Professional Services


Innovation award

The Octagon Gallery team

Winners: Octagon Gallery team

The Octagon Gallery project is an inter-departmental project involving staff from UCL Public and Cultural Engagement (PACE), Estates, Library Services, Communications and Marketing and the Office of the Vice-Provost (Research).

The project has transformed an unremarkable thoroughfare into a world-class display space showcasing UCL's research and reinstating the original vista to the Flaxman Gallery and Wilkins's iconic dome. 

From the design to the installation of the first exhibition, the construction of the Octagon is a masterclass in innovation. The team had to meet a series of challenges resulting from attempting to create an engaging display space in one of the busiest parts of UCL.

They managed to recreate William Wilkins's original 'oculus' while preserving the layout of the Flaxman Gallery, amounting to a cutting-edge display space within a grade I-listed building. 

Despite numerous obstacles, such as a contractual dispute with the display case manufacturers, through persistence and dedication, the team were able to execute their original vision.

The Octagon is now open to public viewing and stands as a testament to the professionalism and ingeniousness of Susie Chan (PACE), Rosemary Clements (Estates), Ben Meunier (Library Services) and their colleagues.


'Connecting with the public' training

Recently, in collaboration with UCL Science and Technology Studies, the UCL Public Engagement Unit (PEU) developed a suite of collaborative public engagement training opportunities for postgraduate students at UCL, titled 'Connecting with the public: research communication, public engagement and outreach'.

These interactive sessions provide practical opportunities for students at UCL to explore the variety of ways in which researchers can effectively interact with public groups, from straightforward communication of research findings to dialogue about controversial issues. 

The sessions are available to postgraduate students of all backgrounds and levels of experience and are designed to build on their existing skills and interests. 

Students who attend this training are also eligible to apply for 'Train and Engage' funding of up to £1,000, organised by UCL PEU.

The ingenuity and effectiveness of the training format is evidenced by the extremely positive student feedback to date, for example: "I thought the course was super useful, particularly in terms of thinking about who the public are and what they would enjoy."

Although recognised as core aspects of graduate employability, skills such as 'engagement' and 'impact' are not often found within standard postgraduate experience.  

The new training programme is designed to fill such gaps and broaden the students' experience and perspective.

The 'Connecting with the public' training courses are an example of a collaborative approach to designing and delivering effective, enjoyable and valuable public engagement training opportunities for students at UCL.


European Research and Innovation Office

The European Research and Innovation Office (ERIO), led by Michael Browne, has recently seen radical change in the EU's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7), within which it operates.

To benefit from these changes, ERIO has introduced new services to help the academic community and UCL's financial standing.

ERIO introduced a project management service to enable academics to focus on the technical elements of their research proposals while also ensuring the extensive administrative demands of the EU are met.  

In response to FP7's introduction of the European Research Council, ERIO began offering mock interviews for academics applying for early stage fellowships from the ERC in order to better prepare them for this process and maintain UCL's excellent success rate with EU funding.

ERIO also noticed that a small but significant number of applicants were hiring external companies to assist with proposal bids to the EU. 

They then piloted a proposal support programme before launching a fuller operation in late 2013, creating a substantial financial opportunity whilst also offering competitive prices to academics. 

ERIO took the initiative in commencing these new services. Their willingness to meet difficult changes with creative solutions is a leading factor in why UCL is consistently ranked in the top five higher education institutions in Europe across all FP7 programmes for quantity of research income. 

Focus on the Positive

Focus on the Positive is a public event created by a small team within the UCL Public Engagement Unit. It asks audiences to make decisions about research funding.

Five researchers pitch a project from within their field that they would like to use to change the world. 

The audience then has a chance to debate the issue before voting on which proposal they would like to award £2,000 to help with its implementation. A runner-up also receives £1,000 to take their project forward.

Projects funded so far have included digging safe groundwater wells in Bangladesh and teaching children about climate science through gardening projects in Camden.

The project aims to generate greater impact from UCL research through collaboration with NGOs, charities and community groups, to develop UCL staff and students' skills in public engagement and to give audiences an opportunity to understand and influence the funding of university-related activity. 

Focus on the Positive has been running since April 2012, and after reflection by the project team in 2013, has re-launched with new events for different audiences in 2014. 

This includes a project with the University of the Third Age (an adult education organisation for retired people) and another with the Grant Museum of Zoology.  

Focus on the Positive is both a new way of engaging with the public about UCL research and the impact that it can have and a new method through which to support researchers across the university.

You can find out more about Focus on the Positive events on their blog or Twitter feed.

Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing at UCL

The Medical Research Council Unit for Lifelong Health and Ageing (LHA) at UCL is responsible for running the MRC National Survey of Health and Development (NSHD). This is the longest running birth cohort study in the world.

The unit is comprised of both scientists and professional services staff, with the latter group known as the Science Support Team (SST). 

Managing the day-to-day activities of the unit and the NSHD, the SST provides scientists with a productive and efficient environment in which to pursue their research.

The SST has consistently introduced innovative new measures in the areas of data sharing, data, metadata and research management and new data collection. 

The team developed a new NSHD metadata website, the result of converting the NSHD legacy data archive of around 15,000 variables into a more accessible form.

To address the challenges of managing data for a study that has continued for 68 years, the SST has catalogued the research archive and now dedicates a specific block of time each week to deciding what information should be saved, scanned or destroyed.

When transitioning to the university, the team created a scoring system to detail the potential risks involved in the transfer.

The team now uses this process whenever a new project is being undertaken, even though it is not required at a departmental level.

The SST holds weekly meetings where potential ideas, priorities and problems can be discussed and successes can be rewarded. 

This open, transparent culture is a strong factor in their perpetual willingness to improve research administration. 

Share Academy

Share Academy is bared in UCL's department of Public and Cultural Engagement and is an innovative partnership between UCL, University of the Arts London and London Museums Group. It is funded by Arts Council England.

Share Academy aims to build sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships between higher education and specialist London museums. 

These collaborative projects encourage practice-based, real-world learning and public engagement and also enhance research impact.

Since its conception in October 2012, Share Academy has supported 18 partnerships that help to achieve these goals, providing each with a budget of up to £10,000. 

Just a few of the Share Academy-funded projects include:

  • • a joint effort between UCL MA in Publishing students, the William Morris Society and the Kelmscott Press to produce a book highlighting the Society's collections and history, as well as Morris's own beliefs on books
  • • the Mollie Spoon Archive - a collaboration between UCL Epidemiology and Bruce Castle Museums, in which students aim to help develop the museum's LGBTQ archive, questioning notions of cultural visibility and the invisibility of LGBTQ culture from the 17th century to the present day
  • • UCL Computer Science, working with the museum at the Royal College of Music, exploring the potential of using apps in the gallery to provide rich and dynamic ways to explore museum collections.

The concept of collaboration is fundamental to the Share Academy programme. 

In this way, it supports the Provost's 2034 vision in numerous aspects, promoting UCL as an accessible, publicly engagement organisation as well as addressing global challenges with a cross-disciplinary approach. 

Teaching Administrator Conference Organising Committee

The Teaching Administrator Conference (TAC) Organising Committee, comprised of staff members from across UCL, develops an annual event for teaching administrators and central services colleagues from across UCL and the UCL Institute of Education.

It is an opportunity for participants to network, exchange ideas and cultivate best practice.

The conference is, on average, attended by 120 colleagues drawn from all UCL faculties and relevant central services divisions.

It features 25 workshops on topics relevant to teaching administrators, which range from managing student expectations and supporting students with disabilities to improving the way Moodle is used within departments.

The event helps to raise the profile of Teaching Administrators (TAs) and build their confidence, inspiring them to support innovation in their departments and to challenge systems that are inadequate.

The conference is reviewed annually based on feedback received by participants and in response to sector-wide developments.

The annual event is supported by the TA Forum on Moodle, a platform providing year-round opportunities for networking, collaborating and sharing ideas. 

UCL Audio Tour app

Over a three-month period, the UCL Digital Communications team, partnering with other professional services divisions, created the UCL Audio Tour - a fully featured smartphone app available on both the iTunes App Store and Google Play.

The app allows students, visitors and the general public to learn more about the Bloomsbury campus, working with a smartphone's GPS location tracking to determine the appropriate story to play to the listener as they approach certain locations on the grounds.  

To create the UCL Audio Tour, the team drew on its existing in-house expertise. 

This includes journalism and audio editing skills to script and produce the content; graphic design for the look and feel of the tour; coding to build the app; and marketing experience to publicise the finished product on social media channels.

The team also employed Calvium, an external app development company, to supply technical support and package the finished app for distribution.

The app goes above and beyond what the Head of Digital Communications originally envisaged when she commissioned an audio tour assuming it would be a simple online resource created from existing audio clips. 

The team quickly saw that supplementing existing audio with new tracks involving interviews with academics and multi-layered production would offer a much more dynamic listening experience. 

Surpassing their original brief, the team's innovative work on the UCL Audio Tour has led to the app having been downloaded more than 1,000 times across Apple and Google platforms.


