Summer School 2014

Over two weeks in July, more than 100 of the U21 network’s brightest students and staff visited UNSW Australia for what was a highly successful U21 Summer School 2014.

The product of a fruitful collaboration between UNSW International and UNSW Built Environment, the Summer School explored the theme Shaping the Future City through an integrated series of lectures, workshops and excursions stimulating active discussion amongst the group of highly enthusiastic students and staff. UNSW’s bid to host the 2014 U21 Summer School coincided with a wider university objective to increase network engagement as well as UNSW’s President and Vice Chancellor Fred Hilmer acting as U21 Chair in 2013/2014. In April 2013, the theme was then chosen as a way of showcasing UNSW’s expertise in the area as well as the university’s location in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The theme would also enable significant collaboration across faculties and ensure relevance to students and staff from a wide range of disciplines, interests, knowledge and capabilities.

The plan for designing and delivering the academic programme was approached as if planning a two-week intensive elective course intended to introduce a diverse audience of undergraduate students to key issues and thinking about cities in the 21st Century. The overarching theme was elaborated to address five sub-themes:

  • The Connected City
  • The Inclusive City
  • The Resilient City
  • The Healthy City
  • The Beautiful City

This provided a means of broadening the discussion from the physical aspects of ‘shaping’ a city to the social and political considerations. Students identified a stream to concentrate on while working with a group of 5 or 6 others from different institutions and disciplinary backgrounds. Students were also asked to reflect on the realities of urbanisation facing their own cities and countries, as they heard from industry professionals, key UNSW academics and a number of academics visiting from other U21 institutions.

Comprising 118 students and 15 staff members from 23 of the 27 member institutions, the group’s academic and cultural diversity was highly effective in provoking intellectually stimulating discussion and fostering global citizenship amongst participants:

“I enjoyed the perfect opportunity of meeting and connecting with intellectuals from different cultures. I also enjoyed meeting locals in Sydney, and getting to know the city from a locals perspective.” –Julia, Lund University

An exciting programme of social activities also allowed participants to enjoy opportunities to network with peers and explore some of Sydney’s most celebrated landmarks.

“I met so many people from all over the world, learned about their cultures and made friends for a lifetime. Before the Summer School, I knew almost nobody abroad, now I have 125 new friends from all over the world with so many nationalities!” – Amanda, University of Amsterdam

“The social events and bonding with other students were exceptionally good. I felt I learned a lot from the knowledge base that the students brought to the summer school.” – anonymous

Our own opportunities to interact with students and staff over the two weeks made it clear that the Summer School was a great success. We were also thrilled to see from feedback that 90% of participants described their overall experience as either “excellent” or “very good”. Many participants also wrote to thank us personally:

“U21 Summer School in UNSW was well organised and made a deep impression on me, not only abundant social events but also academic lectures about five crucial aspects of the topic "Shaping the future city". It was an unforgettable experience for me to make new friends and communicate with students from different countries with different cultural background.” - Liyuan, University of Nottingham Ningbo China

“I absolutely loved the summer school it was a phenomenal experience to meet engaged students of different disciplines from around the world and work and learn with them in the beautiful city of Sydney!” –Emily, University of Connecticut

UNSW extends a huge thank you to the U21 Secretariat and all participants for making this event such a success. We’d also like to wish our friends at the University of Glasgow all the very best for what will no doubt be another exciting Summer School in 2015.

Fiona Docherty
Pro-Vice Chancellor (International)
UNSW Australia