University Futures: Starting the journey early

Zoe Galvin – Academic Services Manager and Pre-University lead for King’s Summer Programmes – describes an exciting new skills based programme to inspire students towards their future at university and beyond.

In July 2018 King’s Summer Programmes will launch its University Futures programme; a one week conference designed for 14 and 15 year olds. In partnership with King’s’ Entrepreneurship Institute the programme is designed to build students’ skills in innovation and leadership through a combination of lectures, group work activities and personal reflection. This new venture will extend King’s existing summer programmes portfolio for high school students, which already includes the well-established Pre-University Summer School and Pre-University Taster programmes aimed at 16-18 year old’s.

Students, both international and domestic, are seriously thinking about university before the age of 161. With career choices often being informed by undergraduate level study and degrees, in turn, being informed by A Levels (or their international equivalents) it is no surprise that students start to consider their options long before they reach their final few years at school. The University Futures programme is a step towards supporting these younger students. During the week students will learn about the wide variety of degrees on offer from different faculties, and campus tours and daily interaction with current King’s students will offer a unique insight into undergraduate study and life at university. We hope that the programme will inspire students at the start of their journey and help them to understand what they need to do to achieve their goals for university and beyond.

The University Futures programme will focus on skills based learning rather than the subject specific study typical of our Pre University programme. This complements the growing emphasis within HEIs and the workplace on the importance of equipping students with transferable skills. In their future careers, the ability to collaborate and innovate across disciplines and sectors will be more important than ever and the rise of automation may “amplify the comparative advantage of those workers with problem-solving, leadership, EQ (Emotional Intelligence), empathy and creativity skills.”2 These skills will be at the heart of this programme’s curriculum.

Students will be tasked with an entrepreneurial challenge at the start of the week and will work collaboratively with their peers from initial idea generation through to the final pitch of their team’s business idea. Along the way they will be challenged to think creatively, communicate effectively and present with confidence. The challenge will be rooted in the concept of social entrepreneurship, in line with the Entrepreneurship Institute’s mission to equip King’s’ students, staff and alumni with entrepreneurial skills that can help serve society. We hope that this unique learning experience will inspire these university students of the future to build the skills and experiences they need to solve the global challenges of today and tomorrow. We cannot wait to see what ideas they come up with!

Play and Creative Leadership

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Michal Ben-David, Tutor –  London: Creativity, Innovation and Leadership for Beijing Normal University students –, explains the value of play in some of her workshops.

In general, people understand play as something that only kids do. The common view is that kids play, and adults do serious stuff, such as work and study. If adults play at work they may be accused of not behaving “professionally” enough, as they are supposed to produce results, and not spend their precious time on kids’ stuff, such as play. Nonetheless, I strongly believe in the power of play to unlock creative potential, and therefore I introduced the Lego Serious Play method, to my students from Beijing Normal University, during the King’s College London Summer Programme of 2017.

Lego Serious Play is a unique and innovative methodology, that utilises the same bricks that kids play with, in educational and organisational contexts, in order to unlock creative potential. While LEGO is mostly related to the world of kids, and while kids mostly build models of the tangible world, the Lego Serious Play is a method used by adults, to build models of the intangible world, hence of abstract ideas and concepts. In our workshop in August 2017, we addressed the topic of Creative Leadership. The students worked in teams and built models from the bricks, to represent their view of what creative leadership is. Each of their models was telling a different unique story, and at the end of the workshop, all the models and stories were connected together to create a shared narrative of leadership. I bring here this inspiring narrative, as it was told by the students:

“Our shared identity of creative leadership is based on values such as: bravery, kindness, communication and collaboration. We believe that a creative leader should encourage people’s exploration, freedom, and partnership. We value leadership that sees knowledge as important and helps people to be motivated, by fostering a family atmosphere, a great working environment and an amiable but strict authority. We believe that a good leader should have a clear vision and an ‘out of the box’ creative thinking. While freedom and democracy are important to us, law and order should be enforced by the leader. A good leader takes care and looks after the people’s needs in all aspects of life. While the leader has power, it is a controlled and checked power, which maintains an honest leadership.”

