Who’s behind UAS?

Who’s behind UAS?

Simon Singh

Simon Singh completed a PhD in particle physics before joining the BBC and working on programmes such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. He is now a broadcaster and author of books such as ‘Fermat’s Last Theorem‘, ‘The Cracking Code Book‘ and ‘Big Bang‘. In 2003 he received an MBE for services to science communication and education.

The origins of UAS: co-founder Simon Singh explains why the scheme has been taken up so widely.

The motivation behind UAS was to invent an idea that would somehow improve science education in schools and universities and, in particular, increase the number of qualified teachers in STEM subjects (i.e., science, technology, engineering and maths). The challenge was to develop something that was so obviously good in so many ways that schools and universities, teachers and undergraduates would all willingly take part, because all parties would benefit in some way.

In fact, the idea had already been invented and was successfully running in a couple of universities – simply offer a course module that allowed undergraduates to gain academic credit by working with teachers in the classroom. Undergraduates would benefit because they would develop a whole range of transferable skills and consolidate their subject knowledge. Also, for those interested in a career in teaching, undergraduates would gain valuable classroom experience. Teachers would benefit from the support of an enthusiastic undergraduate, who would act as a role model for their pupils. And universities would benefit by offering a challenging and popular module, building links with local schools and helping to inspire a new generation of scientists, mathematicians and engineers.

The UAS model is not so different from the many excellent projects that already encourage undergraduates to volunteer to work in schools, except there are three key advantages. First, more undergraduates take part if there is academic credit granted for such activity. Second, the undergraduates are more focused and committed, because they are going to be assessed on their work. Third, the undergraduates get more out of the course, because their learning goals are more clearly defined.

Because the idea had been proven to work, our job was simply to encourage more departments around the country to adopt such a module. We intended to do this by sharing good practice, offering a basic pack of materials for new departments and providing support and advice.

Although we do our best to spread the scheme, the greatest advocates for classroom-based modules are the lecturers, undergraduates, teachers and pupils who are involved on a daily basis. If you want to find out more, then contact UAS and we will send you some information and can put you in touch with those who area already involved with UAS.

Hugh Mason

Hugh Mason completed a degree in Physics with Physical Electronics before joining the BBC and working as a producer on programmes such as Tomorrow’s World. Leaving to set up his own company, he produced award-winning science programmes for Discovery Channel, National Geographic and many other broadcasters. In 2001 Hugh changed his focus from film-making to entrepreneurship, co-founding www.pembridge.net, a partnership that invests time and money to help the owners of creative companies to build and realise commercial value through their work.

The vision for UAS: co-founder Hugh Mason shares the scheme’s ambitions for the future.

From Bristol to Cambridge, from Plymouth to Hull… thousands of pupils and students have been inspired and career plans changed. It seems extraordinary that a simple idea which formed between two friends in a café on Liverpool Street station just four years ago could have impacted the lives of so many so positively in such a short time. I feel immensely proud for everyone involved. We have achieved all this together. The challenge for the next four years will be to roll-out the proven UAS formula as far as it can go, across England and beyond, to include everyone who wants to take part in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Our vision is that UAS will become embedded in the natural expectation of what an undergraduate science, technology, engineering or maths degree course should include. Every undergraduate will have the chance to try teaching, whether they intend to make it a career or not. A degree course that does not offer an opportunity for practical classroom experience will seem unusual, not the norm.

It is an ambitious vision, but one that is becoming more concrete day by day. In the broader landscape of science and industry, UAS is now a landmark. An increasing number of government, professional and industrial institutions endorse it, eliminating any perceived barriers to take-up. Their financial support and the professional networking they offer us open new channels through which UAS can spread.

Meanwhile, at the chalk face, a network of enthusiasts in schools and universities now shares the practical know-how to set up and make UAS all it can be, online and by meeting face to face. Their network means that the cost of adding new participants is reducing rather than expanding as the number of participants grows. The tools to set up and run our scheme are being reshaped, improved and passed on by the people who know best how to use them, largely without the intervention of the organisation which first set them free.

We have started a chain reaction. That, surely, must be our best insurance policy for sustainability into the future. If UAS succeeds, its name and organisation will ultimately become redundant and the people who use it will truly own it. We will have delivered all our goals. Our legacy will be a new bridge between schools and universities carrying new pupils into higher education, new teachers into classrooms and new graduates into fulfilling careers, empowered with key transferable skills, for decades to come.

Brian Lockwood

Brian Lockwood is the National Manager of the UAS. He was formerly a Design & Development Engineer with a precision mechanical engineering company before gaining a Certificate in Education at Leeds University. He has 25 years experience in Education as a secondary school Teacher of Technology and Head of Year, including 9 years as School Governor and 3 years as Personnel Administrator with a local education authority. Having also taught mathematics, science and information technology, he has a particular interest in STEM subjects and he is keen to encourage and support the next generation of science, maths and technology teachers.

The ease of adopting UAS: National Manager Brian Lockwood explains why it is so straightforward.

There are a number of successful models in existence together with supporting documentation and these are freely available to help get new departments off the ground. Moreover, with so many departments already in existence covering a wide range of disciplines, then there is case law available and “credibility” for helping to get new modules accredited. On my part, I certainly will do all I can to support new departments in setting up the scheme. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with me on Brian.Lockwood@uas.ac.uk to find out more.

UAS is a win-win situation for all the stakeholders involved: students; who get a taste of teaching and who are able to significantly develop their transferable skills; pupils, who meet a role model for their particular discipline and who may thereby become interested in further or higher education; teachers, who receive support in the classroom from enthusiastic students; universities, who develop their outreach activities and, finally, the government, because the scheme helps to encourage a new generation of students to consider joining the teaching profession, especially in shortage subjects. The scheme is not a soft option, since many students say that they work harder on this module than others, moreover they enjoy the different nature of the module and, whether or not they eventually enter the teaching profession, they certainly develop their employability skills.

Former Directors and Staff

UAS would not have achieved the success it has without the extraordinary commitment of a team of people. Ravi Kapur was our first National Director, starting up the organisation from nothing and building crucial foundation relationships across the HE sector. Ravi left UAS to start his own successful communications business and now manages a major programme of innovation at Nesta. Sharon Herkes took over from Ravi as National Director and Alex Brabbs joined the organisation as Project Manager. Together, they put in place the systems and processes that allowed us to scale up nationwide. It is thanks largely to them that you are able to share information about UAS on this website. Sharon left UAS to fulfil a long-held ambition to try teaching in the developing world, while Alex has joined the Institute of Physics as a Regional Officer for Yorkshire and the North East.

Professor Ray d’Inverno followed Sharon as National Director of UAS. An Emeritus Professor at the University of Southampton, Ray was previously Associate Dean (Education) for the Faculty of Engineering, Science and Mathematics and the Professor of General Relativity in the School of Mathematics at the University where he piloted UAS in 2002/3, the first year of the scheme. The pilot year turned out to be an outstanding success and the scheme has since expanded to a further 12 disciplines across the University. In September 2005 Ray received the Vice Chancellor’s Award for the development and expansion of the UAS module. A talented musician and composer, he recently decided to stand down from his role with UAS to enjoy retirement and allow more time to concentrate on his music interests.

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