Watch: Learning and teaching at UCL 2010–2015

19 January 2011

Professor Michael Worton, Vice-Provost (Academic & International) discusses the ambitions and focuses of UCL’s new international learning and teaching strategy.


What are the chief differences between the new learning and teaching strategy and the 2005 strategy?

The new strategy builds on principles in the 2005 document – most notably our concept of ‘education for global citizenship’. However, we are clear that we need to develop this over the next five years – both to respond to increasing global competition, and to offer our students the very best learning experience possible.

The 2010-15 Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategy is therefore extremely ambitious. We want to ensure that, by 2015, we have:

  • moved to an internationalised curriculum, in all disciplines;
  • created an environment which fosters and rewards excellence in teaching, with a high profile for teaching as an academic activity;
  • invested in innovation in teaching to drive UCL’s reputation internationally.

Ultimately, we are seeking to establish UCL as the hub of an international network of research-led institutions that fosters excellence in teaching and learning.

The new strategy builds on a number of examples of excellent practice currently within UCL; our task over the coming years is embed these new ways of thinking about teaching across the institution, and to draw on our strengths in teaching to enhance our international profile.

Click on the player below to see Professor Worton discuss learning and teaching at UCL

What influences, internal and external, have informed the new strategy?

There are many colleagues at UCL, at all stages of their careers, whose teaching is inspirational, and who are pioneering new approaches and new uses of technology in support of learning. We have learned a lot from the winners of the Provost’s Teaching Awards, from ESCILTA grant-holders, and from those who have been working with the Centre for the Advancement of Learning and Teaching (CALT). The strategy has, in part, grown out of a desire to ensure that these individuals’ ideas can be scaled across UCL.

Our ‘education for global citizenship’ agenda has been well received by students, employers and external bodies. We are therefore prioritising work on new curriculum approaches to leadership and entrepreneurship, with a view to equipping our students with the skills they will need for employment after they leave us.

UCL already benefits from significant teaching links with partner universities across the globe. This first-hand experience of approaches to teaching in other parts of the world, and the discussion and dialogue that this fosters, has influenced the decision to make increased international collaboration a key feature of the strategy for the next five years. We look forward to sharing our own ideas and to learning from the experiences of others.

How does our learning and teaching strategy differ from those of our peers in the sector?

Students in a lecture

UCL’s approach to the student experience is characterised by what we call the ‘global citizenship attributes’. We aim to produce graduates who are:

  • critical and creative thinkers
  • ambitious – but also idealistic and committed to ethical behaviour
  • aware of the intellectual and social value of cultural difference
  • entrepreneurs with the ability to innovate
  • willing to assume leadership roles: in the family, the community and the workplace
  • highly employable and ready to embrace professional mobility.

These attributes have been framed deliberately to describe how a UCL student will be able to contribute to society in their future lives, whether at work, amongst friends and family, or within the community. We want to produce rounded individuals who are able to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves, rather than graduates who think of themselves and their future prospects in relatively fixed terms.

UCL, as London’s global university, is also marked out by the extent to which it seeks to position itself in an international context, both in terms of the students it attracts, and its social and ideological responsibilities as a university. These principles are core to the teaching that we provide, and to our decision to internationalise our curricula to the extent that we teach a global curriculum, rather than a UK or EU-centric one.

Could you describe the relationship between UCL’s international and research strategies and the new learning and teaching strategy?

UCL’s Learning and Teaching Strategy and the International Strategy are both coordinated by my office, and there is naturally a great deal of synergy between them. The emphasis on an internationalised curriculum, and on learning from partnership institutions with similar institutions in other countries, reflects the priorities of the International Strategy.

We have also ensured that the Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategy is closely aligned with the principles that informed UCL’s research strategies. It is hugely important for UCL that our teaching continues to be research-led, including finding ways of giving undergraduate students opportunities to undertake research. The Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategy is also focused on the potential of interdisciplinary working for driving innovation in teaching; this is one of the principles which informs our new BASc (Bachelor of Arts and Sciences) degree, which launches in 2012.

UCL’s academic community is engaged in formulating responses to some of the most pressing global challenges. Our teaching is informed by our academics’ research work, and this exposure to an environment which is concerned with scoping, proposing and testing potential solutions to such problems is a vital element of the UCL student experience.

How can innovations be introduced in terms of both teaching and raising the profile of teaching at UCL?

UCL is establishing a Teaching Quality Fund which will provide additional money to seed innovations (through a new streamlined programme of grants) as well as training and opportunities for networking for staff involved with teaching.

It will also enable us to establish an international network of university partners with research-led teaching strengths; this will facilitate staff exchanges and Fellowship opportunities for academics across UCL.

Furthermore, we will also be establishing a teaching and learning portal for UCL: a web resource which will showcase examples of good practice; offer easily accessible advice and guidance for staff with a range of teaching challenges, and, ultimately, offer online continuing professional development opportunities.

Finally, we will be reviewing UCL’s promotion criteria to ensure that teaching is appropriately highly weighted, and continuing the very successful Provost’s Teaching Awards programme, which recognises outstanding contributions to teaching.

How will progress and success of the initiatives within the strategy be measured?

The Institutional Learning and Teaching Strategy is a key UCL strategy and progress against its implementation plan will be reviewed by Academic Committee on an annual basis.

UCL is also be establishing a taskforce on innovation in teaching and learning which will have responsibility for reviewing the ways in which UCL supports teaching and ensuring that we are working effectively towards the goals in the strategy.

I also expect that the UCL community will hold us accountable for delivering some of the new elements of the strategy, including the teaching and learning portal, and the opportunities for teaching placements abroad through the Fellowship Network.