Vice-Provost's View: From local to global - UCL and London
24 October 2014
Over the past decade or so, UCL has experienced a dramatic surge in global reputation and growth. Although this is the consequence of the outstanding work carried out by the UCL community over many decades, our success is likely to have been aided by being in one of the world's leading cities: London.
As research becomes even more collaborative and cross disciplinary, as the world's global challenges become more complex, as education becomes transformed, where we are, who we work with and how we do so, will be critical to our success.
Does location matter?
It may seem counter-intuitive, that our location in London should play such a prominent role in the UCL 2034 strategy. After all, our research, education, partnerships and external engagement know no such boundaries.
We are a global university and we are just as likely to be communicating with students, academics, partners and collaborators from Mumbai, Beijing, Berlin and Silicon Valley, as we are in Gower Street.
But we know that physical location does matter. We know that people want, and need, to come together to inspire one another, to discover and invent, to co-create, to do business and innovate.
And now more than 3.5 billion people - 50% of the world's population - are resident in cities, with the prediction that another 2.5-3 billion more will be doing so by 2050.
And locally, we only need to look at some of the collaborations that UCL is engaged in on our doorstep to see the importance of place both now and into the future.
In recent years, UCL has embarked upon major strategic partnerships including UCL Partners, the Francis Crick Institute and Med City. We continue to play a key role in London's Tech City, where we opened, in partnership with Cisco and DC Thomson, our innovation centre IDEALondon last year to support digital entrepreneurs.
These projects have seen UCL work with university partners, hospitals, corporate partners, local and national government and small businesses to drive forward research, innovation, contribute to London's prosperity and create jobs.
They are a powerful example of the benefits to the UCL community - and London - of this new, hyper-connected approach.
So if we are to achieve our aims as a global university, we will become even more reliant on working with people and organisations that are not part of UCL. Our location will matter more than ever and we must therefore develop a strategy for our relationship with London.
A strategy for London engagement
So in recognising the benefit and opportunity that there is for UCL to work more collaboratively with organisations and individuals in London, we will develop a strategy for London engagement.
And the benefits in doing so are mutual: our location in the capital helps UCL excel on the international stage and we, in turn, contribute to London's success. Higher education contributes an estimated £7.9 billion to London's economy, supporting nearly 150,000 jobs and attracting 100,000 students from around the world.
As with all strategic development at UCL, this will start by building on the exceptional work already going on. There is a breath-taking array of exciting collaborations between UCL academics, students and organisations from the public, private and charitable sectors.
A successful strategy will ensure that those remain in place and provide the bedrock of collaboration upon which strategic developments can thrive.
While we are only at the beginning of the development of the strategy, we will ensure that there is alignment and consistency with the spirit and detail of UCL 2034.
So, among the many exciting areas that we expect to emerge from the UCL community, we can envisage at least three themes that have already emerged from development of UCL 2034 and merit careful consideration.
UCL - IN LONDON
Our physical location in London is an extraordinary advantage and we are embarking upon a transformation of our core Bloomsbury campus. However, we work across many sites in UCL and have plans for an exciting new development, UCL East, on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park (QEOP).
This will provide us with an unparalleled opportunity to develop new ways of working and build on the demand for a site where we can locate research staff, small businesses, corporate and university partners and communities side-by-side.
This week, the UCL Council gave conditional approval to the final business case for UCL East. This means that subject to meeting those conditions - we will be pressing ahead, with our target to open the first of the buildings in 2018.
UCL - OF LONDON
Partnerships and collaboration. Individually and collectively, UCL is an active partner with people and organisations of London. Much of our success has been the result of our willingness and enthusiasm to collaborate.
But there is more we can do with other educational establishments - universities, of course, but also schools and further education colleges. Our relationships with local government organisations are also vital, as are our relationships with our hospital partners and the NHS.
One of London's key strengths is the mix of culture and business and we could choose to direct our energy into building those further. We will expect to sustain existing key partnerships and develop several new strategic partnerships in London.
UCL - FOR LONDON
Sustainable prosperity. London is unique among the cities that can truly claim to be global powerhouses in research in that it has more universities in the world's top 20 - and many more in the top 100 - than any of its rivals.
By working in partnership with others, we could seek to establish London as the global capital for higher education, research and innovation - generating jobs and prosperity for UCL and the capital.
In order to do so, we need to put our global network of students, entrepreneurs, alumni to work for us and for London in collaboration with businesses, government organisations, NGOs and charities.
One of the great privileges of putting together a new strategy for London is the opportunity to engage across UCL, drawing on the creativity, inspiration and energy of the whole university.
As the strategy develops, there will be plenty of opportunity for input - but if you have immediate thoughts, please contact me through email@example.com.
Over the next year, we will do just that and ensure that we craft a vision that will deliver even greater benefits for UCL and for London.
Professor Stephen Caddick
Vice-Provost (Enterprise and London)