Provost’s View: Celebrating excellence and success

26 June 2014

With the end of the examination period and the approach of summer, it feels like an appropriate time for us to pay tribute to some of the award-winning activity that has taken place across the university over the past few weeks.

If you came along to the recent Any UCL Questions event with Jonathan Dimbleby, you might have heard me say that all universities experience a degree of separation between the academic community and those working in professional services. Moreover, this becomes increasingly apparent when institutions come under pressure.

If we want UCL to operate as effectively as possible, we need to work hard to close such gaps – using all our expertise to address the challenges that we face and work together as one team.

With that in mind, I was delighted to attend last week’s inaugural Professional Services Awards at the Bloomsbury Theatre.

Enabling excellence

The awards, which celebrated the results of innovation and collaboration across professional services teams, drew attention to a range of projects that enrich our community.

Whether it’s the construction of new facilities such as the beautiful Octagon gallery, support for diversity and mutual respect across campus, or the creation of empowering staff networks such as Astrea, our Professional Services team is working hard to ensure that our teaching and research missions receive high-quality support.

The annual awards, which are open to professional services teams in both central divisions and across faculties and departments, celebrated examples of excellent service delivered by UCL’s administrative functions.

They also demonstrated how effective collaboration can help smooth complex processes such as the transfer of three large MRC units to UCL’s School of Life and Medical Sciences.

You can read more about the Professional Services Conference on the UCL Events Blog.

An accessible, publicly engaged organisation

Many of you are already engaging with our new draft institutional strategy, UCL 2034, and will know that one of its principal themes is the creation of an accessible, publicly engaged organisation that fosters a lifelong community.

A key objective in support of this aim is empowering staff and students to act as agents for change in the community, while actively encouraging social entrepreneurship.

The UCL Public Engagement Unit will have an important role to play in this process and, with that in mind, it was fantastic to hear of their recent success in a competition organised by the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement.

Public engagement

The team won the ‘Collaborations Award’ for their project Focus on the Positive, a public event where the audience chooses how to change the world.

Organised in conjunction with a wide variety of organisations, from museums to retired learners' groups, the event features a handful of UCL researchers who explain how they want to tackle the big issues in the world. 

Audiences are given the opportunity to question the speakers before voting for their preferred proposal, with the winning researcher awarded £2,000 to support their project.

In addition to the success of Focus on the Positive, the UCL Public Engagement Unit was also shortlisted in the ‘Established Project’ category for Bright Club, while the regular networking event Creating Connections was also shortlisted in the ‘Collaborations’ category.

Congratulations to all concerned.

Birthday Honours

As valuable as our internal awards schemes are, it is always gratifying when the contributions of the UCL community receive external recognition.

With that in mind, I was delighted by the strong showing of UCL staff, past and present, in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

The full list of UCL recipients can be seen on the UCL News website, but I would like to draw attention to two awards in particular.

Catherine Law, Professor of Public Health and Epidemiology at UCL Institute of Child Health and Honorary Consultant in Public Health Medicine at Great Ormond Street Hospital, received a CBE for her services to public health.

Catherine’s research on public health for children has direct application to policymaking, addressing issues such as obesity and physical growth, health behaviours and inequalities in child health.

Professor David Fish was knighted in recognition of his role as Managing Director of UCLPartners Academic Health Science Partnership. Sir David has led UCLPartners with great energy and distinction, creating the template for Academic Health Science Networks throughout England.

Through its collaborative approach, UCLP supports its partners to achieve demonstrable and lasting benefits: preventing disease, diagnosing disease earlier, educating the workforce, giving people better access to world-class treatments and, ultimately, saving lives.

Familiar faces

Other familiar names on this year’s list include former Vice-Provost (International) Professor Michael Worton who received a CBE for services to higher education and Professor David Delpy (former Head of UCL Medical Physics & Bioengineering), who received a CBE for services to engineering and scientific research.

A full list of the Queen’s Birthday Honours for 2014 can be found on the Gov.uk website.

The value of volunteering

Although awards are often bestowed upon individuals, they are frequently the result of the combined efforts of much larger teams.

When John Braime, manager of the Volunteering Services Unit (VSU), recently picked up the Lifetime Achievement Award at the National Student Volunteering Conference, he was quick to point out the contribution of his colleagues.

However, we should not underestimate the contribution of someone who founded the VSU in 2002 and has overseen year-on-year growth in the number of UCL students who volunteer in local community groups around the university.

This year, in excess of 1,800 student volunteers (more than six per cent of the total student body) supported 72 student projects through the VSU.

These figures highlight both the substantial benefits that are being delivered by UCL to the neighbouring community, along with the significant proportion of our students who are able to benefit from extracurricular development through volunteering.

Excellence in teaching

I can’t finish this edition of the Provost’s View without mentioning the recent Student Choice Teaching Awards and Provost’s Teaching Awards.

UCL is a world-class university and its teaching reflects that quality. These awards give us an opportunity to recognise publicly the outstanding and inspirational contributions made by many of our staff, from postgraduate teaching assistants and those at the beginning of their careers, right through to experienced members of staff and those who help develop the next generation of researchers.

If you would like more details of this year’s winners, you can download a copy of the event programme from the UCL teaching and learning page on Issuu.

Sharing the news

Given the constraints of the Provost’s View, it is simply not possible for me to profile all of the fantastic work that goes on across the whole institution. This column would resemble a full-length novel if I were to attempt to do everybody justice.

There will undoubtedly be more good news, accolades and case studies of best practice that deserve to be shared with the wider UCL community.

If you have more examples that others should know about, I suggest you contact your Faculty Communications Manager in the first instance.

They will be able to advise on the best channels to communicate the good news to the relevant audience.

Professor Michael Arthur

UCL President & Provost

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