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People 2013

Provost Departure Regulation or Strangulation?

Student Centre

A Just Cause

Alumni Interview: Top Deck to Top Class

Visionary Research: Dementia

Front cover:


Deborah Harry leaving screening after party, New York, 11 March 2013 Š Billy Farrell Agency / Rex Features

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Project Manager Helen Bradley Project Assistant Rosie Simm

Media Raymond Depardon / Magnum Photos

UCL People is produced for UCL alumni and supporters by the Alumni Relations team.

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Jonathan Dimbleby / Antonio Olmos


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Welcome to the 2013 edition of UCL People. We hope that you enjoy reading the publication as much as we enjoyed making it. If you would like to ensure that you receive future copies of the magazine, please update your details by completing the enclosed form or visiting our website


Features Regulation or Strangulation?

Visionary Research 40


The UCL Institute of Neuroscience conducts ground-breaking research into dementia, a disease that will affect one in four of us.

As the Media Regulation debate rages on, UCL Alumnus Jonathan Dimbleby introduces the different perspectives.

UCL Student Centre


The UCL Student Centre, due to open in 2016, is our vision to improve the student experience for all.

Regulars Online contents


For all the latest news and events, follow us online

The Provost Departs


After a ten-year tenure, Professor Malcolm Grant reflects on his time at UCL and the legacy he hopes to leave.

A Just Cause Centre for Access to Justice combines the unique advantages of clinical legal education with the provision of legal advice for vulnerable communities.


From Top Deck to Top of the Class


Student Kasim Ali talks about his journey from bus driver to earth scientist, and his passion for Somalia.

Leader 03 UCL President and Provost Malcolm Grant reflects on his outgoing year

Snapshot 04 A round up of the latest stories from the UCL community

Inside story


150th anniversary of the Choshu Five

The gallery


Renovation of the UCL Flaxman and Octagon Galleries in pictures

Campus Q&A


UCL Academy pupil Maria Kanellopolous answers our questions

Parting shot


Over 20 years of UCL Archaeology’s PrimTech expedition


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Leader President & Provost

It is with a great sense of nostalgia and affection that I introduce this issue of UCL People. My retirement as President and Provost will take effect in September 2013. I will leave this great institution with immense sadness; this is absolutely the best job in higher education in the UK and I have the deepest affection for UCL, for its ethos and for the community of scholarship and friendship that lies at its heart. I would like to take this opportunity to thank our global alumni community and donors for their support over the past ten years. Without their generosity, projects like the ones featured in this issue of UCL People would not be possible. My successor, Michael Arthur, will join a truly superb university underpinned by a strong ethos of teamwork and cross-disciplinary collaboration. Students are the lifeblood of universities and I have been deeply impressed by the achievements of every member of our student body over the past ten years – not just in formal learning, but in a huge range of other activity, including sport, singing, dance, opera and volunteering in the local community. We need to expand the opportunities for student development at UCL. Much has already been done to improve student facilities on campus, but continued investment is a major priority and I am delighted that a new student centre on the Bloomsbury campus, adjacent to the Bloomsbury Theatre, will open in 2016. There have been many other exciting developments over the past decade. I have had the opportunity in the following pages to outline a selection of personal and institutional highlights. We can all take immense pride in the accomplishments that have transformed UCL into the globally renowned university that it is today. UCL research is recognised as being world-class. In this issue there is a summary of some of it, including ground breaking work in dementia. And we’ve founded a school. The UCL Academy, which occupies a splendid new building at Swiss Cottage, is still the only academy wholly sponsored by a university, and its strong bond with UCL has been made evident through several organised events and classes conducted with the support of UCL staff. You can read about the academy from a student perspective in our Campus Q & A, which features an interview with a pupil from its first academic intake, Maria Kanellopolous. I have been fortunate enough to work with some outstandingly talented people within the UCL community and this issue of UCL People provides an insight into their remarkable achievements in 2013. Indeed, this issue’s lead article features UCL alumnus and esteemed journalist and broadcaster Jonathan Dimbleby who introduces the debate surrounding media regulation. I am sure the coming decade will be every bit as exciting and successful as the last, and that UCL’s global reputation will continue to rise.

Professor Malcolm Grant UCL President and Provost


Snapshot News from UCL

New Provost is a northern star Professor Michael Arthur, currently Vice-Chancellor at the University of Leeds, has been appointed as the new President and Provost of UCL. We look forward to welcoming Professor Arthur in September 2013.

Bentham’s head raises money The changing funding climate for UK universities has prompted Jeremy Bentham, UCL’s spiritual founder, to finally break his 180-year silence. Many of you will have received letters asking for a donation to our alumni fund in exchange for a paper lantern reproduction of the great man’s head.


To say thank you to all alumni for their donations, UCL took part in its first ever Global Student Engagement and Philanthropy Day, recognising and celebrating the financial support that UCL staff, students and societies have received from thousands of generous UCL alumni.

Professor Michael Arthur said: “It is a very great honour to be appointed as the next President and Provost of UCL, one of the world’s leading universities. I admire the history and origins of UCL and the continued focus on its founding principles and values. Malcolm Grant will be a very hard act to follow, but I look forward to rising to that challenge in leading London’s Global University.”

A place for tiny things A new space that celebrates microscopic members of the animal kingdom opened recently at the Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL. The Micrarium is a place for visitors to come and explore tiny specimens. It’s often said that 95% of known animal species are smaller than your thumb, but despite this, most natural history museums fill their displays with big animals. To right this wrong, the Grant Museum of Zoology has converted an old office into a beautiful back-lit cave covered with wall-to-wall microscope slides.

Jack Ashby, Manager of the Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL, said: “While public displays focus on larger animals, most natural history collections have thousands of very small specimens kept in their storerooms that are rarely shown to the public.” The museum is open to the public Monday to Saturday 1–5pm. Admission is free of charge. zoology

Britain’s hidden links to slavery Colonial slavery shaped modern Britain and we still live with its legacies. The UCL Department of History has been conducting research into slave-owners and their descendants, to produce a public encyclopedia. This project about trying to think differently about how modern Britain has been shaped. The project has involved cooperation with

numerous individuals and groups, museums and academic institutions to produce the online Encyclopedia of British Slave-Owners. This contains information about every slave-owner in the British Caribbean, Mauritius or the Cape at the moment of the abolition of slavery in 1833. You can use the encyclopedia online at:


UCL Qatar University College London, in partnership with Qatar Foundation and Qatar Museums Authority, has created UCL Qatar, a world-class centre for the study of cultural heritage. We are proud to be the first British university to open a campus in Qatar.

The campus offers postgraduate and research opportunities, and aims to nurture a new generation of cultural heritage professionals in the region, positioning itself as the leading centre of excellence in the Middle East for heritage education.

Located in the capital city of Doha, the UCL Qatar campus builds upon UCL’s renowned strengths in conservation, museum studies and archaeology.

You can visit the UCL Qatar website for more information on this campus:



01   Cafeteria at UCL Qatar 02   UCL President and Provost Malcolm Grant addresses an audience at UCL Qatar 03  Students from the MA Museum and Gallery Practice degree programme with Dr Karen Exell (2nd right)



UCL and the Royal Free – together we are stronger UCL and the Royal Free Hospital are working together to open an Institute of Immunity and Transplantation. This will be among the top five global research centres for immunity and transplantation. The aim of the institute is to repair and replace damaged organs and cure common medical conditions such as cancer and diabetes.

