This was the first year of the new tuition fees regime: a new era has now opened in the funding of teaching in universities. Yet demand remains strong among highly qualified applicants for places at UCL, and our student numbers have remained steady. We are dedicated to ensuring the continuous improvement of the quality of the education that we offer all our students. We launched in 2012 a wholly new interdisciplinary undergraduate programme in arts and sciences – the BASc – and new courses in global citizenship and in entrepreneurship. Plans are well advanced for a new student centre adjacent to the Bloomsbury Theatre as a key project in the Bloomsbury Masterplan, a 10-year programme of rationalisation and new development to transform our estate.
The scope of our teaching and research was further enhanced by our successful merger in 2012 with the renowned School of Pharmacy of the University of London, allowing a joining of powerful forces in world-leading research focused on advancing and understanding medicines, and creating new ones.
I am also delighted to report the successful opening in the London Borough of Camden of the UCL Academy – the first secondary school in Britain to be wholly sponsored by a university, and a pioneer in educational partnership. It is housed in superb new buildings and will in due course have responsibility for more than 1,000 students.
Our international engagement is also expanding: 2012 saw the opening of our new postgraduate and research facility in Qatar and the further development of our campus in South Australia.
UCL research continues to address fundamental problems and to make real impact. There has been trailblazing work in the treatment of prostate cancer, the development of intestinal transplants, the health implications of urban planning, silicon memory chip technology and space science. The quality of UCL research is evidenced by success in winning grants. UCL is consistently one of the three highest-performing universities in Europe in awards of the prestigious starter and advanced grants of the European Research Council.
The UCL model is one as much of collaboration as of competition. We have joined forces with the BBC in a new strategic partnership to drive innovation and collaborate on a wide programme of joint research and development activity. We have established with Cisco and DC Thomson an innovation hothouse – called IDEALondon – in London’s Tech City to support the growth of start-ups.
UCL’s continuing success brings its own problems. Even with the rationalisation envisaged in the Bloomsbury Masterplan, we do not have the space to locate major new research activity in Bloomsbury and anticipate that we will have reached capacity five years from now.
So we have been exploring opportunities to develop a new academic quarter in Stratford in east London, immediately adjacent to the Olympic Park, sharing its amenities and infrastructure and making a major contribution to the Olympic legacy. Our proposition has been endorsed by the London Borough of Newham and we are working closely with them to try to deliver an extremely complex scheme of urban regeneration that we believe will bring significant long-term benefits to this area of London.
The year was punctuated by the resounding success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. They were a timely reminder of London’s stature and capacity as a truly global city, and the UCL community played its part – from medal-winning alumni to Games Makers, torchbearers and sports medicine.
A personal note on which to conclude.
This review will be my last. I retire in September after 10 years in the role. I will do so with some sadness: this is absolutely the best job in higher education in the UK, and I have the deepest affection for UCL and for the ethos and the community that makes it such a superb institution. I am intensely proud of all the progress that we have made over the past decade and of the wonderful opportunity that will pass in September to my successor to take UCL to ever higher levels of achievement.
Professor Malcolm Grant
UCL President & Provost