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Asylum and Refugees: A View from Greece

Arts and Social Sciences News.

MariaAs the refugee crisis continues to hit Europe, and Greece in particular, former asylum worker and Greek national Maria Repouskou (MA in Global Migration, 2012) talks about her experiences:

To say 2015 has been a big year for Greece would be an understatement. A collapsing economy combined with vast numbers of asylum seekers searching for an escape from war in the Middle East arriving on Greek soil has pushed the country to the brink.

Greece is in a difficult location geographically, situated where Asia ends and Europe begins, meaning that it’s often the favoured arrival point for many travelling into Europe seeking refuge or asylum. Recently, this has meant the country has been overwhelmed with people fleeing oppression who now remain in limbo. These people are both here, and not here, unsure of what tomorrow may bring.

It is undeniable that, although this is a very topical issue, it’s also a recurring issue in Greece, only now with the added security threat. This has turned up the heat on the cauldron of fear, crisis and response and has led to the number of people granted asylum plummeting, the population becoming more fractured, and policies ever more confused.

The question of human rights is now posed against the backdrop of the security of the country that accepts the asylum seekers, adding to the already challenging question of national cohesion. The Greek population was already polarized between those with compassion fatigue, and those who don’t see it as a question of immigrant numbers or border control, but one of simple help to fellow human beings. Recently, a great number of Greeks have been moved to be part of the humanitarian aid, but this response isn’t enough. What is really needed is policy change.

Currently, the immigration and asylum policies are designed in a way that means they actually perpetuate the very problems they are meant to be combatting, and the root cause of the issues are being completely ignored.

I understand there needs to be a balance between control over borders and security and the humanitarian response, but the current security measures mean that the asylum seekers are now seen as a threat the country needs protecting from, rather than as displaced peoples requiring protection.

The border controls seem to be targeting refugees as people to be got rid of or moved on, and migration specialists support these controls, which are ultimately doomed to fail. Not looking at the root cause of the issue, only means the migration routes will change, not end the refugee crisis.

Greece lacks a coherent immigration policy, an issue in itself, which is being exacerbated by current reforms happening in a reactive fashion, without any proper agenda-setting. This means that in the aftermath of the reforms, with more people continuing to flow in, and an already cumbersome bureaucratic system,these new measures are effectively deporting people as personae non grata. All whilst assimilation and integration, and the issues arising from such influxes, are being pushed further down the agenda across the EU.

With the situation growing ever-more hostile towards refugees, morality and respect for human dignity is on the decrease, and detention centres seem to be creating the same oppression that the asylum seekers were hoping to escape. At the same time, the media is exacerbating the hostility of the Greek population, by portraying the crisis in a solely negative light.

In downtown Athens, Victoria Square has become a camping space. If you happen to pass by you can see the recent arrivals, short on medical aid and living on a paltry diet, wondering what will happen to them now. If you were there, would you pass them by?

Grievous human rights violations, inhuman and degrading treatment, terrible facilities, racial violence and inertia is the perfect storm of the worst way we can treat these vulnerable people.

The policy makers must act fast to tackle this issue from the bottom up and guarantee a safe future for the Greeks, whilst working on co-operative and sustainable policies for immigration.

This will remind us why Greece was the country that lent the word asylon to the modern world.

Maria is one of our International Alumni Ambassadors for Greece. If you live outside the UK and are interested in being  an active member of our alumni community in your home country, please visit our website for more information on how to volunteer.

Fifty year association with City

Mathematics, Computer Science & Engineering News.
Students' Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1)

Students’ Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1)

Post by Dr Peter Harding

It is 50 years since my first association with City. This period coincidentally covers the time from its birth, or transformation, from Northampton College of Advanced Technology until now, when it is proposed to join the University of London. In these 50 years there has been considerable change.

A picture taken from the Students’ Union booklet circa 1970 (Photo 1) shows the view of the Thames looking east (Photo 2). Some two years ago I visited the Shard. I took a photo from a similar angle to the aerial shot. It shows the massive amount of building work that has taken place in the City and the Isle of Dogs (Photo 3).

London has been on a journey beyond anything that could be envisaged 50 years ago.