By using new technologies, doctors can provide care for many patients with degenerative diseases that currently have no access to effective treatment. With your support, UCL and the Royal Free can exploit regenerative medicine that will change the face and future of medical science. If you are interested in supporting this project, please contact: Fiona Duffy Head of Principal Gifts +44 (0)20 3108 3821


High five for UCL Advances The year 2013 marks the fifth anniversary of UCL Advances, the Centre for Entrepreneurship at the university and part of UCL Enterprise. During its first five years, UCL Advances has done much to encourage and enable new enterprises, offering training, networking and business support for staff, students and external entrepreneurs. The centre also builds valuable links with

local companies and potential investors and supports students throughout the early stages of their business. Director of UCL Advances, Timothy Barnes, said of participants: “We give them the best chance of becoming the standout success of tomorrow. ” More information on UCL Advances can be found online: 01

01   Supported by UCL Advances, outdoor advertising company Old Bond Street use moving images on bike wheels to promote products. Recently they won funding on BBC’s Dragons’s Den 02  UCL Advances event 02



Regulation or Strangulation? By George Bull

On Monday 18 March 2013, after a long night of talks between the UK’s political leaders, an agreement was announced on a new system of press regulation to be set up by a Royal Charter drafted by the Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats. The agreement follows almost four months of political wrangling and negotiations with the press and lobby group Hacked Off since the Leveson Inquiry into press standards published its report last November. The Royal Charter, which will not be passed by MPs but will need to be approved at the May 2013 meeting of the Queen’s Privy Council, will enable a number of key reforms that will create a self-regulatory body with independent appointments and funding, and be backed by a recognition body that will ultimately decide whether the regulator is up to scratch. The new regulator will have the power to elicit upfront apologies from the press to victims; impose fines of one per cent of turnover

for publishers, up to £1 million; and provide a free arbitration service for victims. Publishers that don’t sign up to the regulator could find themselves subject to exemplary damages. For some, the new system will be hailed as having avoided a return to what they regarded as toothless self-regulation under the Press Complaints Commission. Others will argue that the statutory underpinning of the Royal Charter is an assault on the freedom of the press. Some editors, unhappy with the resolution, have already made it plain that they will be boycotting the new regulator. What happens next is unclear, but this is one story that looks set to run and run. Over the following pages, five commentators unpick the arguments surrounding the future of media regulation in the UK. These include UCL alumni Jonathan Dimbleby and John Whittingdale, and UCL expert in Media Law, Emeritus Professor Eric Barendt.


“To add to these constraints new legislation to further curb the media threatens to muzzle the freedoms of expression on which our democracy has flourished and without which it would founder”

“If the Press Complaints Commission had been policed properly, then we wouldn’t be in this situation”


Jonathan Dimbleby (UCL Philosophy 1969) has had a successful career in broadcasting that spans decades. He has covered events all over the world, from the UK general election to Ethiopian famine crisis, and presents BBC Radio 4’s Any Questions. On Liberty and Freedom of Expression I was weaned at UCL on Mill and Bentham. So compellingly did they set out the terms of a moral and political debate which has continued to this day that I still set my compass by their underlying convictions about freedom and democracy. Wouldst they were here at this hour. Since their day, in the name of protecting security or avoiding offence, our precious liberties have been eroded, are being eroded, and will be further eroded unless we wake up collectively to the threats posed by those who would shape our destinies and corral our rights. As chairman of Index on Censorship – which was set up 40 years ago to give a voice to Eastern European writers and poets silenced in the dark days of the Cold War, and is now this country’s leading voice for freedom of expression – I am

Jacqui Hames is a former Metropolitan Police Detective and was co-presenter of BBC show Crimewatch for 16 years. A writer and broadcaster, Hames also lectures at the Metropolitan Police Crime Academy and is an ambassador for the Hacked Off campaign for a free and accountable media. Clearly, we’ve got to where we are because of huge failings in the way that the media has been regulated in the past, therefore the public’s faith in what they’re reading has got to be restored when they pick up a newspaper. I think the press has got to clean up its act once and for all and not only put in place an effective regulator, but be seen to want to work in a clean profession untainted by scandal and free of the air of corruption that has hung over it. Many in Hacked Off, including myself, were hoping that Lord Justice Leveson would come up with a system of regulation that was independent of the

both at the heart and in the heat of this debate.

democracy has flourished and without which it would founder.

To take but one example: the hacking scandal which led to the Leveson Inquiry was a disgrace to journalism, a disgusting invasion of individual privacy and a violation of human rights. Whoever has done this has not only broken the law but is guilty of a shameful crime and should be punished accordingly. But Leveson has been turned into a weapon by crusaders who want new laws to protect the citizen against the media.

And who would benefit most from this? The rich, the powerful, and those who would seek to protect themselves from whistle-blowers acting in the public interest. Newspapers and magazines have always been unruly, frequently cruel, often scurrilous, routinely offensive, sometimes dishonest, and rarely reliable. In a rapidly changing technological environment, this is no less true of social media – that rapidly expanding global sphere of free expression in which bloggers and tweeters are making up the rules as they go along, challenging orthodoxies and threatening what we used to regard as the ‘natural’ order.

We need to tread very carefully before advancing down this path: once we tip the scales further against the freedoms of ‘the fourth estate’ it will be exceptionally hard to recover our balance. We already have laws aplenty: laws against discrimination; laws that protect official secrecy; laws against libel and defamation; laws against contempt of court; laws against bribery and corruption; and laws to protect privacy (via the European Court of Human Rights). To add to these constraints new legislation to further curb the media threatens to muzzle the freedoms of expression on which our

press but he’s come up with something that is self-regulatory again, albeit with a statutory backdrop one step removed. He’s bent over backwards to try and meet the needs of the media and show that he understoods not everyone has been behaving badly, but you’ve got to balance that against the outrage of the public. Nobody’s interfering with the regulatory body that the press sets up itself. The content of the news and the way it is gathered is still down to them. All we’re saying is that we want a organisation with some teeth that makes sure it abides by its own rules. If the Press Complaints Commission had been policed properly, then we wouldn’t be in this situation. I think David Cameron made a mistake in coming out so quickly against Leveson’s recommendations for a statutory backdrop, and everything that has been done subsequently has, to a degree, been to try and save face.

It is tempting for those who are disconcerted by the impact of the media’s freedoms on their own sensibilities or interests to demand further constraints in the name of safeguarding the public. Since they are always under critical scrutiny, it is not surprising that politicians – riding a mood of the moment – are so often the first to demand action. If they are permitted to act in haste, the rest of us will repent at leisure.

It’s quite clear from all the polls that the majority of the public wants the statutory backdrop to make sure that in five, ten years’ time, we’re not back where we started with yet another enquiry. For me, what we have had and hopefully will continue to have in this country is a fantastic reputation for cracking journalism. Of course, it makes life uncomfortable for people sometimes, that’s the nature of the job but what has happened is that a culture of big business has hijacked that integrity in order to create, sometimes invent, salacious stories that may sell more newspapers and make them more money. As soon as there’s an atmosphere where nobody has to play by the rules, people get a sense of power, which corrupts everyone around them – and that’s what has happened. What we’re trying to do is to restore that integrity in places from where it has been hijacked.


“I think the press has woken up to the fact that the extent of the abuse that’s been revealed means they have to accept a much stronger and wholly independent regulatory body”

Eric Barendt is Emeritus Professor of Media Law at UCL, having held the UK’s first chair in media law as Goodman Professor at the university from 1990 to 2010. Whether there is or isn’t statutory underpinning to the new system of press regulation is purely a political dispute. Cameron wants to proclaim to the press that there isn’t, and Miliband, Clegg and Hacked Off want to claim that there is. As I understand it, the argument hinges on an amendment to the Enterprise and Regulations Reform Bill that simply means that the Royal Charter, which will give the new recognition body legal status, can only be amended by a two-thirds majority in parliament. The use of the Royal Charter in the first place is a neat, but rather silly way of avoiding statutory regulation. It evokes an archaic way of setting up a body and provides a political fix, enabling both parties to say that they have avoided a press law, while achieving their own objectives. It seems quite


likely that we will have some newspapers that are quite happy to go along with regulation and others that won’t or have so far reserved their positions. I don’t know how this deadlock will be resolved. If the press can’t be persuaded to join, it’s not clear how much room there is for bargaining. But I have no sympathy with the press view that just because there’s an element of statute, this means that there’s no longer press freedom in Britain. The press’s reaction to the Leveson Report has been that any form of statutory regulation or underpinning marks a return to the press licensing of 1695. But Leveson was rightly unpersuaded by the ‘philosophical objections’ – a phrase used by Lord Black – to statutory intervention. Statute would not prescribe the terms of the Code of Practice, let alone determine the contents of a newspaper or the conditions on which it could publish. At most, it would set out in broad-brush terms the constitution and functions of the recognition body.

