UCL East


UCL East community projects thrive despite pandemic

5 April 2022

UCL’s engagement team’s work to create opportunities and improve facilities, services and lives in east London during Covid-19 is highlighted in our new UCL East Engagement report for the academic year 2020/2021.

Head teacher reaches holds out a box containing a laptop to a young primary aged pupil and her mother with a background of celebratory balloons

The report provides a snapshot of activity with our local community partners as we responded to needs identified by local people in the following areas: health and wellbeing, recreation and outdoor spaces, education and learning, art and creativity, advice and support.

In Newham, in response to the loneliness and isolation experienced by many, a group of young people worked with researchers to create and share a resource that mapped out places to go and things to do in the borough.

Another initiative highlighted is the provision of free digital devices, broadband, training and IT support to low-income households in Tower Hamlets to help with home schooling and keep communities connected.

Ways to adapt and cope with the disruption felt by self-employed creatives, including artists and craft workers, was the focus of a project in Hackney that looked at the psychological impact of Covid on artistic communities.

In Waltham Forest, community groups, residents and young people were supported to create a virtual reality (VR) experience exploring what place and community mean to them on a social housing estate due for regeneration.

Introducing the report, Professor Paola Lettieri FREng, who is Director of the UCL East campus, which will open its first building on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park this autumn, said:

"Local communities will be central to the activity on our new UCL campus as we bring together the public, scientists, students, business and industry to create knowledge and tools to meet the challenges of tomorrow's world."

East Londoner and former Olympian and UCL Student Christine Ohuruogo, who now also sits on UCL's governing Council, comments in the report: 

Christine Ohuruogu MBE

"In any neighbourhood, the spaces open to you and the facilties available to you help shape you, from childhood through to later life. I'm excited to think how much more can be achieved in future by combining UCL's world leading research and innovation with the creativity, interests, aspirations and needs of local people in east London."

Whether participating in research and innovation or simply enjoying a coffee in one of UCL East's cafés, or the work of local artists in its public spaces, the campus aims to be welcoming and accessible to all. The first new campus buildings, One Pool Street, will open this autumn with the much larger Marshgate completing the first phase of UCL East in 2023.

UCL academics, students and researchers have been working with local organisations in east London on challenges and issues identified by local people for well over a decade. Concluding the report, UCL Pro-Provost for London Professor Alan Thompson congratulated all those continuing work to embed UCL in east London. Professor Thompson said: 

"UCL's new campus is an exciting opportunity for us to increase our engagement in the Olympic boroughs and make an even greater impact in the future."

Looking to that future, UCL Director of Cultural Engagement Simon Cane said:

"2022 is a landmark year for UCL when we will finally be able to welcome our east London neighbours onto our new campus and strengthen our engagement with local communities. 

"UCL is also helping to spearhead the new SHIFT innovation district for east London. This will see organisations with links to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park together creating a new inclusive ‘living testbed’ to improve climate resilience, the movement of people and goods and the health and wellbeing of our cities, bringing together changemakers from the community, business and academia."

You can find our more about UCL East's engagement work and how to get involved by clicking here.

    Read our latest UCL East Engagement report


    • Connecting Communities in Tower Hamlets, credit: UCL
    • Christine Ohuruogu MBE, credit: Andrea Capello