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And a Danubian band played too
27 June 2013
Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education), discusses the success of the first-ever Global Citizenship Programme... and a Danubian band.
This month sees the completion of the first phase of two major UCL initiatives in teaching and learning, but you will need to read on to decipher the rather cryptic title of this month’s article.
Firstly, students on the radical new BASc programme have completed their first year. No doubt Programme Director Carl Gombrich will spend his summer analysing their results and feedback but some of the headlines make impressive reading.
The BASc is undeniably multi-disciplinary and this year students have studied on 89 different modules. Such multi-disciplinarity is no barrier to high achievement. Students studying modules as diverse as Mandarin Chinese, Economics and Computer Science have been achieving marks of greater than 70% across the board. These data certainly give food for thought as we consider a more widespread review of our programmes and greater cross-disciplinary study.
The second of the two major initiatives was the first run, in pilot form, of the UCL Global Citizenship Programme. This is the programme open to all first-year undergraduates after the completion of their exams in the third term who are not otherwise involved in field trips, exhibitions and shows. For the two weeks between May 28 and June 7, nearly 100 first-year ‘pioneers’ from across UCL enrolled onto one of two themed programmes based around UCL’s research Grand Challenges.
Students following the Grand Challenge of Intercultural Interactions took the Danube as their focus and were led by Tim Beasley-Murray from the UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies. Those following the Grand Challenge of Human Wellbeing took People and the Sea as their cue and were led by Caroline Garaway from UCL Anthropology.
Both programmes took students from disciplines across UCL and presented them with ideas and concepts that were radically different from their core undergraduate studies. As Caroline notes in her introduction to People and the Sea, “Humankind depends on the oceans and coasts and their resources for its survival. These ecosystems, covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, are among the most productive on the planet, but they are also amongst the most threatened. Climate change, rising sea-surface temperatures and rising sea levels are endangering the long-term security of people living in low-lying coastal areas and significantly altering the occurrence of resources, such as freshwater, on which all of us rely.”
Working together in one of six country groups (India, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Fiji, Ghana) the students learned about film-making, cross-cultural negotiation and designing effective posters and presentations, which culminated in a mock UN resolution and ‘People and the Sea’ exhibition at the end of the two weeks.
For those studying the Danube, Tim notes in his introduction, “The Danube is Europe’s second longest river and one of its great waterways. Rising in the German Black Forest, it runs through Austria, then Slovakia, where it forms the border with Hungary, then plunges down into Hungary itself and on into Serbia, for some while forming again the border with Croatia, then heads East, once again a border river, now the long border between Romania and Bulgaria, before losing itself in the great delta on the Black Sea where Romania borders Moldova and Ukraine, on its way, shaping some of the great cities of Central and South East Europe – Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, Belgrade.”
He continues, “The Danube, however, is not only this symbol of cooperation and communication. The Danube is often the watery stage for conflict. In the past, the Danube was the channel of colonisation and part of the battlefront. At the heart of the Danube as conflict zone is the river’s role as environmental resource and dumping ground that means that the communities and nations who inhabit its banks and back-country must try, but more often fail, to live together and treat the river wisely and responsibly. It is, above all, a river that often separates rather than joins, cutting cities in two.”
In addition to lectures, films screenings and project work, students studied the sounds and letters of the six languages of the Danube (German, Slovak, Hungarian, Serbian, Romanian and Bulgarian).
The success of the UCL Global Citizenship Programme is crucially dependent on the value that students perceive it gives them. It is a programme which is optional, after exams and not formally assessed. Successful participation is included in the Higher Education Achievement Record (HEAR) and one of its aims is to show that UCL graduates have the distinctive experience of cross-disciplinary working and leadership that employers seek out.
Comments from students indicate that they value being able to understand how some of the world’s major global problems are viewed by others from different disciplines:
“I very much enjoyed working with students from other disciplines. I felt that everyone was able to see things differently because of our diverse academic backgrounds. Working together was difficult at first but when we worked out our differences in how we saw things, these differences allowed us to see the bigger picture more clearly.”
“It has helped me to have a more clear and global understanding of how our actions can cause problems to the Earth and how we are all part of the same system.”
For the final evening of the programme, students from both the Danube and People and the Sea strands came together for a wonderful post exhibition, prize-giving and party in the South Cloisters. The thought and creativity behind their posts was inspiring, as was their command of many of a new language. And a Danubian band played too!
Professor Anthony Smith, Vice-Provost (Education)
Page last modified on 26 jun 13 16:29
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