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Maintaining global engagement: working together across UCL

As we reach the midway point of UCL's Global Engagement Strategy (GES), take a look at some of the international achievements of people and departments across UCL

UCL global engagement highlights

24 July 2018

At UCL, we believe that bringing together different perspectives and diverse experience accelerates the process of discovery and global impact. And it’s this belief that is embedded firmly at the heart of UCL’s Global Engagement Strategy (GES), which looks at all six principal themes of UCL's 2034 Strategy through a global lens. 

As we reach the midway point of the GES, it presents a good time to evaluate progress so far. The current geopolitical climate is very different from the context in which we launched the strategy, back in 2015. Brexit is the most obvious change, in addition to developments in the US, China, North Korea, Russia and Italy, among others.

The Global Engagement Office continues working with academics and professional services across UCL to ensure we stay globally engaged and continue creating respectful partnerships of equivalence as part of our response.

Diversifying the student body

While the number of international students enrolled at UK universities has remained broadly static in recent years – with around half a million students from outside the UK choosing to study here each year – UCL counters this trend.

In fact, UCL’s percentage of the international students studying at Russell Group institutions has increased from 8.2% to 8.4% this year, maintaining UCL’s position as the number one global recruiter in the UK.

More international study experiences

Providing UCL students with a global experience remains a priority, and UCL has successfully increased the number of international opportunities it offers students, with the number of outwardly mobile undergraduates increasing by an estimated 35% since 2015/16.

In 2016/17, 1,164 undergraduate students (26.3% of the graduating cohort) experienced one week or more abroad, while 23.8% experienced four or more. As of July 2018, at least 1,292 students will take part in such programmes during 2017/18.

This year, UCL Careers launched a new Global Internships Programme to provide students with overseas internships. Further progress has also been made in developing the UCL Summer School: more than 900 applications were received for this year’s programme.

Partnerships of equivalence

UCL is committed to developing international partnerships of equivalence: those that promote collaboration, openness to ideas and mutual benefit for all.

With Peking University (PKU), strong links exist at all levels: individual academic, faculty, and cross-institutional, with academics from all four UCL Schools involved, across eight faculties. In the 2017/18 round of the UCL-PKU Strategic Partner Funds, 14 projects were awarded funding, in fields ranging from neuroscience, earth sciences and law to epidemiology and urban development.

Over the past year, UCL faculty engagement with the University of Toronto (U of T) has increased, including in child health, brain sciences, cities and education. Alongside U of T, UCL’s wide-ranging cross-institutional partnerships now include the Max Planck Institute, Université PSL (Paris Sciences & Lettres), Hong Kong University, Osaka University, and Yale.

With Brexit drawing closer, UCL continues intensifying its engagement in and with European partners in particular. One example is the joint UCL-PSL funding launched to support collaborative research groups across social sciences and humanities.

Engaging in Europe and beyond

UCL’s new Cities Programme will also further our European engagement. This new, university-wide initiative will support, fund and promote research and research-led teaching that UCL academics carry out with partners in selected cities around the globe, starting with Rome and Paris, and eventually going beyond Europe. 

The UCL Global Engagement Funds continue to support academics looking to collaborate overseas. Since 2015, more than £500,000 in funding has been allocated, supporting over 400 UCL academics to partner with 464 organisations in 79 countries worldwide, leading to a further £12.3m in external funding grants.

Supporting refugee academics and students

The support of refugee and forced migrant academics and students remains a priority for UCL. In 2017, a review was conducted into how best to gather together the various aspects of UCL’s work in this area, such as its support for the Council for At-Risk Academics (Cara).  

UCL’s Global Implementation Group (GIG) has agreed that additional resource is needed to develop the university’s support, with a particular focus on student access.

Expanding UCL’s consultancy activity internationally

UCL Consultants (UCLC) provides academics with a range of services, including identifying consultancy opportunities, bid support, contracting, project management, finance services and client relationship management.

More than 580 international projects have generated c.£29.3m since UCLC’s inception, with a year-on-year increase of 27%.  

Consultancy activity continues to draw on UCL’s interdisciplinary strengths, and UCLC and Faculties have secured a range of notable projects. In November 2017, for example, UCL’s Development Planning Unit led an international election observation mission to Somaliland’s presidential poll. The mission, funded by the FCO, assembled 60 observers from 27 countries at the invitation of Somaliland’s National Electoral Commission.