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13 July 2017 - UCL at Pride 2017

On Saturday 8 July, members of Out@UCL – UCL’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer +* (LGBTQ+) staff network – participated in London’s annual Pride march to promote LGBTQ+ equality.

An estimated 26,000 people gathered in Central London to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community and promote equality for its members. The annual parade is a key event in the LGBTQ+ calendar providing a platform to raise awareness of issues faced by LGBTQ+ people.

This year’s Pride in London march also commemorated the 50th anniversary of the passing of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 which partially decriminalized homosexuality in England and Wales, a milestone event for gay men which arguably led to wider acceptance of the LGBT community in subsequent decades. Read more...

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Equality, Diversity & Inclusion Blog  

Oct06 2017

What Black History Month means to me. Personal reflections from UCL staff’

I wondered about the necessity of Black History Month, after all history belongs to everyone.
We live through the lens of what passed before…. except for one thing: in the UK, we neither remember not recount the achievements of BME individuals, as a rule.
Perhaps it is instinctive in a society to reflect the achievements of the indigenous & social majority: a distorted lens where contributions are “cherry-picked”.
The result of an imperial legacy? A focus on the glories and achievements of English society, filtered through an insular perspective: a distortion, which disenfranchises. Victors write history and victors can airbrush, as they please.
UCL is an intellectual powerhouse, is influential, and holds a responsibility as a Global University, to ensure a global perspective in its work and this necessarily involves the recognition of the synergy of historic forces and influences beyond the current paradigm.  

  • Florence Nightingale, against the contribution of Mary Seacole;
  • The Empire and its colonised people’s contribution to two World Wars;
  • Building railways during the Raj (long pronounced a gift of imperialism): financed by Indian taxpayers and built by Indian labourers, for British corporate profit.

Worth noting also is the potential value of a Working Class History Month... the framing of our history is subtler than we might assume and more complex.
The focus is always on "movers and shakers", rather than various masses, a multitude of ethnicities in a world pretty much “globalised” for millennia through trade, if nothing else. Consider the list of technological achievements from societies outside Europe – little known or forgotten.
Let us celebrate and recognise that all peoples have had a part to play in the development of our culture – our local and global culture: contributions large and small constitute our history and frame our present. So, let us celebrate the achievements of a large group of people who remain disenfranchised.

Ash Talwar
Student Funding Manager
Departmental Equal Opportunity Liaison Officer (DEOLO)

Jun23 2017

Dr Elpida Makrygianni talks about International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) and what the UCL Faculty of Engineering has been working on as part of its engagement strategy.

In 1878 UCL became the first university in England to admit women on equal terms with men. Currently, UCL is the only UK University to hold both a Silver Athena SWAN Award and a Race Equality Bronze Award. Today, 23rd of June, women and men from faculties, departments and research centres across UCL will be coming together for International Women in Engineering Day (INWED) to celebrate the achievements of women in engineering but also to raise awareness, inspire and empower girls and young women to consider engineering as a career.

For decades the numbers of women in engineering professions have remained remarkably stagnant. Women currently represent only 9% of the engineering workforce in the UK. This number is incredibly low. By failing to enable women to contribute and benefit from careers and degrees in engineering, we are missing out on their participation in shaping and changing the world. We are missing out on the female voice and female perspective being heard. Change is not easy and it will not come if we wait for someone else to take risks and make it happen.

For this reason, over the past three years, at UCL Engineering, we have rethought our engineering engagement strategy. Our faculty now insists and ensures 50% of girls participating across all our engineering education and engagement programmes. Requiring 50% participation of girls across all our programmes, was never just about getting a 50.50 gender balanced ratio. It was and still is about sending a clear, strong, consistent message in the classroom, at home and to society. Show all children real choice. Enable them to defy the stereotypical threats that have created invisible barriers, holding them back, affecting their confidence and their career choices. At the core of our 50.50 Engineering Engagement Strategy is the aim to strengthen and diversify the engineering workforce by changing perceptions and encouraging young people from a wide range of backgrounds to consider career pathways both “in” and “from” engineering.

