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

THE (Times Higher Education) - - KING'S COLLEGE LONDON - Camilla Wright

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.

Bright fu­tures King’s stu­dents are key to the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the univer­sity’s Strate­gic Vi­sion 2029, launched ear­lier this year

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

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