Furthermore, the law would require the government to uphold press freedom, and courts would have to interpret and apply it under the Human Rights Act so as to be compatible with the right to freedom of expression. A regulatory body that is genuinely independent is much less likely than the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) has been to give a newspaper the benefit of the doubt when resolving a complaint, and so more likely to command public confidence. Just as important is the recommendation that it should provide an arbitration service for civil legal claims for defamation, privacy, harassment and other wrongs, as at present only the wealthy can afford to bring proceedings in the High Court. I would have thought that this should be regarded as an improvement on the PCC, as that body was on the Press Council before it.

Former Political Secretary to then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, John Whittingdale OBE (UCL Economics 1982) has been MP for Maldon since 1992. In July 2005, he was elected Chairman of the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee. He led the 2009/10 investigation into press libel and privacy issues and, in April 2011, called for a public enquiry into phone hacking at the News of the World.

that would make it very difficult not to. What he proposes is that if a newspaper subscribes to a regulatory body, then the courts could take account of that when imposing penalties for a breach of libel laws and that it would be protected in large part from exemplary damages. But in order for the courts to be able to do that, the law needs to provide some kind of legal recognition of the regulatory body. And this is where a lot of the argument lies.

The Leveson Inquiry spent 18 months at a cost of £4 million and reached similar conclusions to those of my committee in our investigation between 2007 and 2010. The new body Leveson recommends is self-regulatory but wholly independent of the press. He says it should have the power to impose penalties and to initiate investigations, and that it should have an arbitral function to provide an alternative to the libel courts. All of which, I fully support, as it is very close to what we called for originally.

Leveson suggests that the way to do this is by establishing through legislation a recognition body to assess whether the regulator meets the criteria. The alternative, which I think is quite a clever idea, is the so-called Letwin Plan for a Royal Charter. One of the safeguards against political interference is that the Royal Charter can give a body legal status but it can’t confer powers on the body, which of course legislation would allow you to do.

Leveson says we shouldn’t compel newspapers to join the regulator but instead recommends strong incentives

This achieves exactly the outcome that Leveson wants. This is an independent, strong regulator with a recognition body behind it. It’s only the process to establish it that’s different. Hacked

Off originally took a purist view that Leveson’s recommendations had to be implemented to the letter, but there are real flaws in other parts of his report. For instance, Leveson’s own recommendation that the recognition body should be Ofcom is wholly inappropriate. I think the press has woken up to the fact that the extent of the abuse that’s been uncovered means they have to accept a much stronger and wholly independent regulatory body. They know that unless they agree to this, parliament will legislate, and I’ve always said I’m very reluctant to legislate because it sends completely the wrong messages. I take a lot of interest in countries that are moving slowly towards being fully democratic, particularly the former communist countries in Eastern Europe. My fear has always been that if Britain says yes it’s fine to pass laws about what the press can and can’t do, then this will give a green light to other countries whose governments would love to take such powers and abuse them.

“I have no sympathy with the press view that just because there’s an element of statute this means that there’s no longer press freedom in Britain”


Leo Watkins is an analyst in the media team at Enders Analysis, the global technology and media research service set up by Claire Enders in 1997. He has special focus on press regulation and the future of magazines. There isn’t a ‘Leveson system’ of press regulation currently working anywhere else in the world. Other countries are more restrictive of what their press can do, but in terms of a sophisticated regulator with the power to investigate newspapers and not just adjudicate on claims, it would a first if Leveson’s proposals are fully implemented in the UK. This is something that would be of international significance, but it has to be borne in mind that each country’s regulatory solution is designed to fit the news market they have, and the UK’s newspaper market is fairly unique. If you look at places such as France, Germany or Denmark, which already have, if not their own systems of media regulation then fairly strongly enforced



rights of privacy, what’s gone on here is a bit more puzzling for them. It’s a different attitude as to how much information about public officials and figures in public life is acceptable for newspapers to publish. On the other hand, if you look to somewhere like the USA, it’s completely incomprehensible to a lot of American commentators that you would ever countenance introducing a system of regulation to deal with the problems that have occurred. The distinctive feature of the UK news market is that there is such a competitive press at national level. There simply isn’t that kind of national competition in, say, the US, and part of that is because most of the sales in the UK still occur via the news stand – people choose which newspaper to buy each day, rather than subscribing on a long-term basis. The intensity of that competition is part of the reason that any of the phone-hacking abuses

took place, because journalists were under such extraordinary pressure to get the story. So, while a Leveson-style regulator would be a world first, we also have what you might think of as the most advanced newspaper market in the world. In terms of the message that statutory regulation sends, there are two ways you can look at it. One is that other countries regard the British as ending press freedom through statute and that it may legitimise governments that want to clamp down on the press to do the same. But other countries may look at the UK and say, look at what happens if you have an unregulated press – is this how a civilised society should behave? I don’t know which side things will come down on, but I haven’t seen much evidence that the introduction of similar systems of press regulation have led to a global chilling effect on free speech or a clamp down on newspaper freedoms.

“Other countries may look at the UK and say, look at what happens if you have an unregulated press – is this how a civilised society should behave?”



01   Labour MP Chris Bryant, Shadow Minister for Borders addresses the audience at the UCL Union Debating Society

The UCLU Debating Society hosted a debate on media regulation featuring key figures, including Jacqui Hames and John Whittingdale.

02   An audience member asks a question at the UCL Union Debating Society debate ‘This House believes that the press can no longer be trusted to self regulate’

You can read their blog about the event online at our website: events/2012/11/30/is-self-regulation-ofthe-press-drawing-to-an-end

To keep up to date with UCL news and events you can follow us on Twitter @UCLNews or visit the news section of our website:

02  Panellists at the UCL Union Debating Society debate ‘This House believes that the press can no longer be trusted to self regulate’


Inside story 150th Anniversary of the Choshu Five

From top left, clockwise: Kinsuke Endo, Masaru Inoue, Hirobumi Ito, Kaoru Inoue and Yozo Yamao

In 1863, five Japanese noblemen stole away to UCL to gain an education; 150 years on, the university’s relationship with Japan is as strong as ever By Rick Pearson

The Famous Five

Most people’s first journey to university involves them packing up their prized possessions and saying goodbye to mum and dad. The Choshu Five’s epic voyage to UCL in 1863 was decidedly more challenging.

However, as Japan’s seclusion policy (known as ‘sakoku’) deemed it illegal for them to leave the country, their journey required the utmost levels of secrecy. “There were so many risks at the time,” says Professor Shin-Ichi Ohnuma, UCL’s Chair in Experimental Ophthalmology. “If the five had been discovered, they and all their families would have been killed.”

The five young noblemen of the Choshu clan in feudal Japan secretly came to Britain to study at UCL, which, at the time, was the only English university open to all religions and nationalities. They sought to receive a mind broadening education in readiness for the Meiji Restoration, in which these five would form the core of the new Japanese government.


So the group were disguised as English sailors and stowed on-board a vessel bound for Shanghai. Here, they were stored on an opium storage ship before dividing into two groups for the long voyage to London. This was no luxury cruise. Inoue Kaoru and Itō Hirobumi – destined to become two of the

greatest Japanese statesmen of the age – worked as deckhands on the 300-tonne steamer Pegasus. The London that the five arrived in was decidedly different to the one that greets today’s students. Queen Victoria was on the throne, the first section of the London Underground had just been opened and Charles Dickens was the author du jour. The Choshu Five were soon introduced to Professor Alexander Williamson, a man who would oversee their learning for the next three years.They certainly put their education to good use. Itō Hirobumi became Japan’s first prime minister; Inoue Kaoru became the country’s first minister of foreign affairs. The other three –

Students from top left, clockwise: Rina Kadokura, Naho Genko, Kakuho Furukawa, Wakana Urata and Mari Takino

Yamao Yōzō, Endō Kinsuke and Nomura Yakichi – all went on to become prominent figures in their home country, the last of these men being known as ‘the father of the Japanese railways’. “Modern Japan was shaped by these students,” says Ohnuma. “They came back to the country with new ways of thinking about government, industry and transport. Their influence in creating a new society cannot be overstated.” Closely behind the Choshu Five were a group of twelve students from the Satsuma clan, who arrived at the university in 1865. They also had significant influence on the modern Japan: for example, Yoshinari Hatakayama became the first head of what is now the University of Tokyo, and Muneori Terashima played a leading part in founding the Foreign Ministry. Over time, these two clans came to a mutual realisation that the future lay in the embracing of western technology and it was only by achieving this that they, and Japan, could survive and prosper.

