Teaching & Learning


Internal quality reviews reveal outstanding innovation across UCL

12 December 2016

A wealth of innovation across student experience has been highlighted through the internal quality review (IQR) process in 2015-16.

Students in lab coats

The review team has identified innovations across UCL that have made outstanding contributions to better recruitment and transition, student satisfaction, student achievement or employability.

Singled out for commendation are the divisions of Biosciences, Psychology and Language Sciences, departments of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Geography, Mathematics and Statistical Science and the School of Slavonic and East European Studies.

Thirteen UCL departments underwent IQR, UCL’s academic quality management and enhancement process. It is a rolling programme of peer review, through which all academic units are reviewed on a six-yearly cycle, focusing not the academic content of programmes, but on how the department manages of its programmes, learning resources, staff development and the educational experience of its students.

Student recruitment and transition

The Department of Geography’s strong commitment to widening access has seen significant changes in the diversity of its intake, with a 15% increase in the proportion of undergraduate students from state funded schools in the last three years and a 17% increase in the proportion of Black and Minority Ethnic students since the previous IQR. The department has engaged in extensive recruitment activity, joining the Royal Geographical Society’s A2 programme with schools and, alongside the Institute of Education and several London universities in the London Geographical Alliance, participating in workshops and other activities with over twenty London secondary schools.

The Department of Mathematics has focused on student transition and widening participation. All offer holders have access to two bespoke courses that have a particular focus on widening participation; the Bridging course, taught by Mark Roberts, which helps students with their transition to higher level study; the STEP online and revision course, run by Luciano Rila, which provides online lectures and face-to-face sessions at UCL.

The Department of Statistical Science runs a foundation fortnight programme for Masters Students, an initiative considered by the review team to have potential for undergraduate students. The programme offers students crash courses that enable those from different backgrounds and levels to get up to speed before starting their Masters. General induction information, contact with tutors and module options form part of the foundation fortnight too. The department also runs a ‘Meet Your Professor’ initiative for first year students. This brings research into the learning environment early on in the programme. A group of students review a research paper and interview the senior author. This initiative develops the integration of research and teaching which, due to the nature of the discipline, usually appears later in the programme after students have developed sufficient technical knowledge and statistical background. Other Departments have already asked the lead tutor for permission to replicate this activity.

Psychology and Language Sciences introduced a virtual open day for the Certificate/Diploma/MSc Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Children and Young People programme. Using digital technology such as Skype, this is an innovative way to encourage interest in the programme, particularly from potential international applicants or those from other parts of the UK. It enables face-to-face contact between staff and prospective students and the review team considered it to be a practice that could be extended to the other programmes and more widely in UCL. The department also interacts with a diverse range of professional statutory and regulatory bodies that accredit their programmes, with some conferring professional status. The portfolio of programmes is highly attractive to students, many of whom are professionals seeking to extend their skill set and qualifications. External scrutiny and visits by the accrediting bodies have been highly successful.

Student satisfaction

Scenario weeks in the department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering are examples of best practice in research-based education and notable for positive feedback from students, which made a significant impact on their NSS results, evidenced by student comments in the 2015 NSS. The department also runs a very effective and personal academic tutoring system in years 1 and 2 of the IEP programme, again with a positive impact on NSS results. 

The School of Slavonic and East European Studies offers excellent library provision through liaison with Library Services, garnering very positive feedback from students and staff. The Librarian and Director of Information Services is a highly effective member of key SSEES committees, including the Teaching Committee and Library Committee, and is also involved in programme and module development, ensuring that the library is able to provide the necessary resources. This has resulted in excellent on-going scores in both the NSS and the Student Barometer and provides a model that might be applied more widely throughout UCL. 

The BSc Human Sciences programme team in the Division of Biosciences introduced an ‘Alternative Prospectus’ and ‘Alternative Options Booklet’, compiled by students for students. The latter is distributed to Year 1 students and provides a comprehensive list of modules taken and reviewed by Human Sciences students, acting as first hand guidance for selecting modules from the broad range of disciplines.

Student achievement

Opportunities for research-based education have been introduced by the School of Slavonic and East European Studies. A strong example of good practice can be found in the final year module (Poland in the UK) which enables undergraduate students to undertake ethnographic work with migrants in London. SSEES is clearly relating the aims of the UCL Assessment Strategy to encourage independent learning based on a research based curriculum to its own provision.

The Division of Psychology and Language Sciences shares good teaching and learning practice by holding marking workshops and diversifying assessment methods.  In addition all academic and teaching staff in the division have adopted an electronic system to give feedback to undergraduates. The system allows them to undertake marking electronically and comments can also be entered by voice using the system’s technology.


The Department of Mathematics supports the Undergraduate Colloquium. Undergraduate students arrange the event, at which they and others give presentations. The UCL Undergraduate Mathematics Colloquium has been meeting weekly for seven years during term time to discuss interesting mathematical ideas outside of scheduled lecture courses. Topics tend to match the students' research interests or be as a result of in consultation with staff members. Each week an undergraduate (or occasionally staff member) gives a talk on a mathematical subject or problem. Study groups are also formed on various topics. Postgraduate students also have their own seminar, connecting with each other, advancing their research, learning through the presentation, answering questions and, ultimately, helping prepare for job interviews and careers in the process.