Although I have been a Lego Serious Play instructor for few years now, this particular workshop was special for me because of the sheer authenticity expressed through the stories of the students. While they were ‘playing’ the whole day, they were also unlocking their creative potential and discovering new things about themselves, as future creative leaders.


Learning Ancient Languages in London

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Dr Fiona Haarer, FSA

The Classics Department has a long tradition of running Summer Schools. For over forty years, we’ve hosted (in alternate years with UCL) the London Summer School in Classics and we usually get about 250 students of all ages. But though the students could study Greek or Latin at any level, the course lasts for only eight days, and UK students were forced to travel to Cork or the States if they wanted a comprehensive summer course which allowed them to go from complete Beginners to being able to read simple texts in the original. And so, with opportunities for studying Ancient Greek and Latin at school in decline (although happily the trend is now turning for Latin), we realised we should offer BA, Masters and Doctoral students and newly qualified teachers the opportunity to use their summer to make up some of this gap. So we organised a six-week course, which could be taken in two halves, Beginners and Intermediate, allowing students to take just the first period, or to join half way through.

We were delighted to offer Ancient Greek and Latin to just half a dozen students as part of the first cohort in 2010. This year nearly fifty students enrolled. As in previous years they came from a wide range of countries including Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Norway Singapore, Sweden, Taiwan, the USA and many parts of Europe, with a wide range of educational backgrounds, and many with the additional challenge of learning an ancient language via a language which is not their first.  Last year saw the introduction of another initiative: the use of the Intermediate courses to allow Classics Department students who have no previous knowledge of Greek and Latin to achieve a Classics degree by using the summer school courses to accelerate their language learning. Several students have chosen this Access Pathway and it has allowed King’s to follow Oxford, Cambridge and other Russell group universities in widening access and making it possible for students with no A Level in Greek and Latin to graduate with a Classics degree.

Although the Undergraduate Summer School courses are intensive in name and by nature, there is still time for extras. We offer lectures on key skills such as epigraphy and papyrology from visiting experts, and arrange ‘behind the scenes’ visits to the British Museum, where the students enjoy guided tours by curators, and an introduction to the research activities of the Departments of Greece and Rome, and Coins and Medals. A variety of learning environments and instructors allows the students to put their new language skills into practice, puzzling over inscriptions, legends on coins, and papyri.

The Ancient Languages students are a little different from the standard profile of the Summer School student. Some are taking the course for credit, some hold offers from their own universities which depend on successful completion of the course, some know that they won’t be able to read the relevant texts for their PhDs if they can’t master the language: they all come to King’s to work seriously and are therefore less attracted to the general summer school experience. On the other hand, this encourages a close and supportive esprit de corps within the classes as they bond over the experience.

If you want to learn a language you need a lot of concentration and consolidation, diligence and determination. To cover the same material in six weeks that regular courses would cover in a year or two needs an even greater degree of dedicated hard work and, while some struggle, the numbers who achieve high marks are impressive. It is also a testament to expertise of the team of language tutors, some of whom have been teaching these courses since 2010.

Finally, we are very grateful to the Classical Association which offers a grant every year to allow us to provide bursaries to students with particular financial hardship. In the discipline of Classics and the study of the Ancient World, we must we offer students every opportunity to acquire language skills, and the King’s College London Undergraduate Summer School is a great way to do this.

The “I” in Team: Catering for the individual in team-based projects

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By Jamie Barras

With this year’s UN International Day of Persons with Disabilities (IDPD), almost upon us, this seems a good moment to look back at the “Engineering: Creating Technologies to Help People” module that ran for the first time as part of the 2017 undergraduate summer school.  It seems particularly timely as the theme of this year’s IDPD – “Transformation towards sustainable and resilient society for all” – chimes so well with the brief we had for the module project, which was centred on sustainable prosthetics.

Rising to the challenge of working with a diverse cohort
The challenge we faced in coming up with a teaching programme was how little we knew, and could know, about the students who would sign up for the module.  Yes, we could expect them to be studying an engineering subject at university, but we could make no assumptions as to where they were in their courses of study, the depth and breadth of their knowledge in any given engineering domain, nor the type of teaching they had experienced in their home countries.  This meant that the project brief would have to be quite open.

