New UCL provost hints at foreign strategy overhaul

Michael Arthur is ‘not a fan’ of overseas campus approach

The incoming provost of University College London has hinted at a possible new direction in international strategy for the institution that calls itself “London’s global university”.

Speaking at UCL’s inaugural 2013-14 Lunch Hour Lecture on 3 October, Michael Arthur said that in his opinion no UK university was “yet excelling in terms of their international strategy. From which you can probably gather that I am not a fan of the overseas undergraduate campus approach.”

Professor Arthur, who took over the post from Sir Malcolm Grant last month, said he “acknowledged” that UCL’s model of niche subject, research- intensive postgraduate campuses, such as UCL Qatar, had “to a degree been successful”.

But he described a different approach for the future, which would have a unifying theme consistent with UCL’s “history and values” and where “we give rather than take from our overseas interests”, in particular working with partners in the “global South”.

He said UCL should think about taking a problem-solving approach, as part of a network, and rather than working with only the best institutions “we should think about those universities who would aspire to work with us, those who are hungry, who are perhaps rising fast in their own country”.

The former vice-chancellor of the University of Leeds also highlighted the need to improve teaching and the student experience at UCL, following results from the National Student Survey that he called “poor”.

“When I applied for this job, I said…if you want someone just to drive this research machine, don’t appoint me,” Professor Arthur said. “If you want somebody who’s interested in bringing education up to the same standard as research…then you should take a serious look at my application.”

He lamented that teaching and research had been “pulled a long way apart” by external influences such as the research assessment exercise and the Quality Assurance Agency and that it had to be the university’s choice to reunite them.

Professor Arthur said that another area requiring more attention would be in expanding diversity of the student body at UCL, with respect to gender, race and socio-economic backgrounds.

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