The strategy has been implemented across our 134 STEM programmes, events and activities connecting over 6,000 children and young people, 529 schools across the UK with 623 UCL Engineering staff and students who design and deliver the activities. Activities based on real engineering challenges with a focus on the social, ethical and environmental context and mission of engineering. Showing diversity in what engineers do, enabling young pupils to question why and to appreciate the interdisciplinary nature of engineering. Considering the diversity of young people and catering for a broad range of abilities and levels of understanding to ensure inclusiveness, equality and accessibility. Ensuring good gender and racial representation of staff and students in our engagement programmes with young people.

By demanding 50.50, we have been able to create a step change in the representation of female students and students from ethnic minorities on our programmes. This shift has been extraordinarily effective but change is never easy. Demand 50.50 has required resilience, dedication and commitment to bring positive change in diversifying our field.

Dr Elpida Makrygianni
UCL Faculty of Engineering Sciences

May16 2017

Fifty years and counting, Professor Anthony Smith marks International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT)

As we approach the 2017 International Day against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT), it is fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act decriminalised consensual sex between men in 1967.  This was a huge step forward for gay men in England and Wales but it came too late for many.  I had a poignant reminder of this on a recent visit to Bletchley Park - the secret home of the wartime codebreakers where upwards of 9,000 civilian and military personnel worked to decrypt messages generated by Hitler’s Enigma machines.  It is estimated that the codebreakers’ work shortened the Second World War by two years and saved countless lives.  Leading amongst those codebreakers was Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician, who led the section responsible for German naval cryptanalysis.  Alan Turing was also gay.  In 1952 he was convicted of gross indecency (homosexual acts).  His punishment was either imprisonment or chemical castration.  He chose the latter and in 1954 he died aged 41 from cyanide poisoning.  An inquest determined his death as suicide.  It was not until 2009 following a campaign by computer scientists and the LGBTQ+ community that the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official apology on behalf of the British Government for ‘the appalling way he was treated’.  He was posthumously pardoned by HM The Queen in 2013. 

It is sad to think just how many others suffered as Alan Turing did and how many in Britain today continue to suffer abuse and discrimination despite being protected by law (Home Office Hate Crime Report 2015-16 showed a 29% rise in homophobic hate crime compared to previous 12 months (7,194 incidents) and 858 incidents of trans hate crime). That is why IDAHOBIT is important.  We must campaign for the decriminalisation of homosexuality in countries around the world and protect LGBTQ+ communities.  Even with the full protection of the law, lessons from our own history since 1967 tell us that we have to re-double our efforts not just for tolerance but for acceptance and understanding.

Professor Anthony Smith
UCL LGBTQ+ Champion on Provost’s Senior Management Team

Mar29 2017

Emeritus Professor Uta Frith, talks about Autism research, to mark Autism Awareness Day on 2 April 2017


Autism research has a home at UCL since 1968 when the MRC opened the Developmental Psychology Unit with Neil O’Connor as director.

In this photo he is with me at an Autism Conference in the early 1970s when few people had heard of autism.  At this time, my PhD supervisors Neil O’Connor & Beate Hermelin, published a ground breaking book, Psychological Experiments with Autistic Children. Hardly anybody had thought that experiments were possible with such enigmatic and behaviourally challenging children. Yet, this was the beginning of a revolution in our understanding of the autistic mind. Later in the 1980s UCL was at the forefront of another breakthrough in autism research, with the now widely accepted idea of cognitive difficulties in ‘Theory of Mind”: a lack of the spontaneous ability to track mental states of other people such as beliefs and desires, with a basis in the brain.

Autism research is still flourishing at UCL, and I want to put in a plea for funding not applied research, but blue skies research. It is curiosity driven research in the past that guides therapies in the present. For example, early therapies were aiming solely to modify behaviour, while current therapies are able to promote compensatory learning to by-pass impaired cognitive capacities. 

But what about future therapies? There is so much that we don’t know about how the brain/mind works. Basic research will lead to unexpected discoveries and hence will lead to a better future for individuals affected by autism and their families. With researchers currently tackling the biological basis of autism at many different levels of brain and mind, UCL should continue in its prominent role in the history of autism research.

To any philanthropists out there I would say: you may be moved by the idea that your help will support people on the autistic spectrum and their families, but you might consider that without blue skies research our understanding of this complex, and often misrepresented, condition will simply remain the same. Increasing this understanding has been by far the most rewarding aspect of my fifty years of life in research.

