Teaching & Learning


Tomorrow's world, today's learners: reflections from the UCL Education Conference 2024

23 April 2024

VPEE Student Journalist and Impartial Chair Antara Basu reports on the annual conference at the IOE, UCL's Institute of Education.

Keynote speaker Natasha Davidson in conversation with a student

This year’s UCL Education Conference brought together over 330 experts from across disciplines, to explore how education at UCL can prepare our graduates for future challenges and opportunities. 

The conference began with opening remarks by Peter Fitch, followed by a warm welcome from UCL Vice Provost, Professor Kathleen Armour, who discussed the evolving challenges facing the higher education sector, including the impact of COVID-19 on students, the rise of AI, high student debt, and the ongoing mental health and cost-of-living crises. She reaffirmed UCL’s commitment to the Education Excellence Ambitions, part of the UCL Strategic Plan focusing on;

  • Bolstering student-staff partnerships
  • Reducing operational and administrative burdens to support both students and staff more effectively.
  • Robustly integrating leadership opportunities within the individual student experience 
  • Connecting our cutting-edge research with the student body and, 
  • Highlighting the ‘distinctiveness’ of a UCL education through our practices 

Education as a channel for social mobility 

This year’s keynote was delivered by Mouhssin Ismail OBE, Chief Standards Officer for the City of London Academies Trust and the Founding Principal of the Newham Collegiate Sixth Form Centre. Mr Ismail shared valuable insights on enhancing educational outcomes in schools in lower socio-economic areas. He stressed the importance of encouraging students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to set ambitious goals, preparing them to excel in competitive environments. He advocated for the integration of moral education and a rich curriculum supported by rigorous assessment systems as effective strategies. Addressing the escalating mental health crisis in the sector, he emphasised the critical role of fostering mental resilience to ensure student success. 

Following the keynote, attendees enjoyed lively discussions, workshops and presentations in the parallel sessions running on the four sub-themes:

  • 21st-century learners
  • A fast-changing graduate employment market
  • Wellbeing and care in Higher Education
  • The modern and future Higher Education classroom. 

An update on education strategy

In the afternoon a fantastic panel featuring Professor Parama Chaudhary, Dr Kathryn Woods and Karen Barnard discussed key initiatives underway across UCL to advance the Education Excellence Ambitions. These included resolving problems with feedback and assessment, improving personal tutoring, the Student Life Strategy and finally, optimising career support by proactively identifying students in need before they graduate. 

The transition from university to work 

For the afternoon keynote, we welcomed Natasha Davidson, an experienced edtech leader, venture partner, and marketing advisor with Emerge Education. Her talk focussed on strategies to support graduates in the transition to the job market.

Her suggestions included targeted mental health services, designing curriculum structures with a key focus on experiential learning, and enhancing information access. These are critical measures, especially for disadvantaged students because research indicates that they are less likely to ask for support and are more likely to lack knowledge of careers beyond traditional pathways. Financial literacy was underscored in mitigating stress around cost-of-living challenges.

Incorporating experiential learning helped me to understand the world of careers and opportunities. 

A central theme of the talk was the integration of practical skills alongside academic expertise through Capstone projects, community-based placements and exposure to the employment market through meaningful alumni engagement, all of which are vital for developing an employability curriculum. Both keynotes reaffirmed education as an integral pathway for social mobility, calling for the adoption of exemplary education practices in the sector. 

Education Awards shortlist

Professor Kathleen Armour also announced the shortlists for the Education Awards and Students Choice Awards. These awards celebrate the achievements of staff and students and their contributions to UCL’s community. Explore the award categories and the list of nominees. The winners will be announced on 5 June 2024. 

Continue the conversation 

Were you unable to attend this year’s conference? Or did you find it hard to choose between sessions on the day? You don’t need to miss out! Many of the day’s presenters have now posted about their work on the UCL Education Conference 2024 blog

You can also join us for a post-conference webinar with Students' Union UCL Sabbatical Officers on 15 May, 12–2pm. A chance to delve deeper into the conference themes and share what we learned, and what will happen next. 

Book your place for the webinar.