UCL News


Spotlight on Carl Gombrich

25 August 2011

This week the spotlight is on Carl Gombrich, Programme Director, Arts and Sciences BASc.

Carl Gombrich

What is your role and what does it involve?

The role involves all oversight and leadership of the degree, from the development of the curriculum - liaising with all UCL departments, working with the Pathway Representatives on the student diet and timetable - to marketing the programme, considering the employment agenda and taking forward the Year Abroad, lecturing on the degree and handling undergraduate admissions.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

I joined in 2003 as a Teaching Fellow in Physics. Before I was appointed Programme Director, I was Principal of the University Preparatory Certificates (UPC) - UCL's international foundation courses.

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I get most satisfaction when I feel a student has benefited from a contribution I have made. This can be as a teacher (for example, explaining a physics concept or opening a student's eyes to a particular philosopher) or as an administrator.

On the UPC courses we fought hard to be accepted by other top universities, particularly Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial, but I achieved a good deal of success by maintaining high academic standards. This was appreciated by students, many of whom went on from UPC to top UK universities and attained outstanding results.

I have stayed in contact with many former students (all international) and it gives me great pleasure to meet up with them.

The other day, I went out to dinner with two ex-students from China and had one of the most inspiring conversations that I have had for a long time. One of these students is now doing a PhD in engineering at UCL.

We didn't discuss engineering, we discussed Kant, Heidegger, Wittgenstein and Gadamer (all of which he had been reading), the importance of language in legal systems and the differences between China and the West. Fascinating! Such an experience gives you a window on the world and a view of the future which very few people are privileged to have.

I guess I am most proud of the fact that many of our ex-students (like my engineering student) tell us that the UPC courses were a positive and important experience for them - something good in their lives.

I'm confident that, with the continued good will of colleagues and by sustaining the intellectual input and support throughout UCL the we have achieved so far, the Arts and Sciences BASc can achieve this same sort of positive and even life-changing experience for students.

Indeed, the combination of good intellectual, social and life experience we achieved for students on the UPC has the potential to be magnified many times on Arts and Sciences BASc.

What is your life like outside UCL?

Pretty good! I have a lovely wife and two fantastic boys. I still sing a bit - I was an opera singer before joining UCL - and am in good voice but only roll it out once or twice a year.

I don't get time for opera productions now, so when I sing, it's oratorio or opera galas. My days of rock and roll (or, rather, funk and groove) are over, however, and the drum kit sits quietly in the cellar.

Apart from that, I follow Arsenal far too closely and am sad about Wenger's current predicament. Wenger (and Obama) are two of my living heroes and it is difficult to see them both struggling at the moment. I really want to believe that the nice guy can be the great leader as well.

I read as much as I can (though orders of magnitude less than my more learned colleagues), but I only get time for novels in the holidays. These days I mostly read political economics, things about money/finance and stuff to do with interdisciplinarity and the philosophy of education.

I like food (especially chocolate - have you tried the brownies at Planet Organic? Disastrous!), but have recently got back on my bike to try to beat the bulge.

Find out more about the BASc