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BASc: the first year

2 September 2013

Carl Gombrich, Programme Director of UCL's flagship Bachelor of Arts and Sciences (BASc) degree, discusses the first year of the course, the refreshing lack of student drinking competitions and the vital importance of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

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Our first year at Arts and Sciences now well and truly in the bag, it is time to reflect on the experience.

Overall, I have to say, it has been wonderful. This is due in no small part to our students, who have been a superb cohort. Perhaps dynamic liberal arts programmes such as the BASc often attract the best students, but there may have been an extra ‘entrepreneurial edge’ to our first group, an attractive ‘risk-taking’ element; they knew they were embarking on a fresh project, something which would be as new to many of their lecturers and teachers as it was to them.

All the academic and administrative staff associated with the programme have been impressed by the dynamism, maturity, intellectual openness and ability of the cohort. There seemed to be little of the somewhat boring drinking competitions and a lot more in the way of music nights, involvement with theatre, setting up of blogs, model UN, MOOCs, summer balls etc.

We were fortunate in that a fine common room was developed for the degree which was a nice place to meet, but a place is no place without good people in it, and the buzz around the common room was due to the students who used it as a space to study, chat, socialise, hold evening events and do project work.

The Arts and Sciences cohort is a nice balance of UK and overseas students and there is a lot of multilingualism around – people from multicultural backgrounds and many with experience of living overseas. We have a doughnut session every week in the common room when students and staff meet for tea and doughnuts (Krispy Kreme, since you ask) and although some students have been known to nab a doughnut and run – which is not quite in the spirit of the meeting – others often stay behind to discuss everything from their past lives to current and future interests and study choices or careers. I hope we can introduce a ‘foreign languages only’ rule to some of the doughnut meets to practise our languages – that way at least everyone will know how to say ‘doughnut’ in the language they are learning!

The Arts and Sciences curriculum is challenging, as students must take courses that require breadth alongside more traditional courses that require depth. The students rose to the challenge superbly and we are very pleased with the first-year results. Many students did new modules in such things as Engineering Thinking, Law and Media and Design, which are usually only taken by students on single honours programmes. We are delighted and grateful that so many of our superb UCL colleagues have been inspired to write new courses for the programme and think again about how UCL might offer undergraduate education.

Our first-year interdisciplinary courses in Approaches to Knowledge, Quantitative Methods and Interdisciplinary Research Methods produced some excellent and inspiring interdisciplinary work. One member of staff (who shall remain nameless) said, when examining a more extended piece of work, “Cor, I wish I’d thought of that!”

Arts and Sciences BASc is a major undergraduate venture for UCL. We started with 87 students in September 2012, which I think is the biggest cohort for the first year of an undergraduate degree in UCL’s history. We are very much looking forward to our exciting second year for which many new modules have been developed, including Mark Miodownik’s Engineering Thinking II, Object Lessons from Helen Chatterjee and Bill Sillar, Evolution and the Human Condition from Richard Goldstein, Data Visualisation from the Digital Humanities department and many more. We will also be welcoming more than 110 new first years and are very much looking forward to meeting them. We know they are going to follow in the footsteps of the pioneers and take the course to the next level!

Carl Gombrich

Programme Director

Arts and Sciences BASc

Page last modified on 02 sep 13 15:38


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