Serendipitously, an open brief matched up with one of the lessons about creating technologies that help people that we wanted to deliver: don’t start designing until after you’ve asked the people you’re trying to help what they actually need.  For our students and their prosthetics projects, that meant only getting down to work once they’d had a chance to sit down and talk (via skype) with a South-Africa-based double amputee.

The idea of asking people what they need can be found both in the principles of humanitarian engineering and in best practice in business.  And social entrepreneurship – using business techniques to achieve social good – was one of the secondary themes of the module.  An idea we returned to again and again was that there is an overlap between doing good and being a successful entrepreneur – which is not to say you need to be an entrepreneur to do good, but, rather, that there are some shared requirements that are worth keeping in mind:


Just as serendipitously, we found in this list of shared requirements the final key to rising to the challenge of working with a diverse cohort: soliciting feedback.

The central role of soliciting feedback in meeting the needs of the individual
We talked to our students about their individual expectations and goals not just once but several times during the course of the module.  These one-to-one chats were our means of defining, monitoring and reviewing individual learning outcomes and associated goals for each student.  They also allowed us to identify the more reserved students, who could then be encouraged to take up additional roles in the project that would promote interactions with their team-mates – taking on administrative tasks, for example (organising meetings, checking schedules etc.).  A second group of students that we identified in this way were those further along in their studies than the rest of the cohort.  These students we encouraged to become mentors to their team-mates for a richer project experience.

And what formal feedback did we receive at module end?  That the thing the students liked most about the module was the chance to be part of a team.  But I’m sure we wouldn’t have had that feedback if we hadn’t have worked so hard to treat everybody in our teams as individuals.

Applied Maths Summer School

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By Dr Peter H. Charlton and Dr Jordi Alastruey

In our day-to-day research we dedicate much of our creative thinking to meeting the needs of patients and clinicians. It is unusual that we are given time to reflect on how best to inspire the next generation of engineers. A range of questions spring to mind upon doing so. How do you foster engineering mindsets capable of developing ingenious solutions to sometimes overwhelming problems? Which are the most important engineering tools to equip future engineers with? What is the best way to become fluent with these tools? Try coming up with insightful answers whilst juggling your daily work.

The Applied Maths Summer School was different.

A group of highly talented students travelled to London from across the globe, eager to apply their skills to challenging real-world problems. A syllabus was prepared covering the fundamentals of engineering – all the bricks required to lay a solid foundation. Our task was to instil in students the excitement of becoming inventors. We were to provide them with the necessary tools, and create an environment in which they could find the creativity within themselves to develop as applied mathematicians and engineers.

How do you foster engineering mindsets? Introduce students to the fore-fathers of modern engineering through a research assignment. Summer school students had the opportunity to study the great thinkers of the previous millennium, whose work will continue to form the basis of engineering solutions deep into this millennium. Ever wondered how you supply water to remote mountainous areas at times of drought? You’ll need to apply your knowledge of calculus, developed by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz in the 17th century.

Which engineering tools are most important? Perhaps differentiation, which can be used by policy makers to decide how best to allocate taxpayers’ money. Perhaps integration, which is used to design cargo vessels which transport goods around the world. Maybe vector algebra, suitable for generating 3D virtual reality to enable robot-assisted surgery? On each day of the course the students were given a lecture on one of the fundamental mathematical tools, equipping them with a toolbox for solving engineering problems.

What is the best way for students to become fluent in these tools? Each lecture was followed by a problem class, in which a range of engineering problems and solutions were presented to students. They quickly became familiar with the pattern of using mathematical tools to develop innovative solutions to complex problems. Each day finished with a group activity, in which students were challenged to apply the tools in new settings. During the course each student used differentiation to develop methods for heart rate monitoring, creating valuable tools for clinicians and fitness trackers alike. Students also applied integration to the problem of monitoring the delivery of oxygen to bodily organs – vital for life.

