International Foundation Programme UoL & LSE Conference
Last Wednesday was an early start for our IFP students attending a University of London conference.
Atokhon, Chiagozie, Giorgi, Helena, Rebecca, Neil, Zheyi, Wei Lu and Chin Yan met Elpida and Tim at Cambridge Station at 7.30 am and took the express train to Kings Cross. One stop by underground to Russell Square, Bloomsbury, and we were almost there. Bloomsbury is famous, for being the home of the Russell Group, and as you’d expect the oldest parts of the University of London are to be found there. One is a stone’s throw from several very venerable academic institutions and hopefully the students sensed their academic surroundings. Separately, Russell Square tube station is also renowned (‘has the dubious distinction’) for having the deepest lift shaft in the underground system - some 175 steps. Lift or steps - a relatively easy choice? We decided on the steps, and after emerging into the light, slightly out of breath and with a few aching limbs, we all made our way to Senate House, home to London University Library.
After getting our identity badges, and an itinerary for the day, we all assembled to listen to an opening address from the International Pro Vice Chancellor and Chief Executive of the University of London International Progranmmes, Dr Mary Stiasny. She explained a little more about the history of London University and some of its vital statistics, expounding that it was a collegiate and a federal research university incorporated originally by royal charter in 1836; that it is currently composed of 18 constituent colleges, nine research institutes and a number of central bodies; that it is the largest university by number of full-time students in the United Kingdom. Significantly, she mentioned that most constituent colleges rank in the top 50 universities in the world; that the ten largest colleges of the university are UCL, King's College London, Queen Mary, City, Birkbeck, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Royal Holloway, Goldsmiths, SOAS, and St George's; that the specialist colleges of the university include the London Business School, the Royal Veterinary College and Heythrop College; that Imperial College London was formerly a member, before leaving the university a century later in 2007. UoL alumni include 12 monarchs or royalty, 52 presidents or prime ministers, 84 Nobel laureates, 6 Grammy winners, 2 Oscar winners, 3 Olympic gold medallists. Importantly too, the university has championed the rights of women to education. One of the facts that she did not mention but I like was that Nelson Mandela, during his long imprisonment, undertook a distance degree in Law from the University of London. The rest, as they say, is history. I think overall the talk did serve to inspire our students, many of whom will decide by virtue of the programme to go to colleges at London. Many IFP students have progressed to some of the best colleges, including the London School of Economics and Kings College. We expect a similar level of enquiry with this year’s cohort.
After a quick coffee break, it was photo time and together with many of the other students from a number of colleges all studying the IFP, our students lined up on one of the staircases for a commemorative shot. We had also been joined by MPW London students and staff, at this point, and so it was a good opportunity for the students to mingle with their peers from their sister college.
The students then went to a workshop on Critical Thinking where the feedback - when we later met - was overwhelmingly positive. It is important to say that Critical Thinking is at the heart of the IFP Programme and it places much emphasis on being an independent learner. The students learned the importance of being objective, recognising that there are two sides to an argument and to use reliable source material.
After lunch, we all went to another lecture theatre to listen to a talk from Dr Abdi, Assistant Professor in the Department of Statistics at LSE. He presented on market research techniques and evaluating data as well as on what is required to do well on the IFP. It is, in a nutshell, very much about showing process and evidence, rather than just getting the answer. At the question and answer session right at the end of proceedings many of the MPW students asked sensible and thought provoking questions.
Although a long day, it was certainly very worthwhile and I hope has inspired some of our students to apply to some of the London colleges.