UAS Newsletter – July 2009

UAS Newsletter – July 2009

UAS Funding Crisis

In our previous newsletter we outlined the financial difficulties currently being experienced by UAS and we asked for suggestions about potential sources of funding. We would like to thank everyone who responded with ideas but it is with great disappointment that we must inform you that to date we have not had any success with our funding bids and unless we can quickly secure additional funding our organisation will close down at the end of August 2009.

Many of the recipients of this newsletter will probably be aware of the history of our organization, but it might be helpful to describe briefly our funding history. The author and broadcaster Simon Singh provided pilot funding in 2002/3 to set up UAL (Undergraduate Ambassadors Limited) – the organization which recruits and supports departments in running UAS modules – principally to address the shortage of specialist secondary teachers, particularly in STEM subjects. The TDA Training and Development Agency for Schools) provided a grant of £500,000 to support its growth over the following three academic years. During this period the UAL staff grew to two full time and one part time member. However, a subsequent bid for continued funding from the TDA was unsuccessful, largely on a technicality. We were required to apply under the terms of the Student Ambassadors Scheme, a scheme which funds undergraduate as mentors in schools. Although UAS involves mentoring, it involves much else besides. Nonetheless we applied for funding under the scheme but were turned down on the grounds that we do not place students in a given year because there is, in effect, a one year delay. Specifically, we recruit a new department in a given year which then usually runs the UAS module in the subsequent year. When we asked if the funding could be claimed a year later, we were told it was not allowable under the rules of the funding scheme.

Simon Singh agreed to provide base funding for a period whilst other sources of funding were sought. The staff complement was reduced to two in Brian Lockwood, the National Manager, working on a part time basis and Professor Ray d’Inverno, National Director, working on a very part time basis. We first turned to the Learned Societies to provide help in their specific discipline areas. We were successful with Chemistry in the award of a 2 year grant of £40,000 from the Biological and Medicinal Sector of the Royal Society of Chemistry. Half the funding went directly to new and existing Chemistry departments, with the remainder funding the recruitment effort expended by UAL. As we have reported previously, the outcome was very successful in that we doubled the number of Chemistry departments and increased the number of students taking UAS modules by a factor of two and a half. A request for continued funding was unsuccessful. Again, we were successful with Physics in a grant of £40,000 over two years to increase the number of Physics Department offering UAS modules, with half of the funding going directly to new departments. This work is not yet completed but we are optimistic that the outcome of this grant will be equally successful. At the start of the initiative 13 physics departments were involved on UAS modules out of a total of about 50 departments in the UK. We have already recruited 4 new departments and 4 others have indicated that they are planning to run new modules in 2009/10 and another 3 departments are planning to run UAS in 2010/11. The funding is mostly directed at providing pump priming support of £1,000 a year for the first 2 years (£2,000 in total) of a new UAS physics module. The grant for this work was from the Ogden Trust, which is a charitable trust. Despite the fact that we were praised for the achievements of our organisation right across the board, funding applications to the Institute of Physics, the London Mathematical Society, the British Computer Society and Routes into Languages have all been unsuccessful. A direct approach to John Denham when he was Secretary for Innovations and Skills was similarly unsuccessful.

We feel that there is potential for growth in all regions and we have made a number of enquiries about the possibility of funding to extend the scheme further in these regions. However, to date, we have not been able to identify an organization which can provide us with core funding.

UAS operate in 2 modes: reactive and proactive. In the reactive mode we support existing departments, particularly when there is a change of UAS coordinator, respond to new departments and gather basic statistics: including the number of students taking UAS modules in a department each year. In the proactive mode we endeavour to recruit new departments. In recent years we have spent about half of our time on each of these modes. We have a number of new departments committed to running UAS in 2009/10 and we still have quite a large number of departments interested in starting UAS in the near future, consequently, we are keen to continue our work if funding allows. The monies involved in running purely in reactive mode are relatively modest and it works out at around £20 per student per year. Specific request for funding at this level from the Learned Societies for students in their own discipline have been unsuccessful.

The purpose of this newsletter is to announce our closure at the end of August if our funding position does not change. So are there then any other possible sources of funding? One suggestion is that participating universities could contribute in-kind assistance to jointly run the scheme. Alternatively each university could pay a modest subscription to maintain core staffing of UAL. Our previous newsletter received a positive response from the University of Nottingham who are keen to see UAL survive. However, whilst the University of Nottingham are very positive about the role of UAL, we would need to enlist the support of a number of other institutions running UAS if UAL is to continue. If you feel that your institution might wish to help fund the continuing existence of UAL then please contact Brian Lockwood, National Manager, UAS.

We end this newsletter by thanking Simon Singh for the original idea of UAS and for supporting UAL throughout its seven year existence. Next year we expect that more than 1,000 undergraduates will be going out into partner schools to inspire youngsters and get a taste of teaching whilst gaining key transferable skills which will be invaluable in their future careers. Many of these undergraduates will subsequently wish to enter the teaching profession. UAL has much to be proud of. It seems to us nothing short of a tragedy that our organisation will cease operating because we are unable to raise a very modest level of funding. Perhaps your institution can help. Please let us know.

Professor Ray d’Inverno, National Director, UAS

Brian Lockwood, National Manager, UAS


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