UCL News


Provost's View: The UCL and IOE merger - a year and a half on

27 April 2016

At the beginning of the year colleagues and I were proud to

queensaward2 ucl.ac.uk/ioe/news-events/news-pub/feb-2016/queens-anniversary-prize" target="_self">attend a ceremony at Buckingham Palace to collect the Queen's Anniversary Prize in recognition of the UCL Institute of Education's (IOE) "world-leading contribution to the policy and practice of education and innovative social research".

I have been privileged to be involved in a variety of new ventures illustrating the depth and scope of the IOE's work since the merger with UCL - a merger that has formed the largest higher education institution in London, with more than 35,000 students, 11,000 staff and the biggest postgraduate population in the UK.

These have ranged from welcoming President Xi Jinping of China to an IOE conference on Mandarin teaching and learning in the UK, to listening to children at a school in Islington read to the actor Gillian Anderson and myself as part of the IOE's International Literacy Centre's 'Reading Recovery' programme to improve literacy for struggling readers.

These events are significant reminders of the institute's excellent reputation and the far-reaching work that takes place globally and across hundreds of schools and colleges in the UK. You'll have seen that the IOE was recently rated as 'number one' in the world for education in the QS subject rankings for the third year running.

In July, Becky Francis, currently Professor of Education and Social Justice at King's, will join us as the IOE's new Director and I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the merger, thank Interim Director Professor Andrew Brown and outline the institute's growing contribution to the delivery of UCL 2034.

Innovative and creative research collaborations

The unparalleled opportunity for pioneering cross-disciplinary research collaborations was one of the key drivers behind the merger and remains integral to the vision expressed in UCL 2034. One of the first successful outcomes of the merger was bringing together all four UK birth cohort studies for the first time in history.

These studies were recently the subject of the book, The Life Project: The Extraordinary Story of Our Ordinary Lives, written by author and journalist Helen Pearson, which has been receiving widespread critical acclaim.

Such links have provided new bidding opportunities, with joint applications submitted to various prestigious funding bodies. These include a submission from Professor Alissa Goodman (IOE Centre for Longitudinal Studies) and Professor David Batty (UCL Epidemiology and Public Health) to the MRC and US National Institute of Health, for the study 'Healthy Transitions from mid-life to early older age'.


Led by Professor Andy Tolmie, IOE colleagues have been centrally involved in the UCL bid for ESRC Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) status. If successful, this will provide training for students across the full disciplinary range of the social sciences as well as areas of interdisciplinary research at the boundaries with other sciences.

Other collaborations that have arisen since the merger include: work between the UCL Institute for Women's Health and the IOE's Social Science Research Unit to improve the acceptability and uptake of long-acting reversible contraceptive methods; the work of the IOE's Culture, Communications and Media (CCM) department on UCL East proposals through the Culture Lab bid; and a joint project between Professor Andrew Burn (IOE) and Professor Richard North and Dr Vicky Symons (UCL English Language & Literature) who have recently been awarded an AHRC grant for their digital transformations project, 'Playing Beowulf: Gaming the library'. I would like to thank Professor Alison Fuller, IOE Pro-Director Research and Development for fostering the development of all of this joint research activity.

Teaching and learning

We recently announced our new education strategy 2016-21 in The Week@UCL and some of you will have attended our Teaching and Learning Conference hosted at the IOE on 19 April.

IOE academics played a big part in this year's event and the institute's Centre for Higher Education (CHES) Seminar Programme, which forms part of our Teaching and Learning portal, has provided a new forum for debate and analysis on issues affecting policy, practice and research in higher education.

Professor Norbert Pachler, IOE Pro-Director Teaching, Quality and Learning Innovation, is helping to shape the delivery of our education strategy and IOE academics from the UCL Knowledge Lab are working with UCL's Digital Education team on further development of the Connected Curriculum initiative.

With the IOE's Professor Diana Laurillard, Professor Pachler is also overseeing the development of UCL's first three MOOCs, in partnership with FutureLearn - building on the IOE's experience of delivering MOOCs.

Enhanced communications

In addition to the many successful research collaborations, the launch of the new IOE faculty website has enabled the institute to take its place within UCL's wider web estate and link up more effectively with systems and content from across the organisation. It offers an improved platform for communicating research activity and colleagues can now work more closely to extend the reach of UCL research-related communications internationally.

The project has involved teamwork between ISD's Digital Presence team and the IOE digital team, and contributions have come from academics and professional services staff from right across the institute. I know that colleagues at the IOE are already enjoying the opportunities the new site gives them to engage more effectively with our audiences.

Looking ahead

Before Professor Chris Husbands left his role as IOE Director to take up the post of Vice-Chancellor at Sheffield Hallam last year, he said: "The future of the IOE is secured through the merger with UCL, one of the world's leading multi-faculty universities. I am convinced that the core value of the IOE, to transform lives through education, will be strengthened with UCL."

I believe this is already happening. It is clear to me that the IOE has bought considerable strength and expertise to UCL across the fields of education and applied social science. The merger is also enhancing and strengthening the IOE's reach, impact and development.

Those of you who saw or attended my Lunch Hour Lecture last October may remember that I spoke of the teething problems' that we have faced, but I hope you will agree that the benefits and advantages that the merger is bringing far outweigh the challenges.

I want to take this opportunity to thank the IOE's Interim Director, Professor Andrew Brown, for his leadership of the IOE, the smooth transition that he supported back in January when he took on the role and his efforts to pave the way for the IOE's new Director. One such initiative is to establish an Academic Benefits of Merger steering group, designed to monitor and multiply the research and teaching benefits we've seen since December 2014. The inaugural meeting of this group will take place in early July, timed to coincide with Becky's arrival as Director.

The merger has provided the opportunity for us to build cross-disciplinary work across education, the social sciences, arts, humanities and science, based on shared values. Like UCL, the IOE has an established worldwide reputation, and now, together, we have an even greater global reach.

The merger has unlocked substantial additional investment that will be transformational in terms of the IOE's research and teaching activities. I am immensely proud of what we have achieved in this short time and excited about our future together.

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Images from top to bottom

1. Professor Michael Arthur and UCL Institute of Education colleagues outside Buckingham palace with the Queen's Anniversary Prize

2. President Xi Jinping joins UCL at the Confucius Institute conference