UCL’s strong relationship with Japan continued into the 20th century. Junichiro Koizumi, Prime Minister of Japan from 2001 to 2006, studied Economics at the university from 1968 to 1969. As the maverick leader of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), Koizumi helped to carve out a new future for Japan, focusing on decreasing government debt, privatising the postal service and pushing for ways to revitalise the country’s moribund economy. UCL’s links with Japan are as strong today as they’ve ever been. In the academic year 2012/13, there are 113 Japanese students enrolled on graduate or undergraduate degree programmes at the university, making UCL one of the most popular UK destinations for Japanese students. The university also has formal links with a number of the country’s academic institutions, including Yamaguchi University, which is located where the Choshu Five used to live. The Japanese alumni society – UCL Japan Club – provides members with a chance to keep in touch with friends and exchange career-related information.

And the influence of the Choshu Five still resonates down the generations of UCL students. “I heard about the Choshu Five when I first came to UCL. I find it particularly inspiring that I am studying at the same place as such important people in Japan’s history because it gives me a sense of connection to home,” says Kakuho Furukawa, a current student in his second year of study. Few students nowadays arrive at UCL in the same way as the Choshu Five, but their determination to gain an education and shape the world for future generations permeates the UCL ethos.

Remembered on campus The cherry trees in the Quad and the engraved black granite memorial in the garden outside South Cloisters in the Wilkins Building were both installed in memory of the Choshu Five and members of the Satsuma Clan. 17

Professor Malcolm Grant is a barrister, environmental lawyer, academic and public servant. He took up the post of President and Provost in 2003. In September 2013 he will step down after a ten year tenure in what he calls ‘the best job in higher education anywhere’

The Provost Departs UCL People asked Malcolm Grant to reflect on his time at UCL and his hopes for the future.

By Helen Bradley



When you became Provost, what were your hopes and aspirations for your time at UCL? When I arrived in 2003 UCL had just been through a difficult period. There had been discussions with Imperial College about a possible merger, which many UCL people saw as an Imperial takeover with UCL as the weaker partner. I saw that we had to build constructively on the failed talks by getting a better understanding of what UCL actually meant to its own community, and then projecting that more effectively to the outside world. I wanted the world to recognise UCL as the leading institution it was, and to overcome the significant

confusion about its brand – people kept asking how it could be both a university and a college, and what was the difference between it and the University of London; some even seriously wanted to change the name completely, perhaps to Bentham University. I wanted to ensure that UCL simply became a globally recognised institution. Secondly, we needed to move from running an annual deficit to getting a balanced budget. It was a difficult time financially, but over the past decade we have improved our finances significantly and as a result have been able to invest for the future.

The Francis Crick Institute The Francis Crick Institute is a great achievement for UCL as the founding university partner. It is located alongside us, at St Pancras, and it will provide unparalleled opportunities for interdisciplinary research with major national and international partners.


How has the institution changed for the better in the last ten years? We have been through a wonderful decade. We have doubled our income, and student and staff numbers have gone up significantly. It has been a decade of growth, confidence and ambition.

UCL to be ranked currently as number four by the (self-evidently) most reliable of the league tables still leaves some room for improvement.

There are different ways of measuring excellence, but one thing that crept up on us unobserved and unannounced was league tables. As UCL’s placing kept rising we became more interested in them. Even though I still think that their methodology is seriously flawed, global league tables have the effect of reassuring everybody, particularly in the international community, of what a great institution UCL is. I confess I’m still a bit disappointed. We believe there are around 17,000 universities in the world. For

The 1826 ethos of our founders – an open institution based on meritocracy and rigorous enquiry – still permeates UCL strongly. More, I believe it has increasingly become a team-oriented institution, where people enjoy working together to get things done. It contrasts sharply with the silo organisation and internecine squabbling that exists in many other institutions. Loyalty to the institution and dedication to students are qualities that are really quite amazing. We can’t readily benchmark them, but they are what makes the institution special.

The UCL Academy The UCL Academy is simply fabulous. To me, it’s such an obvious thing to have done, but we encountered extraordinary local political opposition meaning that it took years longer than it should have done. It is a powerful investment by UCL in the future education of children in our part of London and a real experiment in having a university underpin a school. You only need to go and look at it, and to experience the academy’s ethos, to realise just how important an achievement it is.

International campuses The international campuses in Australia and Qatar are really innovative. They are a great example of what I mean by the UCL ethos – people just work as a team to get on and do stuff.


What will you miss about UCL?

What challenges are facing UCL in the future?

I will miss the good comradeship and company, and working with outstandingly talented people. There aren’t many institutions where you have some of the most intelligent people in the world working hard and exploring new areas. I’ve established an unusually large senior management team (SMT) which reflects UCL’s commitment to academic leadership.

The main challenge will be, as always, about funding. Much depends on the global economy. We aren’t anywhere near the end of the global financial crisis and we will need to continue to be highly competitive and adaptive in order to thrive in difficult times.

It comprises of Deans and Vice-Provosts, all of them outstanding academics in their own fields, together with the Finance Director. The 18-strong Provost’s SMT meets almost every week, not as a group of individuals competing for resources for their own parts of UCL, but as a genuine team committed to leading the development of the institution as a whole.

BASc Undergraduate programme We wanted to provide a more broadly based undergraduate programme that didn’t compel students to choose between arts and science at so young an age. We studied the American liberal arts model but decided to pioneer something completely different. Hence our new BASc multidisciplinary undergraduate programme. We believe in doing things that, rather than being gimmicky, have solid intellectual foundations.

Fundraising campaign In 2004, we launched what was then the biggest fundraising campaign event by a British university and raised our ten year target of £300 million in just seven years. We have been able to fund a range of innovative projects and strengthen our ability to offer financial support to students. We were able to disprove the common assumption that only the ancient universities had the alumni and the self-confidence to raise philanthropic support.


I leave behind an institution that is firing on all cylinders, one that is not daunted by the future and one that is perfectly able to rise to even higher levels. There are going to be a lot of challenges in the future but I would rather be facing them with the strength that we have built up over the last ten years than from a position of frailty.

Students We have invested extensively in new student programmes and in physical facilities on campus. The next phase will include the student centre and new and refurbished library and studying facilities.