Uta Frith DBE FRS FBA FmedSci

Uta Frith

Mar03 2017

Dame Nicola Brewer, Vice-Provost (International) and Gender Equality Champion at UCL

The hashtag for this year’s International Women’s Day is #BeBoldForChange. Some of us might be thinking, it’s about time!

In 1878 UCL became the first university in England to open up higher education to women on the same terms as men – it ‘only’ took us 52 years. But our commitment to parity continues to gather pace, like our enthusiastic approach to Athena SWAN, where we are proud to be among the first universities to hold an institution-wide Silver award. It also shows through in our women’s networks, including the 50:50 Gender Equality Group that Geraint Rees and I co-chair. (Personally, I’m more a fan of 60:40 targets – where both the 60% and the 40% could be either women or men.)

But we can always be bolder, even at UCL. For example, I’d like to see more recruitment panels regularly making use of the permissive ‘tie breaker’ clause in the 2010 Equality Act (where, if other things are equal, the candidate from a disadvantaged group can be selected over the one from a majority group).

We have a host of activities planned, from a UCL Connect ‘Women in Leadership’ event on 8 March chaired by Professor Becky Francis and featuring three UCL alumnae, to a series of events organised by UCL Institute for Women’s Health.

You can join the #BeBoldForChange conversation and commit to an action through the IWD website, which has some great practical tips on:

  • bias & inequality  - call it out when women are excluded
  • violence  - be vigilant, and report it
  • advancement - take a junior female colleague to a major event
  • achievement  - give recognition and credit for women's contributions
  • women's education - support women inventors of new products and services

The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. Too slow.

Nicola Brewer

Feb01 2017

John Hurst, Council member & LGBTQ+ Equality Champion at UCL

February is LGBT History Month, and an opportunity to reflect.  2017 also marks fifty years since the Sexual Offences Act, decriminalising ‘homosexual acts’ in private between consenting men over the age of 21 in England and Wales.  It wasn’t easy growing up gay in the North of England in the 1980s, but nor was it hard by historical standards.  I couldn’t be hanged (1835) or tried for gross indecency (like Oscar Wilde, 1895).  But there was lots that made me feel society didn’t quite value me so much.  I was 21 when the age of consent was lowered from 21 to 18 in 1994 (the irony!), and it wasn’t until 2001 that the age of consent was equalised.  And at the time when all my (straight) friends were getting married, I was envious and if I’m honest a little melancholic that I thought I would never have the opportunity to stand up in front of my family and friends and say ‘This is the man I love’, ‘This is the man I want to spend the rest of my life with’.  That changed in 2005 when the Civil Partnership Act came into effect, and in 2012 my partner and I did have a civil ceremony.  We’re lucky to have the love of our families, and the support of our friends.  But this is no time for complacency.  Onwards.  Coming Out was still the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  There remains much prejudice and injustice for those identifying as LGBT – in the UK and globally.  And that’s why I’m proud to be the LGBTQ+ champion on Council – the governing body of UCL – to ensure that the LGBT voice is always heard and considered here at UCL.  I’m grateful to all those from previous generations who stood up and were counted and made possible the changes to society that I have valued.  I hope future generations will have cause to look on us so kindly.

John Hurst

Dec01 2016

Rex Knight, Vice-Provost (Operations) & Disability Equality Champion at UCL

I write this on the first days of UK Disability History Month (UKDHA) which has run since 2010, and this year’s theme is around language, the ways in which disabled people have been described through history, and the ways in which they have expressed themselves. The month will look at language in all media, including oral history, newspapers and literature. The language used to describe disability even as recently as in my own parents’ generation is often shocking to us now, and no doubt there will continue to be change, reflecting a greater understanding over time of the social model.

On 3 December we also mark International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD). The theme for 2016 is “Achieving 17 goals for the Future we want”. This may not be the catchiest rallying cry ever but the day provides a focus for a range of events all across the world. Last year the somewhat catchier hashtag for the event; #aday4all, became the most popular on the internet on that day, and gave easy access to the events and celebrations on the day, so do give it a try this year.

At UCL, the Deafness Cognition and Language Centre (DCAL) have recently launched a new online deaf awareness course. The centre brings together leading Deaf and hearing researchers in the fields of sign linguistics, psychology, and neuroscience. These experts have developed a self-paced online course that explores deafness and hearing loss in its many forms:

It is intended that this course will help participants to understand the barriers faced by Deaf people and the importance of equal access.