So, how can we best inspire the next generation of engineers? A summer school seems like a great starting point.

The Benefits of the IB World Student Conference

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By Dr Matt Edwards

During the summer, I had the pleasure of working with the King’s College London Summer School team on the IB World Student Conference, where 240 students from 23 different countries, all in their penultimate year of high school, explored the theme of ‘well-being in a healthy world: personal responsibility and global health’. The aim of the conference was for students to devise projects they could take back to their communities to help elicit positive change – no small task, but the IB asks students to be agents of positive change, and opportunities such as this conference are a great place to start.

The IB has been referred to as the ‘gold standard of education’; students not only have to study a Language, a Science, Maths, English and a Humanity, but also undertake Service in their community, write a 4,000 word Extended Essay on a novel piece of research and question how we know what we know in Theory of Knowledge. Anyone who has taught the IB knows just how powerful the programme is, and it is difficult not to sing its praises. The students at the IB conference were exercising many of the skills gained in their first year of the programme – one could see how they were questioning assumptions about Human Rights, the challenges of cultural relativism and how one can elicit genuine and sustainable change in one’s community. Their thoughtful and nuanced approach to the design of their projects reflected the skills they have already acquired from their IB Diploma. They were already aware of what makes projects successful having worked on a range of Service projects already back in their hometowns, and the insight shown by the students towards the shaping of meaningful projects was impressive. I know that their skills will only get stronger as all the students complete their programmes.

To paraphrase the famous quote, young people today live in exciting times – the increasingly globally-connected world gives us numerous possibilities, but at the same time, significant challenges. The conference explored some of those challenges with respect to well-being and asked the students to create tangible solutions. It asked a lot of these young people – to take responsibility, which can be difficult, even for an adult. King’s provided an excellent place to start their journey, with quality lectures on mental health in the young, the global refugee crisis and the social implications of an ageing population. Once the students had explored the problems, we moved on to solutions – further King’s lectures on social entrepreneurship and how students and staff at King’s were innovating solutions to these and other problems.

Students spent afternoons discussing various diverse topics including human rights, failure and project development, so they could move towards projects they could build themselves. The material provided by the lectures was invaluable in shaping these ideas. Over the course of the week, it was incredible to see young people from all parts of the world working together to tackle issues that were common to them all – parental pressure for success, the stigma of mental health around the world or tackling assumptions about race, gender and religion. Students made teaser videos of their projects to hone their message, and presented their project in a ‘dragon’s den’ style pitching session to members of the King’s team. It was a wonderfully fun week and there was a genuine buzz during the whole time.

Reflecting on the conference, I was thinking that these young people will soon be heading to university, voting for the first time and making decisions about their (and others) future; having a university-like experience at this age helps them to better understand what is available to them, and how they should value that opportunity and grab it with both hands. The time they spent at King’s has given them a set of skills to go and change the world for the better – and I was pleased to be a witness.


The Summer Programmes Team at EAIE 2017

Untitled design (8)On 14 September,the King’s College London Summer Programmes team will be leading two sessions at the European Association for International Education (EAIE) annual conference in Seville, sharing our expertise with higher education colleagues from across the world.

The first session, Diversifying summer programming: a game changer in internationalisation, (9:30am to 10:30am) will discuss innovative uses of summer schools as ways to engage with new audiences and to deepen international partnerships. Our director, Dr Sarah Williamson, will share the podium with Eva Janssen from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Guri Vestad from Oslo. Dr Williamson will debate how diversifying the portfolios of summer programmes can reach new levels of internationalisation.

Dr Williamson and Dr Alexander Heinz, Lead of King’s Summer Education Programme, will then also be speaking at the poster session; Changing lives: strategies for building inclusive summer schools (11:00-12:30). They will present innovative strategies that we at King’s use to make the summer programmes we offer more socially inclusive.

We look forward to hopefully seeing you at these events at EAIE. You can find out more about the conference in Seville and how to attend by visiting their website. And if you will be there and attend any of our sessions please do let us know in the comments below and chat to us at EAIE.