The Professor Malcolm Grant Scholarship Throughout his career, Professor Grant has been committed to supporting the student community and to opening doors for the brightest and best. In particular, he has been a consistent advocate for the UCL ethos that no student should be denied a world-class education because of their background or financial circumstances. In fact, as far back as 2003, Professor Grant said “we don’t want to miss out on really capable students”. This commitment to widening access has been a hallmark of Professor Grant’s time in office. That’s why UCL alumni and friends have initiated a global fundraising effort to establish a scholarship in Professor Grant’s name, one which will celebrate his contribution and carry forward his values. To date, the scholarship fund has reached £500,000 (including a £100,000 matching gift from UCL) and continues to grow. We would like to thank the following donors for their support (list current as of 20 April 2013), as well as those alumni, staff and friends whose contributions have been received since the magazine went to print. Anonymous (12)

Richard Hollox

Shamis Al Dhaheri

Rodney Hornstein

Sir John Birch KCVO CMG

Peter Jackson

Neil Birnie

Dr Theo Joannides

Adele Biss & Roger Davies

Arul & Shariza Kanda

Alan Brener

David Laing

Richard Brown CBE

Barry Lau

Sir Stuart Burgess CBE

Nikolai Lazarev

John Chambers

Vivian, Angelina & Mark Lee

Edwin Cheung

Diana Lewton-Brain

Vincent Cheung

Tony Luk

Carl Chu

Clare Marx CBE

Victor Chu

Ronald Mitchell

Winston Chu

Frances Moore

Vinson & Cissy Chu Charitable Foundation

J P Moulton Charitable Foundation

Lord Clement-Jones CBE Sir Ivor Cohen CBE TD Stephen Collier Helen Cox Professor Gavin Drewry Dr Patricia Elliott Ian & Kate El-Mokadem George & Suha Farha Ghaleb & Herta Farha Michael Flesch QC The Hon Mr Justice Fok Marilyn Gallyer Edwin Glasgow CBE QC Henry Grunwald OBE QC Simon Harris Sir Maurice & Lady Hatter Sir Michael & Lady Heller Kathy Ho & Paul Lo

Richard Mully Andrew Ng & family Barry O’Brien John Olympitis David Ord

Rightful recognition The Professor Malcolm Grant Scholarship will enable UCL to enrol outstanding students from all financial backgrounds, from all over the world. If you have taken pride in the progress of UCL over the past ten years, we invite you to contribute to this special scholarship fund. It’s a wonderful way to mark a decade of outstanding leadership, which has seen UCL rise from 34th to 4th in the QS World University Rankings. While Professor Grant has always urged caution about the reliability of such rankings, UCL’s upward trajectory is irrefutable. UCL looks forward to selecting the inaugural Grant Scholars and to continuing to enable talented students to benefit from a world-class education at our esteemed institution – one for which Professor Grant has done so much over the last decade.

Claudia Pace Carson Pratt Mary Reilly Martin Richards OBE Lyn Rothman N Sethia Foundation Dr Gillian Steggles Sir Sigmund Sternberg John St John Nigel Thomas UCL Hong Kong Club

Make a Gift If you would like to add your personal support to the Professor Malcolm Grant Scholarship, please visit our online giving page, professor-malcolm-grant-scholarship Please be generous if you can and help us build a fitting tribute to a wonderful President and Provost.

John & Ann-Margaret Walton Maurice Watkins CBE Professor Henry Wong 23

The gallery The Octagon and Flaxman Galleries Redevelopment The Flaxman Gallery The Flaxman Collection at UCL contains the largest single group of works by artist John Flaxman and includes plaster models, drawings and prints. Set into the walls surrounding Flaxman’s sculpture, St Michael Overcoming Satan,1819–24, are plaster reliefs from Flaxman’s studio. UCL’s first architect William Wilkins (1778–1839) created a circular opening in the floor which visually connected the dome to the ground floor. In 1994, after the sculpture was returned from a period of loan to the Vitoria and Albert Museum, closing this opening became a major security objective as successive librarians were convinced that students in the gallery threw the library’s books through the gap. The recent renovation once again enables visitors in the Octagon Gallery below to look through the oculus and see the plaster reliefs from new angles.

01   Collins the Poet Contemplating the Holy Bible. Monument to William Collins, 1795 02   St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819-24, view from Donaldson Library


01   Charity. Monument to Georgiana, Countess Spencer, 1816-19 02   St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819-24. Full scale model for the marble at Petworth House, Sussex, commissioned by the Earl of Egremont

The transformation The comprehensive refurbishment of the historic space at the heart of the Wilkins Building has opened up the space between the Flaxman Gallery and the ground floor below.

03   The statue of St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819-24, being secured during renovation 04  The statue of St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819-24, set upon the glass plinth

The oculus, the circular area of floor in the centre of the Flaxman Gallery, has been capped with a dramatic transparent structural glass plinth which holds John Flaxman’s famous sculpture, St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819–24. The ground floor space, known as the Octagon, has undergone a more radical transformation and become a gallery itself. Four large bespoke show cases incorporate audio visual and touchscreen technology to display UCL’s world-class collections and research.


The gallery The Octagon and Flaxman Galleries redevelopment The Octagon Gallery The gallery provides a prominent new space for changing exhibitions highlighting UCL’s current research in a creative and visually stunning way, and showcasing UCL’s rich collections. Exhibitions will be chosen in twice-yearly competitions, with research students able to submit entries. Each exhibition will run for six months. Sally MacDonald, Director of UCL Museums and Public Engagement, said: “The Octagon Gallery will showcase collections that many students probably wouldn’t be aware of otherwise. We hope that this bright and surprising space – which thousands of students will pass through every day on their way into the main library – will help spark new ideas about cross disciplinary working.”

01   Artefact on display at the Octagon Gallery. 02  The Octagon Gallery 03  Information boards in the Octagon Gallery


01  Professor Malcolm Grant at the Octagon Gallery opening 02  Visitors explore the Octagon Gallery

The reopening The refurbishment took nine months to complete and was one of the UCL Masterplan’s first major schemes to be implemented. The work was overseen by Burwell Deakins Architects. Director William Deakins said: “It’s extremely satisfying to see such prominent areas of the university being brought back to life, reaffirming the galleries as the cultural heart of the university. By visually linking the two galleries, it has animated both spaces while also helping visitors orientate themselves in the building.”

01   Underneath the glass plinth for St Michael Overcoming Satan, 1819-24

An official reopening ceremony was held on 27 November 2012. Guests had the opportunity to explore the first ever exhibition in the new Octagon Gallery, Model Translations, which showcased objects from UCL’s art, anthropology, archaeology, engineering, pathology and zoology collections, many of them never previously displayed.

02   Exhibits in the Octagon Gallery


UCL has a long and rich history of breakthroughs in medical science, and with your help, we can continue to make life changing discoveries.

The Physicians’ Circle

We have established the UCL Physicians’ Circle to accept charitable gifts to support medical research. Funds raised through the UCL Physicians’ Circle will support our world-class research that aims to find new treatments for cancer, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other medical conditions that affect large proportions of the human population.

Give now to the UCL Physicians’ Circle If you would like to make a gift to support medical research at UCL, you can give online now at: Donors who make gifts over £1,000 may choose to support research into specific areas that concern or affect them or their families. We’re delighted to work with the doctors at The Physicians’ Clinic as founding members of the Circle. For more information please contact: Rosie Meredith Senior Development Manager +44 (0)20 3108 3827

Make a difference to UCL together

Alumni and friends play an incredibly important role in developing UCL. Our newly launched giving club harnesses the power of collective generosity to make a direct impact across UCL. Your support will ensure that the highest-calibre students can benefit from a UCL education regardless of their financial situation, that UCL continues to

We are delighted to invite you to join UCL’s giving club – a new way to engage with UCL and make a difference to the future of this great institution.

make life-changing discoveries in medical science and that we carry out pioneering research that influences policy making around the world.

Support UCL today by joining your university’s giving club with a gift of £1,826 *and together we can shape UCL’s future.

We want you to share in our success, engage with the latest intellectual insights from our leading researchers and interact with our diverse UCL networks.

Find out more and make your gift today at or contact: Hamish Stewart Head of Regular Giving +44 (0)20 3108 3834 * Gifts can be spread over monthly payments


Campus Q&A Maria Kanellopolous tells us about the UCL Academy in Swiss Cottage, North London, a state comprehensive school set up in partnership with Camden council. Maria is 12 years old and a year seven student in Orion House.

What has been your most memorable experience been at the UCL Academy?

In January 2013, the whole school moved into our new building. Walking into the new school for the first time was amazing. What is your favourite subject at school?

I like art and engineering. I had never done engineering before and it’s a bit like art, but you get to use different materials such as wood and acrylic. In art you can be really creative and don’t have to be told what to do. At the moment, we are sketching self-portraits and learning how to use watercolours properly. What is your most treasured possession?

Photos of people who aren’t here anymore, because they are irreplaceable. What is your favourite journey?

I like travelling to Greece with my family. It’s fun travelling together. We stay in

a house in the city but near the beach, and when we arrive I know I have the whole summer ahead of me. What is your best characteristic?

