Provost's View 16/1/2014: A flying start to 2014
16 January 2014
UCL strategy update Qatar leadership meeting Student union impact report I hope you all enjoyed a relaxing festive season and a good break after an intensive end to 2013.
In recent weeks a first draft of our new strategy has been created. It is currently being 'road-tested' with senior colleagues, after which we intend to present a revised draft to Council in late February, and then to open it up to consultation with all staff and students.
I am pleased with the way the strategy is shaping up − while much shorter than the previous White Paper, it builds on that excellent document, particularly in terms of its time frame (20+ years), our role in London, our emphasis on the integration of research and education, and our approach to internationalism and to working in partnership. It also strongly reflects our history, our values, and our radical and critical approach.
As I write this Provost's View I am at 36,010 feet, travelling at 482 mph towards Washington DC. I am en route to a 'Presidents' meeting' of leaders of all the universities involved in Education City in Qatar − my first major engagement with our activity in the Gulf.
I travel well briefed by Thilo Rehren, Director of UCL Qatar, and am impressed by our achievements to date. We currently have 75 Master's students (on four separate programmes in Museum and Gallery Practice, Conservation Studies, Archaeology of the Arab and Islamic World, and Library and information studies), 10 PhD students and 12 students enrolled on a Diploma in Academic Methods and Research (essentially used as a transition programme from undergraduate to postgraduate study).
The meeting in DC has been organised by the Qatar Foundation (which jointly funds our activities in Qatar with the Qatar Museums Authority) and will be hosted by His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, President of Hamad bin Khalifa University (and Vice President of Education at Qatar Foundation) and its Provost, David Prior. The Presidents of the US universities involved in Education City will also attend, including those of Georgetown, Texas A+M, Weill Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, Northwest, and Virginia Commonwealth. To be given the opportunity to interact with such peers and to see how others relate their activities in Qatar to their overall international strategy will be invaluable as we think about how to further enhance our own international profile.
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Anthony Smith for stepping up to the plate and taking on the role of interim Vice-Provost (International) as well as his day job as Vice-Provost (Education). This was a big ask and Anthony has been outstanding in his support, analysis and wise advice to a new President & Provost (if I may still use that prefix in the Second Term).
I also spent time either side of the break catching up on some reading. One report that caught my attention was the annual impact report from our students' union, UCLU. I recommend you all read it. We should be very proud of our students and their leaders, and commend them for an incredible list of achievements.
Particularly noteworthy to me was the incredible level of commitment to community volunteering, with more than 41,500 hours of time given by 1,735 students. UCLU has also focused on supporting our international students, especially those in need of help with their visa − again very impressive.
Further, some 665 students became Student Academic Representatives (StARs) in the past year. This is such a key role, so a huge thank you from me. We will be working hard on ensuring that your voices are heard and that we respond positively to your concerns and suggestions. That 'partnership' approach will be essential to securing our ambitions of providing a truly exceptional student education and student experience at UCL.
What also comes across loud and clear from the UCLU report is the level of political interest and activism that our students and their leaders enjoy. Although I couldn't possibly agree 100% with everything that they say about their campaigns, I do admire their forthright and robust approach to issues such as the Carpenter's Estate and the health centre. One way or another, and in part influenced by the student view, both of these have in effect been 'solved', albeit in the latter case, subject to some further detail.
If I have any disappointment with the content of the UCLU impact report, it is the level of involvement of our student body in the democratic process of their own annual UCLU elections, with only 16.4 % participation last year. This, however, represents a significant improvement on previous years and my challenge to all students is to double that level of democratic participation within the next three years.
If we are to be at the forefront of the world's universities, we need a deeply engaged and widely committed student body to help us get our proposition right. So please do get motivated, get involved, and help us to make UCL by far the best place to be a student in London, if not globally.
Finally, may 2014 be a happy and outstandingly successful year for the whole UCL community.