UCL Careers Branding team

The UCL Careers Branding team ensures careers-related messages are communicated effectively to students. 

For the past two years they have undertaken a massive rebranding programme to further assist students in making the right decisions for work after university.

The rebranding project involved a number of phases, from market research to design and implementation. 

In accordance with the UCL brand guidelines, the team created a new visual identity to assist UCL Careers in standing out more on campus and engaging non-users of their services.

They also designed a tool kit to enable internal staff to adhere to UCL and UCL Careers branding when promoting careers activities. 

This redevelopment was crowned by the launch of a new UCL Careers website in July 2014, one more centred on student journeys and user experience than its predecessor.

The overhaul was the Branding team's response to student focus groups and surveys exploring how students respond to UCL Careers services, messaging and visual identity. 

Small changes, such as switching to an online booking system that enables students to schedule various appointments up to seven days in advance, rather than on the day, led to big improvements in student engagement.

The long-term development of the UCL Careers website and the accessibility of their visual identity was the result of close collaboration with UCL Web and Mobile Services and other stakeholders. 

The new style of UCL Careers aims for a consistent tone of voice that is positive and inspiring for students seeking their counsel.

UCL Communication and Culture Awards

The UCL Communication and Culture Awards were organised for the first time in 2014 and recognised the hard work done by staff at UCL in sharing their research, teaching and learning through media and cultural partnerships. 

The managing team was made up of staff from the UCL Public Engagement Unit (PEU), Bloomsbury Theatre, Development & Alumni Relations Office and Communications & Marketing team, particularly the Corporate Events team.

All stages of the event were collaborative, from the structure of the awards categories to the design of the application form.

To evaluate the 29 nominations submitted, a judging panel was selected from across UCL, emphasising the collaboration behind the awards project and the diversity it aims to celebrate.  

None of the teams involved could have delivered this project alone, and its success depended on trust and close working relationships between them.

The awards scheme that existed previously, the Public Engagement Awards, was run in-house by the PEU. 

The Communication and Culture Awards thus mark a major shift in work style by welcoming new collaborations. 

The awards were the instigator of further collaboration between the PEU, Corporate Events team and Media Relations team, who later joined forces with the British Science Association to organise an event for scientists to network with the media.

Read a full review of the Communication and Culture Awards ceremony, with photos, on the UCL Events blog.

UCL Museums Object-based Learning

In 2011, staff from UCL Public and Cultural Engagement began developing a highly innovative core module for the BASc Arts and Sciences degree, titled 'Object lessons: Communicating knowledge through collections'

The class was developed in collaboration with colleagues from the BASc programme, the UCL Institute of Archaeology, the UCL Centre for Learning and Teaching (CALT) and UCL E-Learning Environments (ELE). 

It focuses on the integration of objects from UCL Museums, with this process known as object-based learning (OBL). 

CALT was key in guiding the assessment criteria for the module and advised on how best to integrate different learning styles into the curriculum, while ELE used the project as a pilot to test the capabilities of MyPortfolio, UCL's in-house learning platform.  

Through a series of innovative collaborations, 'Object lessons' employs a range of novel forms of teaching and learning. 

This includes OBL research-based learning and team working as well as written work, the development of a group virtual exhibition on UCL's online student learning spaces and a group oral presentation. 

A key benefit of the course is the range of staff involved in its delivery. This affords students a wider, cross-disciplinary perspective on their learning.

The experience of collaborating to deliver and teach on this project is to form a chapter in a book on OBL. 

The book itself is a collaboration between UCL and external partners from the United States, Italy, China and other nations.

UCL Petrie Museum 3D imaging

The UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology has used cutting-edge 3D imaging techniques to create high-quality digital replicas of its collection, viewable on a new, dedicated website.

UCL's Silva content management system is used to deliver the interactive 3D image library for internal use and public engagement.

The project began as part of academic research investigating the potential of 3D scanning technology to produce detailed digital replicas of artefacts in the Petrie Museum.

Funding was initially provided through a partnership between the university and a commercial manufacturer of 3D scanners. 

The research into whether 3D scanners could be enhanced for the purpose of showcasing heritage materials reaped such improvements that the Petrie Museum decided to explore how to create a full 3D scanning operation in a museum setting. 

The Arts Council granted funding for the design and production of a website to act as a repository for the 3D digital replicas. 

UCL Information Services Division helped to ensure that the website would be accessible outside of UCL, and in doing so were able to explore the capabilities of Silva and deliver a highly advanced functionality.

The project has garnered press attention, including a feature on BBC Click, and the Petrie Museum team has advised many other museums on 3D imaging programmes, including the V&A, National Archive, Science Museum and British Library.