We have also recently signed up to the Business Disability Forum with the aim of becoming a disability-smart organisation. I will be chairing a new group which will form the self-assessment team for the Disability Standard Charter as part of our membership of the Forum. The Standard is an online management tool to help UCL to measure and improve on performance for disabled staff and students. UCL will be assessed in a variety of areas including our commitment, reasonable adjustments, recruitment, suppliers, premises and communication. An action plan will be developed as part of the charter, which will help us to continue being a disability-smart organisation.

Rex Knight

Nov 09 2016

The Rev’d Charlotte Bradley, Chaplain and Interfaith Advisor to UCL, reflects on Interfaith Week (13-20 November 2016)

I had assumed until recently, when I was doing a quick bit of research, that Interfaith Week had a long and illustrious history. The second part of that is true, but Interfaith Week has actually only taken place since 2008, as a result of a report from the Department for Communities and Local Government which set out a strategy for encouraging the development of inter faith activity in England.

After another year of seemingly endless news headlines about violence carried out by organisations claiming to be motivated by religion, I don’t think there can be much doubt of the need for a week which aims to increase tolerance of and understanding about faith communities. For me, the benefits of Interfaith Week were writ large by the news in July that whilst saying Mass for a small congregation in a church in France, an elderly French priest was killed by two terrorists purporting to carry out his murder in the name of ‘religion’. The following week, Muslims attended Mass in churches across France and members of the local Jewish and Muslim community in Rouen attended the murdered priest’s funeral at the Cathedral, to pay their respects and to show that they wouldn’t allow their faith to be used to justify such appalling acts of violence. Those actions of community cohesion in the wake of violence symbolised the aims of Interfaith Week:

  • To strengthen good inter faith relations at all levels
  • To increase the awareness of different faith communities and celebrate the contribution their members make to their neighbourhoods and wider society
  • To increase understanding between people of religious and non-religious beliefs

At UCL we’ll be celebrating Interfaith Week with a series of events, including the launch of the Council of Christians & Jews Campus Leadership Programme, designed to engage students in interfaith dialogue and offer them mentoring and opportunities for study and travel; a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral (where UCL will be mentioned in the prayers during Choral Evensong) and a discussion between the Atheist, Humanist & Secularist Society and the Catholic Society on the existence of God. In addition to these main events, many of the UCLU faith societies will be inviting staff and students of all faiths and none to come and find out more about their beliefs and practices during one of their weekly meetings – for example to experience what happens during Buddhist meditation, or a lunchtime discussion group with the Jewish Society. Interfaith Week encourages us all to put aside prejudice and preconceptions, to reflect more deeply on our own beliefs, and to build understanding and friendship across religious and cultural divides.

For more information on Interfaith Week, contact the Chaplain & Interfaith Advisor to UCL:

A flyer of events taking place at UCL during Interfaith Week 2016, can be downloaded here.

May 17 2013

Sir Stephen Wall, UCL Chair of Council, reflects on International Day Against Homophobia:

'IDAHO , famous for potatoes'. That, until a year ago, was as much as I knew: a thirty old recollection of an American car number plate.

IDAHO, as in International Day against Homophobia, sprang off the internet into my consciousness a year ago: an international day, marked by as many of us as possible in as many countries as possible. And, of course, our minds turn to people such as Bisi Alimi and John Bosco Nyombi, from Nigeria and Uganda respectively, who have both spoken at U C L in the last year: refugees because of their sexuality, brothers of ours who cannot, except in peril of their lives, return to their own countries.

But what about closer to home? I am not the most representative person to talk about coming out, having taken 40 years to pluck up the courage to do just that. But the discussions we have in the LGBT+ staff group, and the experiences of colleagues, suggest that being out as a gay or lesbian man or woman is still not straightforward. If I was 18 today, roughly the age when I knew that I was physically attracted to my own sex, there would be huge advances in law and attitudes to empower me. But what if I heard, as we have, the Anglican Archbishop of York compare the Government's same sex Marriage Bill to the actions of the worst dictators? Or the Archbishop of Lyon liken homosexuality to incest and, by implication, incite the faithful to violence against it? That would - does - make me feel that, even now, my sexuality can be distorted to confine, as well as define, me.

For me, UCL has been the open space I could come out into. Do we yet have a space wide enough to allow us all to spread our wings?

Stephen Wall




Last updated: 06th October 2017