Learning on the Move: Reinventing in Berlin

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By Dr. Alexander Heinz, Senior Tutor & Lead – Summer Education Program.

There is something about being in motion while learning that doesn’t come together comfortably in our heads.  Learning requires quiet concentration. Repetition is often cited as the mother of learning, and so on. Archetypal images of studious people almost invariably include somebody sitting still at a desk, reading or listening attentively.

We know that this imagination of what learning is supposed to be has never been true. It is not just technology that has made information and insight ubiquitous. We sometimes think better – or better think – on our feet; who hasn’t found it easier to concentrate on phone conversations when pacing the room? Academic solitude still has its place but we cannot spend a 21st century life in the ivory tower. Experiential learning has unsurprisingly risen to become a buzz word of today’s Higher Education community.

We in King’s Summer Programmes recently premiered our Berlin Summer Study Visit which was coordinated by King’s scholar, Aida Baghernejad in Berlin. Thirteen undergraduate students of diverse subject backgrounds were invited to understand the symphony of this city of contradictions, its resourceful, complex character, its ugliness and beauty by experiencing it up close.  The carefully choreographed course took them along many miles of road and introduced them to a plethora of faces, foods, three hundred years of history, kings and queens, roaring twenties, crimes, wars, walls. With interventions from bloggers and journalists, the group visited present day Berlin by travelling through its past first.

Off to a new place

The unconventional nature of learning on the move was an integral part of how students were to learn and understand the content of this course. Meeting eye witnesses to historical events in the place where they live is a privileged way of learning. One of Germany’s most eminent journalists, Gerd Appenzeller, spoke about his life in his divided Berlin. Plaques and the internet combined to enable us to meet witnesses who are no longer with us virtually, bringing to life the human tragedy in the houses in front of us. The Stolperstein (stumbling stone) app, for example, provides more background to little golden stone plaques embedded in the pavement in front of houses where victims of National Socialist terror used to live.

We approached and entered the monumental Olympic Stadium, accompanied by a talk on its history by doctoral researcher Sanna Stegmaier. Using Sanna’s tablet, we were able to use virtual reality to see us a 1936 Olympic torch bearer running down the steps just next to us and hear the roar of the crowd.  It really brought to life a side of the National Socialist heyday that is not often discussed or explained: its allure and glamour.  Confronting that feeling of interest married with knowledge of its terrible impact on the world felt like a very dangerous sensation.  Standing in that place, experiencing that together was a more powerful learning experience than expected.

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The site of the 1936 Olympic Games and an exercise in how to behave towards an impressive building built by the wrong people. Mobile phones provide a handy 21st century coping method.

Learning as a whole human being

Berlin’s innate ability to reinvent and renew itself, even when resources are scarce, resonated with the group. Participants came together with the objects of their study often for the first time and in a largely unexplored context.

The emotional tide participants feel during this type of experiential learning experience is substantial. In contrast to a day in the classroom, a study day tour is more easily an occasion. Berlin remains a city that is struggling economically, but a city that continues to be affordable to many, especially young people. What is the relationship between young people in today’s Germany compared to their peers in Britain? This course aimed to encourage participants’ self confidence and to nurture their ability for careful critical thinking when engaging with the present as much as it sought to explain Berlin’s rich histories.

A different group will take its baggage to Berlin next year and hopefully come back travelling lighter and more confidently. This course has done its job and opened the participants’ minds to the wealth of possibilities and ideas out there.  I wonder if any of them will take the plunge and found a start up in Berlin when they graduate? I’d like to think so…

 Do you learn better on the move? Or do you find that your students are more engaged when learning takes place when you’re on the move? Let us know in the comments below.

