Nazarbayev University's inaugural summer school in London
1 August 2013
Students from Nazarbayev University (NU), Kazakhstan, have been studying in a summer school at UCL.
After securing a place in the top 40 at NU's School of Engineering, students were invited to spend four weeks in Bloomsbury.
It is the first time NU has sent any of its students away from Kazakhstan on a summer school - ever.
While some of the students are from relatively new oil-industry centred towns - such as Akatu - others are from the city of Taraz, which in 2001, celebrated its 2000 year history.
UCL became a strategic partner of NU's School of Engineering in 2010. Both share the aim of creating a prestigious and highly-regarded School of Engineering and an internationally respected university in Kazakhstan.
Professor Michael Worton, UCL Vice-Provost, described the summer school as being "an important milestone" in the strategic relationship UCL has with the university in Kazakhstan's capital city - Astana.
Julia Dawson, UCL Partnership Manager for Kazakhstan, explained that, "The aim of the programme is to provide students with an international experience focused around courses on business and enterprise, problem solving and academic English. The programme has already proved a great success with the students engaging with classes as well as attending academic and non academic guided visits in London."
The course has honed in on the students' skills and abilities in regards to business management, entrepreneurship, and intrapreneurship. One of the sessions involved understanding the role of financial progress in organisations. Another involved looking at how company's strategic vision and corporate culture can be utilised to provide not only an organisational identity, but to serve as a foundation for leadership.
Marco Federighi, UCL Vice-Dean (Education) in the Faculty of Engineering Sciences and tutor for the problem solving sessions, added, "The aim of the course is to expose students to problems that they are unlikely to have encountered in the first years of their undergraduate curriculum: problems of an interdisciplinary nature, where the information available is limited or uncertain and where human factors play an important role."
In one of the problem solving sessions, students were asked to juxtapose a series of historic events. One event was farmers in a field in 1906, guessing the weight of an ox. The second was Wall Street traders reacting to the 1986 American space shuttle disaster. Both instances involved some critical - and incredibly accurate - guesswork.
Aside from the academic nature of the summer school, the cultural exploration of London is a critical component of the programme. Guided visits to cultural hotspots in and around London have been arranged, with trips to the V&A, the BBC, Bloomberg, and Kew Gardens.
Students also have the weekends away from studies. One NU student, Algerim Omirkhan, went to Wireless Festival and managed to see a collaboration of Jay Z and Rhianna - all from the front row.
Professor Worton, while reiterating the importance of the academic side of the summer school, added, "We are also very keen that these students will also be able to explore some of the wonders of the great global city that is London."
He continued, "We should also remember that these students are already alumni of UCL, in that they have already gone through the Foundation Year in the Centre for Preparatory Studies at NU and have been awarded a UCL Undergraduate Preparatory Certificate - identical to the one delivered and awarded at UCL in London. So in many ways we are welcoming them for the first time in person to what is their first alma mater!"
Many of the students - along with the rest of Britain - flocked to nearby coastlines to soak in the UK heatwave. But, even more unusual to the NU students was the prospect of a coastline. While Britain is surrounded by seas, Kazakhstan - which is larger than Western Europe - is entirely land-locked.
Students will be returning to Kazakhstan in early August.
The summer school has placed a high degree of emphasis on fostering the students' skills in both business and enterprise, something the NU students haven't previously focused on. As NU student Tamirlan Seidalchmetou explained, "It's an amazing opportunity for us to see the business and economic side to engineering - seeing the real world, and seeing London.
Aigerim Omirkhan - from the city of Aktau
"It was my dream to come to UCL after hearing so much about it, especially from the UCL professors at NU..."
"On Saturday I spent the day on Bournemouth beach and Sunday I went with a friend to Wireless festival. We managed to get on the front row and watched Jay Z and Rihanna perform together!"
Dualet Magzymov - from the city of Ekibastuz
"What's great about the summer school is its diversity - chatting, museums, guided visits, freedom of the weekends. It's just a shame that I slept in on Saturday and didn't get up in time to go inside Buckingham palace..."
"Stonehenge was a tremendous experience - it's amazing to see something with your own eyes. Especially something that you've seen on the Discovery Channel so many times!"