Being talkative – I think that is a good thing! And I am very sociable so I find it easy to make friends.

What do you value most in your friends?

The friends that I have made at the academy are all very trustworthy and honest. You can tell them something and they won’t tell anyone else. Who is your favourite fictional hero?

I really don’t like tomatoes because they are too squishy.

I don’t really have a pretend one, but a real hero would be British Paralympic swimmer Ellie Simmonds. She won loads of gold medals at London 2012 and I like swimming.

What talent would you most like to have?

What achievement are you most proud of?

I would like a talent that not many other people have, like being able to write with both hands.

It was a while ago now, but winning the Camden Art Prize for my painting of an imaginary bird walk.

What thing do you most dislike?

If you could choose to live anywhere, where would you choose?

In Brazil. I have never been there, but I have a friend from there and she says it’s very warm and I like warm places.

Every Friday students at the UCL Academy write a blog to reflect on the week’s learning. You can read about what they have been doing online: 29
















































E Centre of Attention G N A H C X E


UCL is transforming the student experience through the building of a new Student Centre Even the most academically minded of students goes to university in search of more than just a degree. The prospect of meeting new friends, discovering a different city and learning fresh skills are all powerful motivators for going into higher education – as is the quality of the campus





By Rick Pearson


























The importance of space The built environment can play an important role in helping to shape the student experience. Indeed, alongside its academic reputation, one of the things that most attracts students to UCL is its central London location. “There are many advantages to being a student in the capital,” says Abdul-Ahad Akbari, Student Activities Officer at UCL Union. “Although it’s an expensive city to live in, the opportunities available to students are endless – whether you’re interested in sightseeing, theatres or traditional London heritage.” As exciting a city as London is, it’s equally important that students have a campus to be proud of. UCL is making moves to further improve its campus, and among these is the building of the UCL Student Centre. This will become a ‘second front door’ for the university and a destination for students. As space is at a premium in central London, UCL is giving up the last vacant site on its Bloomsbury estate – the Beach Site – to accommodate the Student Centre. Located next to Bloomsbury Theatre in an area struck by a bomb during the Second World War, will soon be transformed into a state-of-the-art building, offering UCL’s students a place in which to relax, learn and socialise. Lori Manders, Director of Development and Alumni Relations at UCL, said: “In the near future, we will be calling upon the whole UCL community to help make this ambitious project a reality. We’ll be offering opportunities for everyone to make their mark, perhaps by naming a brick, a room or even the whole building. Your support will help to make the UCL student experience truly excellent.” The plans for the Student Centre, which is due to open in the academic year 2016/17, have been informed by an extensive survey, which asked UCL’s undergraduates, graduates and staff what they’d most value in a new centre. Study space, printing facilities, catering, an information desk and 24-hour access all ranked highly.


For Professor Iain Borden, however, these functional aspects aren’t the most exciting things about the Student Centre. The Vice-Dean of Communications at The Bartlett, UCL’s faculty of the built environment, believes the right building could have a number of other benefits. “Obviously, a building of this nature needs certain functional attributes – that’s a given,” he says. “But there are also some more intangible things that it could encourage. The first is a greater sense of belonging within the student community. People from different causes getting to know each other – students from hard sciences speaking with those from social sciences, for example.

01   UCL sustained considerable bomb damage to the campus during the Second World War 02   Student space / area 03   University College London campus site 04   Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern, London 05   The Portico UCL 06   UCL Bloomsbury Masterplan 

“The second is a sense of belonging to UCL as a whole. At present, some students may feel more loyalty to their particular course, but a space like this – if done well – could create a more general feeling of belonging to the university.” Iain notes the presence of other great architecture on the UCL campus, particularly the Wilkins Building, but says the new Student Centre has a chance to create something more modern and cutting edge. “As a university, UCL has always had a pretty radical agenda: it’s a place for the exchange of ideas, for scientific discovery, for questioning beliefs. This building has the chance to convey that spirit of openness and questioning.” If it can do this, Iain has no doubt that it could transform the student experience. “It’s unquestionably the case that great architecture can improve people’s lives. A challenging, well-designed building could make a fantastic contribution to the student experience.”

Asked about other buildings that have achieved such a feat, Iain highlights Tate Modern. “It transformed an unloved space – a disused turbine hall – into a multi-faceted location for Londoners. It’s now somewhere that challenges people’s ideas, provides shelter from the rain, brings people together, hosts Kraftwerk gigs and interesting talks and, of course, houses amazing art. If we can get something of that quality at UCL, then we will really be able to transform the student experience.” For the latest updates on the progress of the new UCL Student Centre visit our website If you would like to make a donation to this project contact: Michelle Dean Senior Development Manager +44 (0)20 3108 3823


Following cuts to legal aid, the work of the UCL’s Centre for Access to Justice is more important than ever

A Just Cause At the end of April, legal aid was cut by £350 million. This now means that people involved in a range of disputes, from social welfare debt to wrongful dismissal, are no longer entitled to legal assistance By Rick Pearson

Lord Neuberger, the President of the UK Supreme Court, has commented that cuts to legal aid will undermine the rule of law and increase the number of people representing themselves in court. He predicts further that this will “lead to frustration and a lack of confidence in the system”. Against this stark backdrop, resources such as the UCL Centre for Access to Justice (CAJ) have never been more important. Located within the UCL Faculty of Laws, the CAJ provides 34

pro bono legal advice to vulnerable people and communities, while offering UCL law students the chance to put into practice what they’ve learned in the classroom.   The CAJ is the brainchild of Professor Dame Hazel Genn. Speaking about the philosophy behind the CAJ, the Dean of Laws says: “I have a strong belief in the social and economic importance of the justice system – and access to the justice system is a vital part of this. Having spent more than 30 years

researching citizens’ access to and use of the justice system, I know there is a significant unmet need among the public for information, advice and representation in relation to legal problems. And not just for the headline-grabbing areas of human rights and judicial review – but for the ordinary, mundane problems that, if left unresolved, can blight people’s lives.” The CAJ deals with many such problems on a day-to-day basis, including the withdrawal of social security benefits and educational issues. Shiva Riahi was one of eight law students to take the Access to Justice course in its pilot year 2011-12. She worked with Just For Kids Law, a charitable organisation offering advice, support and representation to young people who find themselves in difficulty. Riahi says: “Through doing the course, I realised that law school only teaches you a small part of what it means to actually be a lawyer, because no amount of practical skills-based competitions or problem questions can ever truly prepare you for sitting across from a mother whose child is facing exclusion from school and knowing that she hopes you can help her. “I think it’s quite easy as a student to become disconnected from the wider world. The most valuable thing I gained from the course was an exposure to the world around me. I can say that, without a doubt, the Access to Justice course has been one of my most valuable and rewarding experiences during my time at UCL Law.” Riahi, who has since joined the CAJ’s full-time staff, is not alone in her glowing assessment of the Access to Justice course. The feedback from students and clients alike has been universally positive. This has also been reflected in the course’s popularity; each year it’s been heavily oversubscribed, with many students describing it as the best course they’ve ever taken. Those who miss out on a place on the Access to Justice course can still take part in the CAJ’s pro bono projects. These typically involve public legal education whereby students go into schools to tell schoolchildren about their legal rights. One such project is The Justice Gap

Advice Guide. Run in collaboration with The Justice Gap and Hackney Community Law Centre, the project sees UCL students helping to pen a 30,000-word guide to legal rights for young people in Hackney. The aim is to explain to the schoolchildren the key concepts of law, how it relates to their lives, and encourage young people that a career in law is accessible to people from all backgrounds. Work such as this helps to boost the reputation of UCL in its local communities – something Jacqui Kinghan, Director of the CAJ, says is more important than ever. “Increasingly, universities have to show that their research has an impact on the community, so public engagement is vital,” she says. “University Law Faculties represent an enormous spring of knowledge, and our students are a valuable untapped resource. Pro bono shouldn’t be a replacement to legal aid but, in an access to justice crisis, we’re well placed to help.”  While Kinghan praises the students’ “intelligence and commitment”, she also stresses the importance of high-quality supervision to the CAJ’s success. “Supervision is so important,” she says. “We partner with some of the best law firms and chambers in the UK on a pro bono basis. For our employment tribunal work, for example, the students receive excellent training from the Free Representation Unit but we also have a pool of barristers from Old Square Chambers, a leading employment law set. However, we require more intensive and ongoing training and supervision to meet client needs. Of course, this all costs money.” The CAJ is largely reliant on funding from UCL alumni such as Stephen Perry (UCL Laws 1971), who recently made a generous donation. Among other things, this has enabled the CAJ to hire a solicitor, Rachel Knowles, to work part-time in supervising the work of the students.  Speaking about what motivated him to donate, Perry says: “The UCL Centre for Access to Justice is a project that I hope will inspire other universities all over the country. I was fortunate enough to be able to support the project and I hope that my donation will encourage others to support the centre, too.”

