UCL News


Provost's Perspective: How UCL 2034 is bringing benefits for students

15 January 2016

A belated Happy New Year to all UCL students.

Provost’s Perspective We're now at the end of the first week of term and you'll doubtless be immersed in planning for academic and social activity for the next period. This is a traditional time of year for looking ahead, and I'd like to share how UCL is planning for the future.

You may be familiar with UCL 2034, UCL's strategy for the next 20 years, which was launched in 2014. UCL 2034 lays out a set of themes that the university needs to prioritise in order to become the institution of our aspirations in 20 years' time. These themes cover the breadth of university activities including research, teaching and local and global engagement.

We've been working on UCL 2034 ever since the strategy launch - students who attended or viewed the Lunch Hour Lecture I gave back in October (still available to view on YouTube) will have heard my overview of early progress. Providing an excellent student experience is at the heart of UCL 2034, and if you've been following my communications, you'll know how strongly I prioritise this.

Implementation plans for UCL 2034

Just before Christmas, UCL's senior management team agreed a set of implementation plans for UCL 2034, laying out how we'll turn the 'what' of the UCL 2034 strategy into 'how'. As part of our planning, we've built in regular checkpoints to monitor progress and a communications and reporting timetable to ensure we keep everyone abreast of what is going on.

With these plans in place, I see 2016 as the year where we translate what's on paper into action. Below are some of the activities we'll be taking forward this year that have a particular impact on students. 

'A global leader in the integration of research and education, underpinning an inspirational student experience'

One of the key themes of UCL 2034 is to bring together research and education for students' benefit. We want to ensure that students participate in the research process and the creation of knowledge right from the outset of their studies, supported by our academic and research staff, equipping you with skills and experience to enable you to excel in the workplace on graduation and to be highly valued across all walks of life.

We put strategy into action in November with the launch of a new initiative. 'R = T' (research equals teaching) provides a forum, dialogue and set of masterclasses designed to inspire UCL staff and students to engage with research-based education and work at the 'edge of knowledge'. 

A series of events will see ideas on research-based education turn into initiatives under the mentorship of external research professors with distinguished track records in teaching. UCL students will have the opportunity to work with academics in masterclasses and will contribute to producing book chapters and materials for an open online course on research-based education from their unique student perspectives. 

Meet your researcher

In order to fulfil our aspiration to ensure students are engaged with research from the outset of their studies, your departments are being encouraged to deliver a 'meet your researcher' activity in order to bring you closer to academic research. 

During induction week, students will view a selection of videos, identify one academic to interview, and present their findings in a seminar group. Students in UCL Brain Sciences have already had the chance to take part in a very successful 'meet your researcher' session.

What your department or faculty is doing

As the themes underpinning UCL 2034 gain momentum, many exciting new approaches have been created and put into practice in different UCL faculties and departments. One such example is the new UCL Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics, situated within UCL Social & Historical Sciences, where economics undergraduates are being introduced to independent research from the start of their university lives through multimedia group research assignments, student research conferences and skills lab workshops. 

In addition, and contributing to our aims to grow our global collaborations, the centre is soon to launch an economics teaching and learning collaboration with Yale University that will provide students from both institutions the opportunity to interact with each other and experts on their theses and research papers.

Elsewhere, UCL Engineering has been implementing its Integrated Engineering Programme, a teaching framework for specialist and interdisciplinary undergraduate education that provides fundamental technical knowledge alongside interdisciplinary, research-based projects and professional skills. Now in its second year, it provides a thorough line of professional development connected to a series of project-based activities that draw on the key research strengths and grand challenges of UCL.

Incorporating your feedback into our research

One of the main aims of our 20-year strategy is to improve your experience at UCL. Student surveys, such as the National Student Survey (NSS), give us a helpful snapshot of what we could be doing better and what is working well. 

If you are a final year undergraduate, you will have been sent a link to this year's NSS. Please take 10 minutes to fill in the survey. As a result of NSS feedback, we will be publishing your exam timetable earlier this year, extending library opening hours to include weekends, and scrapping ticket fees for graduating students. 

Transforming our estate and occupying new spaces

UCL students need room to operate in, whether it is for teaching, research, studying or socialising. Space in central London comes at a remarkable premium, so making the best use of the space we've got in Bloomsbury is a key aim of UCL 2034. You'll hear more from UCL this year about our programme to improve learning spaces and how you will benefit.

At the same time, we have been developing plans for our new campus at UCL East, due to open in 2019/2020. Our plans for UCL East should really come alive this year, as we'll soon be in a position to announce our decisions on the academic content of the new campus as well as consulting with you further on our masterplan for the site.  

UCL will also start activities in the area well before UCL East opens - next year, UCL Bartlett and UCL Engineering take up space at Here East, located on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, providing an exciting opportunity to carry out groundbreaking research and develop new and innovative education programmes. 

Further information

These examples represent just a few strands of activity, and I'd encourage students who would like to find out more to visit the UCL 2034 website. We will also update you throughout the year as projects come to fruition. 

Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost

Comments? Please share your thoughts.