Finding the Reel London

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My experience as a tutor with the King’s Undergraduate Summer School programme is very much a privileged one. Each year I am fortunate enough to return to meet a new batch of extremely talented students, who have travelled from all over the world to come to study at the college. Their level of enthusiasm and willingness to explore every crevice of a London that will be there home for 3 (and sometimes 6) weeks never ceases to amaze. Every new class is a force of nature, and it is a pleasure to see individuals forge new friendships against the backdrop of this great city, many often returning over the subsequent months to reacquaint themselves with their favourite landmark, outdoor park or coffee shop. For my part, my Summer School experience allows me to indulge my love of cinema and my home city by teaching the popular London and Film course. This class starts on the big screen and moves outwards, examining London’s “cinematic” qualities and the many forms that it takes across a range of films. Sitting right on the Thames and within walking distance to its most famous landmarks, King’s College’s is the perfect place to map the capital’s shifting cinematic landscape, and to see how it has been portrayed by a host of homegrown and international filmmakers.

However, not only does the London and Film course offer an introduction to London’s cinematic history, or give an insight into the capital’s vibrant film culture (with the Cinema Museum, British Film Institute and London Film Museum all close by). This is a course that has also actively shifted the direction of my own teaching and research. The London-focus of the module’s case study films has broadened my own intellectual horizons and introduced me to new hidden gems that I am able to combine with my undergraduate and postgraduate courses. Guided by the knowledge of the Summer School students who bring the names of their favourite London-set films with them as they enter the college for the first time, I now seek out unknown and sometimes lost London titles. It is these odd and offbeat titles that find their way into courses I continue to teach here at King’s, their presence on modules a testament to the input of past Summer School students whose passing comment about ‘that film set in Covent Garden’ thankfully left an enduring imprint.

The global reach of the Summer School attracts students with their own diverse ideas of an imaginary London dreamt up in the media. My London is not your London, and while we may all share a romanticised idea of what the capital might be (home to James Bond, Mary Poppins and Bridget Jones perhaps), each film and each student has the potential to remake the city anew. Perhaps expectedly, I have lost track over the number of discussions I have had with my Summer School classes over whether it is the Harry Potter version of London, or the one glimpsed in Love Actually, that is more accurate and appealing. With this year’s Summer School 2017 fast approaching, it will soon be time to have these debates all over again. And I can’t wait.

By Dr Christopher Holliday

Learning from the City: Summer School Influences on Undergraduate Teaching

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Having spent most of my life in London, I have come to realise how much this city has to teach us: not just in its vast array of museums (from National Galleries to pop-up exhibitions), but also through our everyday interactions with the city’s streets and citizens. When I took over the Literature in the City module, I wanted to draw on London as a tool to enhance our classroom experience.

I therefore decided to map the literature we studied onto the spaces they described. Virginia Woolf’s walk down the Strand, Charles Dickens’s encounters in St. Giles, W.B. Yeats’s melancholy on Fleet Street, all these spaces are central to the text we study. These writers create a window into a rich and deeply imagined terrain, and it is one that is right outside the main entrance to King’s. Encountering these spaces in conjunction with the literature itself, offers not only a deep sense of what this writing is trying to express, but also – and, perhaps, more crucially – just how much London has evolved!

There is a creative element to all our wanderings through the city – James Joyce certainly discovered as much in his journeys through Dublin – and so I actively encourage students to record their experience of the sites we visit. We pause at our locations, writing personal responses that capture the similarities and differences with the literature we have studied. ‘If we turn and go past the anchored ships towards London’, do we still see what Woolf called ‘the most dismal prospect in the world’? For some, contemporary London’s glass skyline reiterates Woolf’s point. For others it shows a glowing metropolis and a global icon.

One of the final essay questions is designed to critically evaluate these creative encounters. It was a mode of assessment I adapted from some undergraduate teaching at King’s. But this summer school has also informed my wider teaching at the University – not least in opening up the classroom. While our timetable directs us to the lecture hall, what better way to learn about, say, the London Blitz than by scouring the city for its legacy? (Bloomsbury, you should know, has a lot to offer!) Probing through the layers of London’s history is often a difficult task, but the places such as the Museum of London are filled with objects that can help to resurrect the past.

It is because of these experiences on the summer school, that the mantra “the city is my classroom” has become a recurrent phrase in so much of my teaching at King’s. Be it through explorations in disused tube stations or trips to the Black Cultural Archives, getting out into the city has become integral to my ability to teach the complexities and changes London has to offer.

 By Dr George Legg