UCL News


Provost's View: UCL 2034 implementation plan launched

14 January 2016

It is now some 18 months since we launched UCL 2034 and as we start a new year, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight recent developments and look ahead to what I would like us to achieve in 2016.


Turning words into action and communicating our progress

The implementation plans represent part of the governance framework that we have established to coordinate the implementation of the strategy. The framework also includes regular checkpoints to monitor progress and a communications and reporting timetable to ensure we keep everyone abreast of what is going on right across the university.

Our next major update will be in May when we will publish our Annual Review. This will coincide with the annual Council Away Day where we will have the opportunity to discuss the latest developments with Council members, including an assessment of performance against our selected indicators.

Looking ahead, what do we need to do in 2016 to take us closer to realising our vision? Where would I like us to be a year from now? For me, 2016 must be the year we really start to translate the plans on paper into action and take forward and develop further our early achievements.

Celebrating our strategic success so far

For UCL 2034 to be a success, it needs to be woven through the depth and breadth of our activity, making it real for everyone that is part of UCL, and it needs to recognise the individual and collective efforts and contributions that people make to achieve success. It needs to provide an effective framework for contextualising our current activities as well as for planning our future efforts.

We already have in place some 'big ticket' plans, for example, UCL East and the UCL Campaign. But it is only through the day-to-day work of faculties and Professional Services that we will deliver UCL 2034. Indeed, we are already seeing some fantastic examples across UCL of how colleagues are taking ownership of the strategy in innovative and inspiring ways. What follows is just a few examples of activity that faculties are engaged in that cut across our strategic goals and, I would emphasise, represents a small subset of the wide array of examples that I could have chosen to mention. We will be looking to showcase more examples on the UCL 2034 web pages over the next few months.

Excellence within and across disciplines

The merger of UCL with the IOE has provided a unique opportunity to explore new ways of achieving our goals, notably relating to principal themes one and three of UCL 2034, which focus on academic leadership and addressing global challenges through disciplinary excellence and a cross-disciplinary approach. The IOE's recent award of a Queen's Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education, in recognition of its worldleading contribution to the policy and practice of education and innovative social research, is clear evidence of how we are achieving our principal theme of academic leadership through intellectual excellence.

We have also seen the faculties of Life Sciences and MAPS work together to launch the Institute for the Physics of Living Systems (IPLS), led by Ewa Paluch. This is a cross-faculty institute promoting interdisciplinary approaches combining physics and biology to understand fundamental properties of living systems. As part of the institute, a number of research groups at UCL are working with the Francis Crick Institute to establish a Laboratory for Biological Making. The use of such cross-disciplinary initiatives in our research activity again exemplifies the aspirations of UCL 2034.

The launch of one of three flagship Drug Discovery Institutes as part of Alzheimer's Research UK's £30m Drug Discovery Alliance will unite world-class dementia researchers with drug discovery experts in a pioneering initiative. This forms a wider commitment by UCL and NHS partners to bring together multidisciplinary expertise in dementia research, care and education to rise to the Prime Minister's Dementia Challenge.

Key enablers for our success - the role of philanthropy

Securing philanthropic donations has the potential to play a crucial role in financing our ambitions, one of the 'key enablers' for UCL 2034 . As you may have read elsewhere in the press, or during your weekly shop, Iceland, Asda, Waitrose, Morrisons, WH Smith, HSS hire, Booths and Iceland have pledged to give cash raised by the 5p plastic bag levy to help fund a Dementia Research Institute at UCL. Philanthropy has made a huge difference in tackling global diseases such as cancer and malaria and this unprecedented initiative sees UK retailers acting collaboratively to tackle the tragic epidemic of dementia and neurodegenerative diseases.

This year, UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) received a philanthropic gift of £60m to realise the Zayed Centre for Research into Rare Disease in Children. The Institute of Child Health and GOSH have together been at the forefront of rare diseases research and clinical care. This new centre, due to open in London in 2018, will further develop a world-leading centre of excellence to tackle some of the most challenging scientific questions, enabling our scientists and clinicians to more accurately diagnose, treat and cure children and young people with rare diseases.

The integration of research excellence with education

The Connected Curriculum is a key component of the implementation plan for principal theme two - to be a global leader in the integration of research and education, underpinning an inspirational student experience. In November a new initiative was launched, 'R = T' (research equals teaching), 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 turned 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. 

Celebrating a successful example in Brain Sciences, departments are being encouraged to use the 'Meet your Researcher' activity to bring students closer to academic research, while breaking down unproductive hierarchies between staff and students. During induction week, students view a selection of videos, identify one academic to interview, and present their findings in a seminar group.

The work of the new Centre for Teaching and Learning Economics, situated in the Faculty of Social & Historical Sciences, is also working to embed research within teaching. Here, through multimedia group research assignments, student research conferences and skills lab workshops, economics undergraduates are being introduced to independent research from the start of their university lives. 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 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.

Building our local and global impact and engagement

In 2016 we will be looking to develop a new strategy for London and as part of principal themes four and five, widen our public engagement work and strengthen our positive relationship with the local community. UCL already plays a very active role in promoting public engagement, which I expect us to extend further with the development of our new site at UCL East. Next year we will see the UCL Bartlett and UCL Engineering take up space at Here East, located at the Olympic Park, providing an exciting opportunity to carry out groundbreaking research and develop new and innovative education programmes. Furthermore it will allow UCL to establish the foundations for future engagement with the local community prior to the opening of our UCL East site in 2019/20.

On a global scale, through the Global Engagement Office's (GEO) development of Regional Networks (UCL-wide communities of interest chaired by the newly appointed Pro-Vice-Provosts), as well as the discipline-focused networks of the Vice Deans (International), we are reinforcing the central role that faculties play in driving forward UCL's global partnerships. This wider network provides a crucial link between faculties and the GEO, enabling greater global impact by facilitating and coordinating our global activities. A working example of this is a recent GEO-led visit to Chile and Mexico, on which two Vice-Deans (International) (Professor Dame Anne Johnson for Population Health Sciences, and Professor Eli Keshavarz-Moore for Engineering) joined the Vice-Provost (International) Dame Nicola Brewer to explore deepening and broadening our existing links with universities, funding bodies and government departments in-country. The delegation also brought together local alumni groups to help strengthen our global UCL network of alumni ambassadors. This type of joined-up approach to institutional global visits is just one way GEO works closely with academic colleagues to ensure that faculties and UCL priorities are at the heart of global partnership development.

These are some of the many ways that we are seeing the strategy come to life. However, a lot more remains to be done across all our principal themes and key enablers to maintain momentum. To facilitate this, we need to ensure that there is a clear understanding of the strategy and crucially, an appreciation of how the decisions we make and the actions we take contribute to its delivery.

We will of course keep you informed of developments but are equally receptive to your thoughts and ideas on how you can make a difference or are already making one, so we can then celebrate these achievements and inspire others to follow suit. If you would like to discuss UCL 2034 implementation further, please contact, in the first instance, Caroline Wickenden, UCL Planning Team.

Back in October, my lunchtime lecture focused on the high-level progress we have made to date. Those who were unable to attend can still access this talk on our Lunch Hour Lectures YouTube channel. A few weeks ago, UCL's senior management team discussed in more detail our achievements up to this point and the implementation plans that have been drawn up for each principal theme and key enabler. These plans translate the strategy into action, honing in on the initiatives and projects we will pursue and that will guide faculty and departmental engagement and activities to help us achieve our vision. More details of these high-level plans can be found on the UCL 2034 webpage

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