UCL Grand Challenges courses


First and second year students - overview

Courses for first and second year undergraduates focus on the UCL Grand Challenges – enabling students to tackle the same key global questions as UCL’s world-leading researchers. The courses are specially designed to be multidisciplinary, accessible and enjoyable.

Students on the first-year part of the UCL Global Citizenship Programme study in small groups of 12-15 participants, each led by a post-graduate teaching assistant (PGTA). While some content is delivered by lectures, the focus is on the project work these groups produce together.

Find out more about each of the options below, and follow the links to the course pages for more detail on timetables and project work.

There are four options, each based on one of UCL's Grand Challenges. These represent UCL's commitment to solving complex global problems through cross-disciplinary research; the groups on our four courses are similarly be made up of students from across UCL, each bringing a unique perspective to the problems presented.

The Danube (Intercultural Interaction)


The Danube is one of Europe’s major rivers, passing through 10 countries as it flows from Germany to Romania. It is both a barrier and a bridge to cooperation, a cause and a cure for conflict: this course will explore both sides of the river’s role in bringing cultures together and keeping them apart, through history, politics, environmental science and literature. Students will also have the opportunity to undertake taster lessons in one of six Danubian languages.

"Viewing issues from the perspective of people from the Danube region offered a fascinating and often unexpected insight into the social and cultural intricacies of Danubian culture" 

Find out more about The Danube

People and the Sea (Human Wellbeing)


Students will spend two weeks exploring the relationships between people and the seas – from fisheries governance to the effects of Antarctic ice melt, from demography to technology. Working in teams, you will be allocated a country to focus on. You will represent this country at the end of the course at a Rio+20 style summit to negotiate a new agreement on the use of the oceans, as well as creating a short film.

"Definitely worth signing up for"

Find out more about People and the Sea

Global Alliances for Local Change (Sustainable Cities)

Grand Challenge of Sustainable Cities

We live in a rapidly urbanizing world. With over two-thirds of the global population predicted to live in cities by 2050, such transformation holds profound implications for key issues of global concern including environmental change, the stratification of social and political power, and the equitable distribution of resources in the context of great diversity.

Global Alliances for Local Change will revolve around a simulation taking place in an informal settlement in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Students will be assigned a specific role from within a set of actor groups, including groups of slum dwellers, NGOs, and government, to explore the major challenges and potentials for promoting sustainable and equitable cities in the context of urbanization and globalization.

Find out more about Global Alliances for Local Change

Health in Future Cities (Global Health)

Grand Challenge of Global Health

It is 2033. Nagpur, Abuja, Edmonton, San Luis Potosí, Chengdu and Astana, all inland cities, are world capitals. Because of climate change, flooding and raised sea levels, coastal capitals have been abandoned as most of them (London, New York, Beijing, Lagos, Mumbai, Cairo, Washington DC) are now under seawater. Mass migration, as a consequence of the climate shift, has meant an increase in urban populations, resulting in an increase in poverty and intergenerational inequality, limited access to water, poorer waste disposal, a lack of food security and an increase in communicable and non-communicable diseases. Each capital faces challenges that are particular to it and to the country and region within it resides.

Students will work to address the challenge each city faces - at local, national and global levels, working individually, in groups and across groups where appropriate.

Find out more about Health in Future Cities


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