnership with PKU and to build on UCL’s varied relationships with supporters and alumni in the region, and further engage them with the It’s All Academic Campaign, following successful launch events in autumn 2016.
  • Professor Nick Phelps have done great work in laying the ground for closer collaboration with the National University of Singapore, which we plan to follow up early next year.


  • Following on from UCL hosting the UK government’s Education Select Committee in January, the university continues to inform Brexit negotiations. GEO is currently working with the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research) on a submission to the government’s Migration Advisory Committee. The committee was set up in July to report on the impact on the UK labour market of the UK’s exit from the European Union and how the UK’s immigration system should be aligned with a modern industrial strategy. We will submit our input on 27 October.
  • Dr Uta Staiger (Executive Director, UCL European Institute) has been appointed as UCL’s new Pro-Vice-Provost for Europe following a competitive recruitment process.

North and Latin America

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