UCL News


Vice-Provost's View: Our education strategy for the next five years

24 March 2016

Some 250 of you, academics and professional service staff, have shaped our Education Strategy in which we set out what a UCL education will look like five years from now.

educationstrategy The strategy has now been published on the Teaching & Learning Portal.

I'm delighted, but not surprised, by the sentiments it sparked since the first draft in the summer - from strong support for our proposal for all students to receive help with their academic writing to criticism of our initial plan, subsequently dropped, to make every module contain an online component. Thank you for helping us to prioritise where our ambitions should lie and, crucially, for taking a pragmatic look at what we need to fix in the short and medium term.

In conversations with you about the strategy, it was clear that we are all proud of the education we offer and I am confident that, in less than 20 years, we will be, as UCL 2034 states, "a global leader in the integration of research and education, underpinning an inspirational student experience"

However, we have much to do over the next five years to meet the ever-higher expectations of our students about how their education should prepare them for their future careers and inspire in them a lifelong curiosity for learning.

Acting on what you told us

Teaching estate

During our consultation on the strategy, you told us that the teaching estate is a significant cause for concern and that we need to re-think how we timetable and book rooms. As a result, our education strategy makes overhauling our timetabling systems by 2021 a priority.

Our strategy also makes clear that furniture and equipment in teaching rooms could be more suitable for our purposes and so, by this summer, we will have evaluated a pilot project that will inform future procurement work and revised specifications for teaching spaces.

You strongly supported our view that students need support with their academic writing, whether or not English is their first language, but agreed that this needs to be relevant to the subjects they are studying.

Academic writing provision

We have already set up a working group on academic writing provision and English language support which is looking into how to roll out support for all students and the necessary investment required. It will report by the end of the summer of 2016.

Digital infrastructure

You told us that the digital infrastructure that connects students with each other and with staff urgently needs to be modernised. As a result, our education strategy sets out that by 2021, we will have substantially improved this and will be providing a high-quality experience in which students can learn online and offline.

In addition, by 2018, we will have expanded Lecturecast into our largest classrooms and have set up an educational media service to help staff and students produce multimedia resources. We also aspire to have reliable wifi coverage across the campus.

Online compulsory course - a revised proposal

In our draft education strategy, we mooted the idea of a new online compulsory course for first year undergraduates that would introduce them to UCL and to our incredible interdisciplinary breadth. The idea was that students would receive credit for this course. Your feedback has resulted in a review of this proposal, and the course will now be for prospective students and students who have accepted a place, but not yet started.

We think this could be an important tool for preparing students for their studies at UCL. You told us that you weren't keen on our proposal for every module to contain an online element because this would be too difficult to deliver and lead to a one-size-fits-all approach to online learning. We have moved away from this too as a result.

Foreign languages commitment

We will continue with our commitment to modern foreign languages with our requirement that all UK students should either enter with, or have developed by graduation, a basic level of modern foreign language competence. However, we have responded to feedback that students would benefit from alternative options to enable them to meet the requirement, and will be reviewing this in the autumn term.

Review of postgraduate taught education

You expressed broad support for root-and-branch reviews of postgraduate taught education and of assessment. We are now a predominantly postgraduate institution and we know that, of all groups of students, our postgraduate master's students are the least satisfied. As we set out in our education strategy, we will be consulting widely with staff as part of the postgraduate taught review and will report back our findings in October.

Review of assessment

Our National Student Survey results show assessment is a particular concern at UCL. Our students tell us that the way we are supporting their learning and evaluating their progress needs urgent attention. Our review of assessment will be completed by 2017. In both cases, the reviews will produce recommendations which will then be incorporated into our strategy implementation plan.

All programmes to reflect the Connected Curriculum by 2021

Two key planks of our education strategy received overwhelming support: our plan to develop a distinctive approach to research-based education and our decision to bring students into our decision-making by significantly expanding the number of opportunities they have to shape our policies and practices.

Of course, as I've said before, what a research-based undergraduate degree looks like will vary tremendously between degree programmes, but with the Connected Curriculum, we have a broad framework that defines the relationship between students' learning and their participation in research and describes the connections to be made between disciplines, years of study and staff and students. Our education strategy states that by 2021, we will have reviewed all our programmes to ensure they reflect the six dimensions of the Connected Curriculum.

Again, thank you for helping us shape our education strategy for the next five years. Please use the strategy as a talking point with your students and in your departmental meetings and please share it with colleagues. If you would like a set of slides so that you can talk to external or internal audiences on the strategic focus of education at UCL, please email teaching.learning@ucl.ac.uk

I look forward to working with you to make education at UCL even better over the next five years.

Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education & Student Affairs)

Link: Read the Education Strategy

Image: Front cover image for the Education Strategy