Provost’s View 28/11/2013: Connecting with the UCL community
28 November 2013
One of the many privileges of being President & Provost is that I have the opportunity to interact with such a wide range of people who represent the different facets that together make UCL such a great institution.
In what has felt like a frantic, but highly rewarding start to my tenure, I have toured every faculty, meeting staff and students at all levels.
I’ve been delighted to see how undergraduate students in Economics, for example, are genuinely benefiting from new learning facilities, and heartened to hear positive views about the UCL experience overall from Bartlett students, despite the challenges presented by the poor facilities in Wates House.
I’ve also had an interesting perspective from Economics research students, who feel that their period of study could be longer, to help them compete for academic positions with doctoral graduates from top US institutions.
Encounters with our world-leading researchers have continued to boost my already considerable pride in the excellence and relevance of our output. The launch of the Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre, involving investigators at the forefront of the search for treatments to halt neurodegenerative diseases, was one such inspiring meeting.
It also gave me the chance to learn more about partners and donors who help to make this crucial work happen. I was especially delighted to deliver my thanks in person to several members of the Wolfson family - long-term, generous donors to UCL who provided £20 million to support the centre through the Wolfson Foundation.
Last week’s award of the Queens Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education to UCL Biochemical Engineering serves as yet another example of this pre-eminence. It represents the most prestigious form of national recognition open to a UK academic or vocational institution.
The Biochemical Engineering department has a global reputation for applied research and strong clinical and commercial partnerships. It really does exemplify the UCL ethos of delivering real world solutions, and everyone in the department, past and present, can be very proud of their achievements.
The next stage of my tour around UCL will include visits to all the Professional Services departments, and further deepening my connections with academic staff and students through a schedule of in- depth meetings at a departmental level.
Beyond the UCL community, the strength of our reputation helps to open doors to people who have the capacity to expand our impact on the world around us. I have recently had the pleasure of discussing in New York the need for new economic thinking with former Governor of the Bank of England Lord Mervyn King, UCL Professor David Tuckett, 30 of UCL’s close contacts and financier and philanthropist George Soros.
The meeting was part of the launch of the UCL Centre of Decision-Making Uncertainty, which was made possible with an initial $250,000 grant from the Institute for New Economic Thinking. A fascinating evening, as you can imagine, but, alas, Chatham House rules prevent me from saying more.
Connecting with alumni has proved an enlightening and, on occasion, entertaining experience. I had a very enjoyable evening in the company of more than 120 US alumni at a British Consulate reception in New York, where I found huge enthusiasm for UCL and a genuine desire for continuing involvement with their alma mater.
I felt particularly vindicated when, following my speech encouraging alumni to act as ambassadors for UCL, a former editor of London Student admitted that she regretted some of the less than flattering stories she had written about UCL in the past and confessed now to being a great fan.
Finally, I’d like to report back briefly on yesterday’s meeting of the UCL Council, which endorsed a number of estates projects that promise to enhance significantly the UCL experience for staff and students alike, This followed a tour of the ‘bad and the ugly’ elements of the estate I had arranged for members.
Work is due to begin next summer to transform the Physics Yard, Lower Refectory and Bloomsbury Theatre, bringing the iconic Wilkins complex up to the standards expected of a world-class university. The Wates and Kathleen Lonsdale buildings will also be fully refurbished.
Council also agreed that UCL should now start to carry out detailed scoping work to explore the Olympic Park as a location for some new UCL activities. The project will be led by Professor Stephen Caddick, to whom all enquiries should be directed.
Professor Michael Arthur
UCL President & Provost