Following on from Monday’s resource on student partnerships, Claire Gordon (left), director of the LSE GROUPS programme, interviewed Debra Humphris, Vice Provost for Education at Imperial College, about the new LSE/Imperial GROUPS initiative taking place here at LSE at the end of Summer Term. This year LSE GROUPS, which for the past five years has provided undergraduates with the opportunity to spend two weeks working in cross-disciplinary, cross-year groups on a research project, will be welcoming 25 students and 2 research supervisors from Imperial to the programme.
Why were you interested in joining up with LSE to participate in the GROUPS undergraduate research project programme?
It’s fairly obvious that there are no single disciplines that are going to be able to solve the complex problems that are facing society and our students, who study STEM subjects, are also interested in learning alongside students from the social sciences. So the opportunity for our students to be part of what is an extremely well organised undergraduate research project with LSE students is really exciting. The feedback I have had from students and staff alike so far is that everybody thinks this is a great idea.
What do you think the Imperial students will bring to the programme?
Imperial students will bring a very scientific, experimental, quantitative view of the world but not to the exclusion of an understanding of wider disciplinary views around social change. Many of our students have wide-ranging interests and I think you will find quite a lot of them who are really interested in particular topics, whether that’s coming from a scientific point of view or from their social context, and who want to make a difference to the world.
What will they gain from collaborating with LSE social science students on a social science project?
The understanding of different mind-sets, different theoretical approaches, and different views about life. There are obviously quantitative social sciences but there is great value in the qualitative disciplines, and we all have a lot to learn from ethnography, anthropology, philosophy. The theoretical plurality will be very interesting and revealing for students from both institutions.
What do you see as the value of interdisciplinarity in higher education in particular for undergraduate students?
Our role in higher education is to create the opportunities for students to develop, whether that is in forging a disciplinary base of knowledge or in making decisions about where they want to go in life. As research at our respective institutions becomes more interdisciplinary we owe it to our undergraduates during that development journey to expose them to the range of disciplinary perspectives. So if you take the example of climate change. We both have Grantham Institutes and they illustrate the fact that there’s a whole set of disciplines that need to come together to really address issues such as climate change and sustainability. You cannot do it in a uni-discplinary focus. So it’s that broad range of perspectives which add greater value than seeing the world through a single disciplinary lens.
Would you like to see more collaborative ventures with LSE in the future?
Personally I think that we are two extraordinary institutions in an amazing global city and we bring strengths from both of our perspectives. For the students on GROUPS, I hope that collaboration will open their eyes and their thinking, and I am absolutely sure that from a research point of view there is potential for greater collaboration.
LSE/Imperial GROUPS will host a conference on Friday 3 July, at which the students’ research will be presented. To find out more and book a place, please email firstname.lastname@example.org