Brain Sciences


2022 London’s Calling: Returning to the office, UCL East opening and UCL on the BBC

31 January 2022

Written by Professor Alan Thompson, Pro-Provost (London) and Dean, Faculty of Brain Sciences

Professor Alan Thompson

In what has been another fast-moving month, we have approached the end of January 2022 extremely quickly and we are now well underway into Term 2. I am certainly looking forward to returning to the office very shortly and embracing life in London once again. Engaging in-person on London matters is high up on the agenda!

This term we will be seeking to refresh our London Framework which is now two years old. When we wrote the London Framework in 2020 the London Office was very much in its inception phase and so it is timely that we refresh the document to ensure it remains relevant to our role in London. The London Framework was developed with clear aspiration: to create purpose, connect people and celebrate place. A key goal of the framework is to enhance engagement, coordinate relationships and enrich society whilst amplifying UCL’s impact in London. We have been developing all of these aspects over the past two years and they are now a core part of our daily work in the London Office.

Within the refresh we will update our priorities for this year so that we can share these with the UCL community and our partners across London. We would also like to report on current areas of UCL activity with London-specific impact and so that we recognise our far-reaching impact across the city. We are particularly looking for examples which demonstrate clear societal impact. With this in mind, please share your case studies (up to 300 words) with Amy Lightstone - the deadline for submission is 14th February.

I wanted to raise awareness of the successful roundtable UCL held with Newham Council on 14th January to explore and share research and ideas on the concept of 15-minute neighbourhoods, their different forms and potentials. The event took place ahead of Newham’s forthcoming Citizens’ Assembly on the same subject alongside UCL academics and colleagues from Newham Council. With particular thanks to Noel Hatch (London Borough of Newham), Professor Ben Campkin (UCL Urban Laboratory, The Bartlett School Built Environment), Dr Olivia Stevenson (UCL Public Policy), Professor Mark Tewdwr- Jones (Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), The Bartlett) and Justine Wright (UCL East) for convening the event. It is fantastic to see the progress we are making in East London in particular enhancing our engagement with the borough. And of course this year UCL’s new campus, UCL East, will open in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in September. Our close working with Professor Paola Lettieri, UCL East Director, will only strengthen as we all work towards the opening and exciting developments for UCL across two campuses, both in Camden and Newham.

It was fantastic to see UCL on the big screen recently as the BBC’s The Apprentice was filmed at UCL. The episode featured The Quad as well as the UCL Eastman Dental Institute’s new state-of-the-art teaching and reaching facility, based as UCL’s Rockefeller Building in Bloomsbury. The show also featured a glimpse of UCL’s engineering facility at Here East, based at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in East London, home to UCL East and opening later this year. It is amazing to see our world class facilities in the heart of London being showcased in such a way.

For this month’s guest feature I am delighted that Anne Laybourne has shared how the Community Research Initiative within the Volunteering Service, Students’ Union UCL, is supporting student community engagement in London. Partnership working with local voluntary sector organisations truly enriches the student experience; please do read more about the work below.

Finally, on 27th January UCL marked Holocaust Memorial Day 2022, a day to remember the victims of the Holocaust and their families. UCL’s hosted a range of activities to mark the day, both virtually and in and around London. UCL’s Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies led an online commemoration and a visit took place to an exhibition on the radical right movement in interwar Europe at the Wiener Holocaust Museum in Bloomsbury. The Portico was lit up all day on 27th January, to remember and pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust.

Making student community engagement as easy as possible: Written by Anne Laybourne, Community Research Initiative Manager, Volunteering Service, Students’ Union UCL

The Community Research Initiative is UCL’s first cross-university student community engagement service exclusively for our postgraduate taught community. Any master’s student can sign up and access various types of support to start them on a journey of partnership building with a voluntary sector organisation or community group. Partnerships comprising a master’s student, their UCL supervisor, and a community partner co-design a research project to produce useful and useable knowledge. The project forms the basis of the student’s dissertation or final project – and a rich learning experience.

A key milestone for the Community Research Initiative has just been achieved - the design and build of an online platform to advertise research ideas, generated by our voluntary and community partners. Working in close collaboration with our Systems Team in the Students’ Union UCL, led by Max Keeble, we are so proud to launch the Community Noticeboard.

We went live on 10th January 2022, advertising 20 ideas generated by community partners following our free community research clinic hosted in November 2021. The Noticeboard is however a living resource, with Partners able to set up a profile and add ideas at any time - although we do caution that peak interest in any given year will be January through March, when our master’s students are really looking to pin down their dissertation topics and projects!

Students are invited to browse the Noticeboard and make an expression of interest by articulating why they are interested and how they might develop the idea into a project. At this point, the personalised processes of the Community Research Initiative kick in and we support setting up knowledge exchange meetings between students and partners, facilitated if needs be. UCL supervisors are brought in when allocated and we supply supporting materials such as research partnership forms as well as skills training around project planning, communication, and participatory approaches.

So far so good! We already have expressions of interests coming in and knowledge exchange meetings in the diary. Students are telling us they like this resource:

“I really like using the Noticeboard to link the suggested ideas to my own knowledge and skills. It provides me with a great starting point and in that way I'm sure I can do something that is useful for the organisation.” [Bartlett School of Planning MSc student] 

In essence, the Community Noticeboard is one great example at UCL of making community engagement as easy as possible for students to connect with our local voluntary and community sector. Partnership working and collaboration during their dissertation really enriches the student experience, enabling ‘on the job’ learning, navigating different working cultures, and bringing the research process alive.

It also creates a space for our students to engage with non-academic experts with different perspectives and knowledge bases. Lesser-heard voices can contribute to the research agendas surrounding some of London’s biggest social issues; while ideas on the Noticeboard map closely onto our Grand Challenges - Sustainable Cities, Human Wellbeing, and Justice & Equality are already represented in our very first 20 ideas – many of the world’s most pressing issues can be found right here in London and student research is now contributing to our local London communities.

The Community Research Initiative door is always open! We are part of the Volunteering Service in the Students’ Union UCL and you’ll find us at 25 Gordon Street. Please find some time with Anne to discuss out how your students can get involved in community engagement (book a meeting) or how your organisation can be represented (book a meeting)!


Colleagues from across UCL have continued to impact London and Londoners through their research, opportunities and activities. To share just a couple of examples…

The UCL Bartlett have published The Bartlett Review 2021, which shares a collection of research highlights, key insights and impact from The Bartlett, Faculty of the Built Environment at UCL. The Bartlett have a close relationship with London as seen in The Bartlett’s Automated Architecture (AUAR) Labs which have created ‘House Block: a temporary housing prototype in East London’, in part to address the shortage of housing in London.  Additionally through the ‘Healthy Streets Index’ developed by The Bartlett Centre of Advanced Spatial Analysis released for London in May 2020 showing where pavement space provided sufficient space for social distancing. Full details are outlined in the Review here.

2022-23 CAPE Policy Fellows Programme for Policy Professionals. The current call for applications for the 2022-23 CAPE policy fellows programme for policy professionals is now open. The CAPE Fellowship is a flexible professional development programme which offers access to leading researchers across a range of disciplines at the five CAPE partner universities: the University of Cambridge, University College London, University of Manchester, University of Nottingham, and Northumbria University. The Fellowship offers the chance to pose policy questions to be matched with academic researchers able to provide input and to develop a network of academic experts.  Further details are available here. The deadline is 11 February

To share any London impact stories or to get in touch, please contact Amy Lightstone.