01  Dame Hazel Genn UCL Dean of Laws 02  Shiva Riahi CAJ Research Assistant 03  Jacqui Kinghan Director of the CAJ

If you would like more information about supporting the centre please contact: Michelle Dean Senior Development Manager +44 (0)20 3108 3823


We sent writer Chibundu Onuzo to meet student Kasim Ali. Chibundu is currently studying for an Msc in Public Policy at UCL. She is also a novelist and her first book, The Spider King’s Daughter, was published in March 2012

From top deck to top of the class By Chibundu Onuzo


Kasim Ali is from Somalia and lives in London with his wife and two young sons. He is an undergraduate student in Earth Sciences at UCL and a recipient of the Denys Holland Scholarship


I smile when towards the beginning of our interview Kasim Ali tells me he is a middle child. In some parts of Africa, it is believed there is a special blessing that comes with being in the middle: a blessing of temperament as well as of circumstance. Yet life did not start smoothly for Kasim. He was born in Mogadishu in the early 1980s and says of his childhood, “I can only remember war in my country unfortunately. I haven’t seen a government working.” In 2001, Kasim came to the UK as an asylum seeker, joining the tens of thousands of Somalis who have fled the country since civil war began in 1991. England was very different from everything he had known. He says with feeling, “I know how it feels to be in a country where you don’t understand the language, where you don’t associate with the culture but... fortunately, you have to understand.” He enrolled in English speaking classes at the Hammersmith and West London College, gained a B Tech diploma in science with distinction and was automatically admitted to the Access to Life Science, a course on which he also gained top marks. Thus, armed with a bevy of distinctions, Kasim began his search for a University. UCL’s stellar academic reputation, proved to be the deciding factor. “I came to know UCL while I was actually on duty driving the Number 10 bus,” he says wryly. All the while Kasim was studying at college, he was also working three days a week as a bus driver. In 2009, he was admitted to study Earth Sciences and Petroleum Geology and was awarded the Denys Holland Scholarship. One of the conditions was that recipients must be ‘actively involved in and contribute to the life of the university.’ In his succesful scholarship application, he proposed to set up a Somali Society that would be the first of its kind in UCL. While the scholarship served as a catalyst, it would not be the first time Kasim would think of engaging with the young Somali diaspora. “It all started with the responsibility of getting married in 2006.” It was then he began thinking of the future and what kind of life he wanted for his family. “If God gives me kids, how would I like them to be in 10, 20 years from now?” In 2008, spurred by such thoughts, he decided to organise a conference. At this conference, held in North Kensington, he declared to an audience of Somali friends and bus drivers, “I wouldn’t want to be known as [a member of ] a tribe or a clan. I just would like to be known as a Somalian.” He smiles at the memory of the response. “They said to me, ‘listen, you’re on a different planet. You must have gone crazy. What are you talking about?’”




“Normally what happens is that people just go into politics and they don’t do anything and they come back [abroad.] We’d like to do it from the basics, from the bottom up” At UCL, Kasim found fellow Somalis who understood his vision. “I would not have managed to set up the society without the help of the Somali students,” he says. Not all welcomed the idea, seeing the more established Islamic Society as a good enough option for UCL’s students of Somali heritage. But Kasim stuck to his guns. “The Islamic society unites every Muslim,” he explains to me. “That’s a faith society but this is cultural. This is identity. This is a country society.” And enough people agreed for the society to be set up. Within its first year, its members had fulfilled the socialising objectives of all university societies but it had also begun to give back to the Somali community, mentoring young A-level students, some of whom are studying medicine today.

01  View of Mogadishu Harbour 02  Balad, Somalia 03  Kasim Ali in the Rock Room at UCL 03  Kasim Ali on a fundraising run



Unbeknown to Kasim, this was only the beginning. His former college, inspired by his academic achievements, decided to use him in their adverts on the London Underground and on the side of London buses (one of which, in a strange twist of fate, Kasim drove.) The BBC spotted these posters and invited him to be a guest on their Somali service. Towards the end of the interview, Kasim spoke directly to Somali students around the world, calling on them to see the potential in their country and consider returning home. He closed by singing the national anthem and giving an address for a Facebook page that did not yet exist: Worldwide Somali Students Society.

It is nearly the close of the interview and I wonder what Kasim does in his spare time, if he can find any (as well as preparing for his final exams and Operation Restore Home 2013, he still works part time as a London bus driver.) Jogging and swimming are his two favourite past times. Both, he says, ‘give me energy to recharge my batteries.’

He dashed home to turn his words into reality. It was the beginning of a movement. The organisation grew not only to encompass students, but also to include young Somali professionals. In 2010, Kasim and his colleagues began to plan Operation Restore Home. Their mission consisted mainly of UCL graduates split into four teams: a medical team, a professional team, an IT team and an agricultural team. In the summer of 2012, after two and half years of planning, Operation Restore Home touched down in Somalia. It was a spectacular success. The IT team trained graduates who developed a mobile banking programme that will be presented at the UN World Summit Award for Mobile Content in Abu Dhabi. It is the first time Somalia will be represented. The medical team trained junior doctors in the latest technology and the agricultural team was offered 2,000 hectares of prime land in Central Somalia by the elders of a community. Dazzled by how much Kasim and his colleagues have achieved in so little time, I ask if he’s thinking of going into politics anytime soon. His answer is wise and measured. “Normally what happens is that people just go into politics and they don’t do anything and they come back [abroad.] We’d like to it do from the basics, from the bottom up.”

As I leave, Kasim’s words broadcast to the young Somali exiles play in my mind. ‘Yes one cannot see the prosperous and wealthy nation beyond the trouble... but if you look beyond this world, you can see something amazing can come of this... We only can change this and we only can make it happen.’ It is a message for all of Africa’s young.

“Yes one cannot see the prosperous and wealthy nation beyond the trouble... but if you look beyond this world, you can see something amazing can come of this... We only can change this and we only can make it happen”

If you would like information about how to donate to UCL’s scholarships and bursary fund please visit:


The UCL Institute of Neurology is world – class and conducts ground-breaking research into dementia, a disease that will affect one in four of us

Visionary Research: Dementia It’s happened to all of us. You walk into a room and forget what you went in for. You turn to introduce a friend and their name escapes your memory. For most of us, these moments are, thankfully, fleeting, but for people with dementia, such memory lapses become a part of everyday life. Our memories – our thoughts, experiences and relationships – essentially make us who we are, but as we live longer, more of us stand to lose them to dementia. Research at UCL could curb this rise through the development of new treatments. By Jessica Hamzelou (UCL Physiology 2008)

“Dementia is a huge problem and it’s getting bigger by the minute,” says Alan Thompson, Dean of the UCL Faculty of Brain Sciences, which brings together expertise at the forefront of neurology, ophthalmology, audiology, psychology, cognitive neuroscience and mental health sciences. The faculty enables an integrated world-leading approach to the study of mind and brain in key areas such as dementia. Worldwide, around 35.6 million people live with dementia, and this figure is set to double by 2030, according to the World Health Organisation. In the UK, where 820,000 people are affected, dementia already costs £23 billion per year. “The figures are terrifying,” says Thompson. What’s worse is that there are no effective treatments for the condition, which can have many causes. But neuroscientists at UCL are set on changing that. Indeed, UCL is the leading UK institution when it comes to dementia research. “We have a particular focus on translating basic science into targets for treatment,” says Thompson. “Treatment is the greatest challenge in this area, and UCL is very well placed to make major developments.” Those developments are likely to come out of the new Leonard Wolfson Experimental Neurology Centre, which will be dedicated to trialling new treatments in people. The centre will open later this year thanks to an extraordinarily generous £20 million grant by the Wolfson Foundation, as a legacy to their former Chairman, Leonard Wolfson.

