Freshers win UCL–City & Islington College awards

10 October 2006

Two first-year undergraduates have received awards from the UCL–City & Islington College (CIC) Partnership for their exceptional achievement in gaining a place at UCL in difficult circumstances.

Amin Amiri arrived in the UK from Iran aged 15 speaking minimal English, but achieved AABB in his A levels, and has just started studying Electronic Engineering & Communications. He received the Provost’s Prize for the outstanding commitment shown in achieving his academic success. He said: “I started being fascinated by sciences when I was 11. I’m especially interested in nanotechnology and communication and after my degree I would like to work with conduction polymers.”

Desmond Hymes was awarded a Helena Kennedy Foundation bursary award. The award, sponsored for the first time by UCL, is given annually to a student who has overcome significant challenges to gain a place at university. Desmond is also embarking on a degree at UCL Electronic & Electrical Engineering.

Both prizes are worth £2000.

Now in its sixth year, the partnership between UCL and CIC was established to pursue two objectives: to encourage students to aim higher; and to get academics to look at how universities can encourage aspiration and ease the transition from college to university.

The partnership also announced the appointment of Tracey Gardiner as the new Staff Fellow for 2006/7. One staff fellowship is awarded every year to a CIC teacher who will work on a research project at UCL for half a day every week. Ms Gardiner teaches Art and Textiles at City & Islington Sixth Form College and will work with the UCL Slade School of Fine Art, researching the progression paths of black and minority ethnic students onto fine art degrees.

The staff fellowship is one of several ways CIC staff benefit from the scheme. Teachers of humanities and business subjects participated in an away day in July, looking at UCL’s many collections and sharing ideas on how to involve them in teaching at the college. CIC staff also hold honorary UCL library cards.

The partnership’s co-ordinator, Peter Murray said: “One real strength of the partnership is the diversity of its elements. The tutor-mentoring schemes for aspiring medics and lawyers give our sixth-formers the opportunity to learn what a course is really like from university students. Visits from academics have also been popular – Professor Steve Jones comes every year to give a lecture to students studying biology and other subjects, and it’s always packed. This year we also took a group of biologists to work in UCL labs at the forefront of molecular genetics research, which is incredibly inspiring for them. We are also piloting a library sharing scheme to allow students to use UCL’s libraries – students have been really impressed by the buildings and the books and journals available”.

UCL Vice-Provost Professor Michael Worton said that the partnership’s strong research element could benefit not only UCL and CIC, but also other organisations: “Our shared action research projects in maths and foreign languages, for instance, are bearing fruit that will help not only our two institutions, but could also ultimately benefit other universities, FE colleges and schools. Another area of real importance to us is our shared commitment to enhancing our understanding of what academic practice can and should be in a fast-changing educational world.”