Exploring the University of London
St Benedict's Lower Sixth students toured four colleges of the University of London, meeting alumni at LSE, UCL, King's and Imperial College.
The Deputy Head of Careers, Mrs Norris, writes about this successful pilot trip to London University's colleges.
Did you know that the number 1 international destination for students is …. London? And that London also features two of the global top 10 universities: UCL and Imperial? Or that KCL’s Business course attracts over 40,000 applications every year, given its contacts with the City?
We say these things all the time to our pupils, yet most of the time most of them refuse to consider applying to a London university. So, this year the Careers Department (Mrs Hopgood and Mrs Norris) experimented with our L6 university trip and bravely ventured into the heart of London for a closer encounter with UCL, King’s, LSE and Imperial. Dividing the L6 into five ‘supergroups’, each group visited three universities in different timeslots across the various central London sites, using tubes, buses and feet for transport.
With teams led by Careers, the Director of Sixth Form (Mr Heald), the Head of Lower Sixth (Ms Sorohan) and the Head of Chemistry - and also of Medic, Vet, Dentistry applications (Mrs O’Connor), we also arranged to meet Old Priorians (St Benedict's alumni) at each of the sites. Emily Rawlings (OP21) at LSE hosted sessions at 10.00am, 12.00 and 2.00pm and made a brilliant case for LSE, which was one of the unexpected highlights of the day. Founded in 1895 and known for its strength in social sciences, LSE is widely considered one of the best universities in the world for economics, and has about the same acceptance rates for applicants as Oxford and Cambridge. A great advocate for the benefits of taking a year out before applying to university, she also took her first group to see her accommodation at Bankside, across the Millenium Bridge, behind Tate Modern! Not as far as it sounds, given how close LSE is to Fleet St, Middle Temple and St Paul’s.
Over at South Kensington, visits to Imperial were supported by Stephanie Maalouf (OP21) and Emilia McFadzean (OP 20), who guided Mrs O’Connor’s and Mr Codrington’s Group B of potential Life Scientists and medics. Oliver Sharpe (OP 20) and John Adenigbagbe (OP 20) had met up with Dr Robb, Mr Bowles, Dr Curtis and the rest of Group A earlier in the morning. Imperial’s excellence and specialism in science, engineering and Maths contrasted sharply with LSE’s specialism in social sciences, and was a contrast again with King’s and UCL: both broad universities in the truest sense, offering a universal education across the breadth of subjects from sciences to humanities.
It is this breadth, and the creative cross-fertilisation across subjects it allows, which first attracted Prof Barbara Shollock to head up the Engineering Department at King’s College London. For her, engineering is the poorer for not engaging productively with a fuller range of subjects beyond the sciences. Being a department in a broader university has by no means diminished the resources available to the King’s Engineering Department, which has just completed a £50 million refurbishment, and which Group A toured with Prof Shollock as a guide. Two other groups, E and C, had more general tours of King’s, while undergraduates Harry Stiff (OP20) and Roque de Monte Furtado (OP22) met up with Group B and Group D.
UCL, like KCL, was a destination for each of the groups – and more OPs: Thomas Uribe and Mo Takoush (OPs20), Blanca Azpilicueta and Tenu Dosemu (OPs22). In the heart of the Gower Street complex, its steps are a natural meeting point. As one of the oldest English universities, its deliberate secularism was highly controversial. Founded in 1826 and built adjacent to the British Museum, UCL offered no Theology courses: so, King’s foundation was a response of the Anglican clergy to their desire for the University of London to offer a fully universal education. It was this original rivalry between University College London and Kings College London which illustrated to our pupils the truth of the London ‘universities’. They are not separate universities at all: simply individual colleges within a larger university, stretching from Royal Holloway in Egham to Queen Mary’s College in the East End. For this reason, LSE can share its libraries with Kings College London, and medical students at King’s have many of their lectures at Guy’s Hospital.
For staff and pupils this pilot trip to four of the 17 colleges of the University of London was a reminder of the wealth of opportunities available to students in London: and a taste of the broader university experience. Together with their careers interviews at Christmas, L6 are now well placed and eager to begin the course and university research: the first stage of their applications for life after St Benedict’s.
Mrs K Norris (Deputy Head of Careers)