‘Treatment is the greatest challenge in this area, and UCL is very well placed to make major developments’ 01

“It’s going to be really important for testing therapies,” says Professor of Clinical Neurology Sarah Tabrizi. Her team at the Institute of Neurology in Queen Square is working on new treatments for Huntington’s Disease – a genetic disorder that affects the brain, and causes dementia and problems with cognition, mood and movement. Currently, the only treatment options open to people with Huntington’s Disease improve the symptoms, but don’t affect the progress of the disease. “There are only symptomatic therapies available to help mood symptoms, like antidepressants, or drugs to improve movement,” says Tabrizi. Tabrizi’s team are investigating potential new avenues. One strategy involves targeting the mutated gene – known as huntingtin – responsible for the disease. Drugs that ‘silence’ this gene, and stop it from making faulty proteins appear to help mice with a form of Huntington’s Disease. At the moment though, these mouse therapies target the healthy form of the gene – which makes a protein vital for brain function – as well as the mutated one. The challenge lies in targeting only the faulty gene. “It would be like designer gene 42

therapy,” says Tabrizi. “We will start these safety studies for gene silencing in the new Leonard Wolfson Centre.” Another approach is to treat people with Huntington’s before they start to show symptoms. To that end, Tabrizi’s team is trying to work out how the brains of these people start to change up to 20 years before dementia kicks in. “We’ve found changes that can predict onset of the disease and progression of the disease and that’s really new – people didn’t realise how much neurodegeneration was occurring before symptom onset.” Tabrizi hopes her findings can be applied to other causes of dementia, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease. “Eventually we want to intervene with therapies then and stop the disease 15 years before it causes the person any problems,” she says. Nick Fox, Alzheimer’s specialist and clinical neurologist, is looking for similar early changes in the brains of people who develop Alzheimer’s disease. Using MRI scanning, Fox and his colleagues have discovered that the structure of the brain begins to change long before full-blown dementia strikes.

“There are pre-symptomatic changes that people manage to cope with, or cover up,” says Fox. A brain structure called the hippocampus, which is important for memory, is particularly affected – it effectively shrinks throughout the progression of the disease. Fox and his colleagues have been developing new techniques to interpret MRI brain scans in order to better understand the changes taking place. One method involves placing two brain scans – taken from the same person, six months apart – on top of each other three dimensionally, using computer software. “You can subtract the second scan from the first to see what’s changed,” says Fox. The technique is particularly useful in drug trials, where layered scans can hint at whether or not a drug is having any effect. “Most of the big trials now operate across many centres, involving thousands of patients, sometimes across several continents,” says Fox. “And for some of those, all of the scans are sent from many countries of around the world to be analysed with our technique on computers at UCL.” Fox, along with geneticist John Hardy, is also looking at an inherited form of Alzheimer’s disease. Later this year, the team will be launching the first ever human trials of a range of treatments for the condition at the Leonard Wolfson Centre for Experimental Neurology. “Martin Rossor and John Hardy found the first gene for Alzheimer’s disease,” says Fox. “Now, several decades later, we’re finally at the stage where the families who contributed so much to our understanding of the disease are going to be benefitting from therapeutic trials.” The study participants may well even be the children of those who contributed to the earlier work, Fox says.


01  Professor of Neurology Martin Rossor at Queen Square 02  Professor of Neurology Nick Fox at Queen Square

Another focus of dementia research at UCL addresses the challenge to create ‘dementia-friendly’ societies. “We’ve improved our facilities for physically disabled people a lot over the last 20–30 years, but less so for those who are cognitively impaired,” says Martin Rossor, also a clinical specialist in Alzheimer’s disease. “We need to make banks, supermarkets, trains – wherever people have to interact – more understanding, tolerant and supportive of those with cognitive difficulties.” The world-class research at the Institute of Neurology at Queen Square covers ways to meet this challenge, along with developing new treatments. “Neuroscience at UCL is very, very strong,” says Rossor. “In the area of dementia there’s a really big spectrum – from the basic scientist right the way through to healthcare and social research.” “We cover all aspects of dementia research, from the very basic level in the fly right up to the psychosocial impact,” agrees Thompson. “What sets UCL apart is the sheer breadth of areas it covers. UCL is very well placed to make major developments in the treatment of these devastating conditions and diseases.”

To read more about our world-class neurology research visit the website:


Parting shot Revisited: pulling together

UCL has a long-standing association with rowing. The University College London Boat Club (UCLBC) was first established in 1864, and is just one season away from celebrating its 150th anniversary.

UCL students have achieved considerable national and international success: Alex Davidson, Student President of UCLBC in 2009 –2010, has been selected for the GB eight at the U23 World Championships and elected President of Oxford University Boat Club. Rob Williams won a silver medal at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the lightweight coxless fours and Tim Foster MBE won gold in the GB four at the Sydney Olympics. The club welcomes both experienced rowers and complete novices to the sport. RUMSBC competing on the Thames

Bentham Boat Club

The Bentham Boat Club is our alumni rowing club open to all past members of University College London Boat Club and their friends and family. It was founded in 1977 by ex-UCLBC members. We send out regular newsletters to all of our members and work closely with UCLBC so alumni can attend all of the events hosted by the college club. Every year we hold a picnic on the Saturday evening of Henley Royal Regatta, a chance for members old and new to get together.

To become a member of these clubs you can visit their website:


PrimTech – UCL Institute of Archaeology The Experimental Archaeology Course, or ‘PrimTech’, is currently run in fields on the West Dean Estate. One field is used primarily for camping, cooking and eating, while others are used for a variety of activities. Over the four-day course, students take part in a number of activities that are designed to be informative about activities undertaken by people in the past. These have included flint knapping, copper smelting, pottery making, working with wood, building structures, processing and cooking food. Is that you in the photo? Do you have fond memories of PrimTech trips? UCL People would love to hear your PrimTech memories and receive your photos for possible inclusion in Parting Shot. Email: Find out more about Archaeology at UCL:

The gift of inspiration is the best gift of all A scholarship isn’t only monetary. Sarah McFalls is studying Material Culture at UCL. She has been able to study here thanks to a legacy gift from Gay Clifford, a lecturer from UCL’s Department of English who left a gift in her will to establish a scholarship programme to support students just like Sarah. ‘After many years of internships and volunteering for museums and artists, I finally found the perfect Material Culture programme here at UCL. In the United States they have many Visual Culture programmes but none of the courses focus on objects as an integral part of human experience. I found the UCL programme to be the perfect fit. ‘What I most enjoy about being at UCL is the interaction with other students on my course, who come from all over the world and from numerous backgrounds. It’s been incredibly inspiring to work with such a motivated and supportive group of people.

‘Receiving a scholarship is about more than financial support. It shows the recipient that their hard work and dedication to their research hasn’t gone unnoticed. It’s the fuel one needs to inspire hope, and of course the gift of giving inspiration to others is the best gift of all.’ Sarah McFalls MA Culture, Materials & Design student Pictured at the Micrarium Grant Museum of Zoology, UCL

To read more of Sarah’s story and find out about how a gift in your will could inspire other students, visit or contact: Angharad Milenkovic Head of Leadership and Legacy Giving UCL Development & Alumni Relations Office Gower Street, London WC1E 6BT +44 (0)20 3108 3824

UCL People 2013/14  

UCL Alumni Magazine

UCL People 2013/14  

UCL Alumni Magazine