UCL News


Provost's View: Championing research-based education

30 April 2015

Many of you know by now that one of our priorities - as outlined in

Teaching conference ucl.ac.uk/ucl-2034">UCL 2034 - is our commitment to teaching and learning excellence through research-based education. Many changes will be taking place over the next few years that will have a long-term impact on the future of UCL, and you'll be hearing more about them from many parts of the university.

We have already begun the process of creating long-term initiatives that will benefit the UCL community and beyond, but it is vital that your input, particularly at the early stages of development, helps shape the direction of our great institution. There are many opportunities for you to have your say and I would encourage you to do so.

Teaching and Learning Conference 2015

As a platform for pedagogic discussion, the notion of lasting and long-term benefit to the institution's community was something I heard throughout this year's Teaching and Learning Conference, which was aptly hosted at the UCL Institute of Education. It was heartening to see a rise in attendee numbers on previous years - real proof that teaching and learning at UCL is becoming ever more an area of collaboration and conversation.

A lively and full schedule was preceded by a morning of scene-setting talks where I heard much about how we make research-based education a reality; Professor Chris Husbands spoke in detail about how, in order to build a Connected Curriculum, we must understand what the individual components are. This provided an excellent introduction to the diversity of presentations - more than 100 in total - which exemplified what a connected curriculum might look like through the exploration of a huge range of pedagogical topics.

Getting involved

The event also saw the launch of two key teaching and learning initiatives that will lay the groundwork for innovation - Connected Curriculum and ChangeMakers, which are explained in further detail on their respective websites as well as in my previous Long View. Both approaches to teaching and learning have at their heart the same objectives: to move towards education that is based on research rather than led by it, as a way of improving our student (and indeed staff) experience. Not only this, but we are championing a 'students as partners' approach, in which students' expertise and perspectives are valued tangibly.

Your contribution is crucial in order to make this a success. Participation is encouraged from all parts of UCL - after all, these are initiatives that will have an impact on every department and staff member. Taking part in a Connected Curriculum working group and/or a staff and student ChangeMaker project is an excellent starting point.

These initiatives will help us not only to achieve theme 2 in our UCL 2034 strategy but also an innovative and inspiring teaching and learning environment for everyone at UCL. As I mentioned at the Teaching and Learning Conference, it is highly desirable as well as highly effective for staff and students to work together.

Education strategy 2015-20

The time has also come for Professor Anthony Smith (Vice-Provost, Education & Student Affairs) to embark on the Education Strategy consultation, which will inform how we implement UCL 2034 over the next five years. This is not something that we can do without your involvement.

Over the next few months, the consultation will provide staff and students with an opportunity to hear more about ideas and proposals already in development and to voice your opinions and suggestions. You can expect questions prompting you to consider the foundations of teaching and learning, such as: What should we celebrate about a UCL education? What should we do differently?

We need to know from you what our priorities should be and how we can build on our strengths. Again, I want to encourage you to take part in this opportunity to share your thoughts, general or specific, on our education agenda and the direction in which it should be heading.

Life Learning

UCL 2034 commits us to developing an extensive portfolio of cutting-edge short courses through the provision of summer schools, professional development (CPD), executive education and distance learning. While we already deliver many such courses in, for example, engineering, healthcare, language and law, we are not yet recognised as a leading provider, and we intend to change this by more than doubling our current Life Learning activity over the next five years.

To support this initiative, we have established a Life Learning development team, led by Professor Andrew Eder (Pro-Vice-Provost, Life Learning). The team has already launched the Life Learning course-finder website, which attracts more than 800 unique visits each week, and has been involved in the development of the UCLeXtend online platform, which now supports more than 5,000 learners.

Life Learning is a key component of the Teaching and Learning Strategy for the next five years and beyond, and I want all departments to identify opportunities. Contact the team for assistance with developing courses, accessing investment funds and ensuring that all short courses are listed on the course-finder website.

Please also complete the Life Learning survey, as your views are important to the development of the strategy.

Sharing expertise

The Teaching and Learning Conference provided an excellent opportunity to share expertise and innovation with colleagues from right across UCL. Indeed, staff continue to pass inspirational work to one another through platforms such as the Teaching and Learning Portal.

We must now pull together this knowledge of and enthusiasm for teaching and learning - from across the institution and at all levels - and use it to inform UCL's future. I urge you to take the opportunity to be an active part of the exciting changes happening here by sharing your thoughts on these new initiatives, the wider education strategy and the direction of teaching and learning at UCL.

Professor Michael Arthur

UCL President & Provost

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