Learning that changes lives
Students at King’s College London don’t just gain an academic qualification, they also develop broader skills that enhance their employability and enable them to have a positive impact on wider society, writes
King’s College London has always been about more than the scholarly pursuit of knowledge. As befits an institution based right in the heart of the city, King’s is truly an international centre for academic excellence.
But it has always looked beyond this to how its students can impact the world, seeing its purpose as being here to create, use and disseminate knowledge to help change lives. In spring 2017, King’s launched its Strategic Vision 2029 to supercharge its journey towards making the world a better place.
A priority of the university’s strategic vision is to “educate to inspire and improve”. Higher education is entering a period of great change. Fundamental evolutions in ethos, education, practice and student expectation are
“Our students are remarkable individuals who are able to turn their curiosity and aspirations into a lasting platform for their own success”
already on the horizon. World-class academics will be expected to handle these changes expertly and to be change-makers when facing the challenges and uncertainties of the world.
Evelyn Welch, provost and senior vice-president (arts and sciences) at King’s, explains what this means for the university’s
students. “We live in an increasingly complex, interconnected world, so for the students in our arts and sciences faculties, ‘educating to inspire and improve’ means becoming rounded critical thinkers.
“During their time at university, they will acquire knowledge and, as importantly, develop the character and wisdom to make a difference in the world around them.”
To break down what this means for their education priorities, King’s identified a series of steps it needs to follow to achieve transformative education.
The first step is for King’s to build a community of learners. According to Welch, an education at King’s is based on three core tenets: freedom, respect and responsibility. Students and teachers should have freedom to explore and express ideas while respecting the views of others, and everyone shares the responsibility to use this knowledge for the wider benefit of society.
The strategic vision for King’s includes the aim for it to become the leading Russell Group university for research-enhanced learning in the UK.
The idea is that lecturers – who are also researchers – will bring the latest knowledge into the curriculum, while students will also carry out independent research throughout their studies. And because this research is so connected with real- world issues, everyone at King’s aims to collaborate in the creation of knowledge that can truly transform people’s lives and the societies in which they live.
By concentrating on a research-enhanced education, King’s will empower learners to make choices for themselves about what, where and how they study, but always provide a learning environment that stimulates curiosity, supports intellectual endeavour and encourages independence. At the same time, it is considered essential to care about learners on an individual basis and provide mainstream interventions that remove all forms of inequality in learner engagement, retention and success.
Welch sees the make-up of King’s’ student body as the key to achieving those goals. “Our students are remarkable individuals who are able to turn their curiosity and aspirations into a lasting platform for their own success, wider social impact and continuous learning,” she says.
The plans are ambitious. King’s is reaching out to recruit students from diverse social and national backgrounds and to ensure, through academic and financial support, that all are equally able to flourish.
Vision 2029 commits King’s to being a university whose students make a significant and innovative contribution to serving the needs
“We live in an increasingly complex, interconnected world, so for the students in our arts and sciences faculties, ‘educating to inspire and improve’ means becoming rounded critical thinkers”
and aspirations of society and the wider world. The new King’s Business School aims to develop socially responsible leaders equipped to thrive in an age of disruption.
“The world can seem uncertain at times – there are major social, political and challenges, such as climate change, confronting us, ”explains Welch. “I believe King’s has almost unlimited opportunity to make a positive difference in the world.”
The Entrepreneurship Institute is among the very best to showcase the university’s holistic learning aims. Housed in the historic Bush House building on Aldwych (famously home to the BBCWorld Service for more than 70 years, Bush House became part of King’s in 2015), the institute is the university’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub, offering support for all its students (undergraduate and postgraduate) as well as staff and alumni (of up to seven years) who want to develop the confidence and skills to be entrepreneurial in their careers.
Growing from increasing student demand, and counselled by the Student Advisory Board, the institute was established in 2015 but really got going a year later when, in an audacious move to show how serious it was, King’s appointed the renowned financier, entrepreneur and philanthropist, Stefan Allesch-Taylor, as professor of the practice of entrepreneurship.
The establishment of this academic post is believed to be one of the first appointments of its kind in the mainstream UK education sector, and is a strong statement of intent to King’s students and alumni about the strength of the university’s commitment to its Vision 2029 learning aims.
Hundreds of students have already gained career-enhancing skills through workshops, online learning and speaker sessions. While investment opportunities are provided for the participants, the institute has taken the decision to take no equity in the fledgling businesses it supports.
But perhaps the project that singles King’s out as the biggest innovator in this sector is its flagship accelerator programme.
Open to undergraduates as well as alumni, in 2016, 20 different teams or individuals of high potential were selected by the accelerator programme to spend 12 months in a co-working office space in the Entrepreneurship Institute. There, they received training, mentoring and access to funding in order to grow their start-up ideas.
Some real success has been achieved in that first year and for 2017-18, nearly twice the number of applications for the accelerator have been received. The Institute is a finalist in the 2017 National Enterprise Educators Awards.
The institute also runs“engage and learn” programmes, which provide students, staff and alumni with the opportunity to meet inspirational entrepreneurs, make new connections and gain skills.
The second accelerator programme starts at Bush House in September.
Transformative learning top and centre left: school pupils take part in the Shadow a Scientist programme; top and bottom right: the launch of the Entrepreneurship Institute; bottom left: Evelyn Welch
Bright futures King’s students are key to the implementation of the university’s Strategic Vision 2029, launched earlier this year