UEL celebrates civic engagement
Staff and students came together this week to acknowledge the University of East London’s commitment to civic engagement, at a function held at the Docklands campus’ SportsDock.
UEL is London’s leading university for civic engagement, and encouraging its students to apply their learning outside the classroom benefits not only them but also the wider community.
The Civic Engagement Fund was launched at the start of 2015 to provide funding for projects that support, promote and reinforce connections between students, staff and communities. There are over 20 civic engagement projects currently running at UEL. Over 450 students participated this year and the university invested over £100,000 in the schemes. While working on the projects, students acted as cultural interpreters, considered the barriers and discrimination in sports and sports journalism, and alerted the public to the early symptoms of lung cancer.
Coming under the civic engagement umbrella is the London Scholars scheme. One of its projects champions the London Living Wage. A delegation led by students from UEL went to London City Airport to suggest that they increase the wages of their lowest paid workers.
Another London Scholars project looked at the reasons why young people decide not to go into higher education. Students worked with young people in the local community to find out how they make their choices after the age of 18. One of the researchers was Silvia Murray, who’s just completed a degree in Early Childhood Studies. She says the project found that young people from lower socio-economic backgrounds did not see themselves as higher education students:
“They did not think they were of the status to go to university. There were also practical barriers; young people are sharing rooms with siblings and don’t have anywhere quiet to study, they have to work to support their families, they are babysitting siblings. A lot of them saw higher education as a luxury, because of the debt involved, and their parents said to them, ‘I didn’t go to university, and I’ve done alright.’ ”
Also celebrated on the awards night was the more internationally focused Global Scholars scheme, and one of their projects aimed to promote child literacy in India.
Atinuke Okusolubo who is in the second year of an MSc in International Business Management, was one of the group who made the trip. She stayed India for 8 days:
“I wanted to have a real life experience and not just do research from my desk,” Atinuke explained. “I think that International Business Management and the Global Scholars Programme complement each other. This programme inspired me to keep doing international projects in the future.
“The worst bit of the trip was the emotional involvement when hearing people’s heartbreaking stories. I had to learn how to distance myself from it because I was losing focus on the project. There was no joy in seeing the harsh reality they live in.”
Dennis Kwasi Boateng, who is in the first year of an MSc in Sports Management, went to Ghana to investigate dairy production.
“My family is originally from Ghana so I’m always keen to get involved in any project that regards this country,” he revealed. “The purpose of the project was to find out if there was potential to create a fresh dairy milk company in Ghana and eventually West Africa. I’ve always been a shy person but this project really helped me overcome my fear and increased my communications skills.”
MBA student Shaherah Jordan also went on the Ghana trip. As well as hard-core business research they also did a bit of ad-hoc charity work as she explains:
“While we were there we visited a children’s home, and we took down two suitcases full of toys and clothes. A lot of the people in our group had children, and before we left pretty much the whole group was in tears, because you can take for granted everything you have got. I think our visit to the home was grounding. It showed us that sometimes it’s alright to go outside your comfort zone and help those not as fortunate as yourselves.”
Shaherah feels that the trips present opportunities to develop beyond the academic curriculum.
“If you look at it like a week away to another country, then that’s all it’s going to be. But if you look at it as a holistic opportunity to develop as an individual, and as a professional, then the Global Scholars programme will be everything you make of it.”
Notes to Editors
The University of East London (UEL) is a global learning community with students from over 120 countries world-wide. Our vision is to achieve recognition, both nationally and internationally, as a successful and inclusive regional university proud of its diversity, committed to new modes of learning which focus on students and enhance their employability, and renowned for our contribution to social, cultural and economic development, especially through our research and scholarship. We have a strong track-record in widening participation and working with industry.