 

 

 

 

View of the Thames looking east circa 1970 (Photo 2)

View of the Thames looking east circa 1970 (Photo 2)

My first recollection of City

My first recollection of City was as Northampton College of Advanced Technology, knowing that within a few months it would become ‘The City University – TCU’. I arrived to interview  on a very cold day in December 1965. As I was early, I killed time walking around the local streets for the best part of an hour getting colder and colder. Finally I decided to enter the main building and found it beautifully warm, and wished I had the courage to enter earlier. I was taken to a part of the main building off St John’s Street, where I sat an exam. One of the questions was how you would plan a new road system to go through/around an existing town, as shown on a map. Probably nothing to do with electrical engineering but testing knowledge of systematic, thoughtful decision making! As part of the admission screening process I had already submitted an engineering/science report. I chose to write about the possibility of sending geostationary satellites into earth’s orbit. I am not sure that it was the type of answer that was expected but at least it showed that I was interested in technology. Interestingly, I later worked at the Rocket Propulsion Establishment designing an instrumentation system for testing static rocket motor firings, establishing my interest in the exciting area of rockets and satellite technology which was a hot topic in the 60’s and 70’s.

Recent view of the Thames from the Shard (Photo 3)

Recent view of the Thames from the Shard (Photo 3)


Confirmation of my place

I received confirmation of a place in January 1966, one of the first offers in my sixth form group. This indicated to me that a highly efficient administrative system was operating at the University. Concurrently with obtaining a university place I had to find an industrial sponsor for the six months work experience every year when I was not undertaking study. I settled on an offer from Eastern Electricity Board and found the training very diverse, giving me experience in many disciplines. I now realise that I had an exceptional opportunity including workshop training (where I was able to make a range of tools that I still use); work at a Power Station; manufacturers works in South Wales; planning and construction departments, commercial departments as well as working with engineers, linesmen and jointers and liaising with the public.

 

 

City of London map circa 1969 / 1970 (Photo 4)

City of London map circa 1969 / 1970 (Photo 4)

 

What my experience at City gave me

My experience at City gave me an education in the widest sense of the word. I not only finished my course but also appreciated the annual Gresham lectures; the chance to listen to the lunch time concerts given by the Guildhall School of Music and watch many of the shows based on NASA films about the Apollo space programme. I also became fascinated with the City of London and the student accommodation was ideally located on Bunhill Row,  which I was allocated to in my last year and so was able to explore the City at the weekends (Photo 4). The final year module on Management Studies at the Guildhall was a wonderful experience.

 

 

Peter Harding

Dr Peter Harding

 

50 years since

It has been fifty years since this first interest in the City and now, fifty years later, I have been able to walk around the City to discover again some of the interesting places and small passage ways and alleys that interconnect many of the streets and buildings.

As I have inferred, after working for the Eastern Electricity Board I worked at the Rocket Propulsion Establishment. Later on I moved into education and started lecturing at an FE College and also tutoring for The Open University. I then moved onto what is now known as Buckinghamshire New University. During my twenty five years at this establishment I was able to take part-time courses at City in MSc Engineering (1996) and then a PhD in Information Engineering (2007). My research gave me the opportunity to write academic papers which were published by the ICPR and my research student published by the IEEE and IEE.

I hope I have briefly shown that the changes and developments that have occurred for me have been in considerable part due to my experiences gained at the City.  I have gone from an undergraduate to an alumnus gained two additional degrees, both beyond my expectation some fifty years ago.


My advice to current students:

  1. Keep an open mind – don’t reject ideas out of hand as it is surprising where the next inspiration comes from
  2. Revert to first principle to solve or understand problems
  3. Theory and practice do agree it maybe is your model or measurements at fault
  4. Beware of excessive ‘hype’ as it can be detrimental to good science and engineering
  5. Appreciate the positive aspects of colleagues – shrink the negatives
  6. Understand how your company works and where power lies

Considering a career change? Consider Teach First’s Leadership Development Programme!

Alumni Notice Board, Events.

Teach First banner

In the UK today, the link between how much your family earn and how well you do in school and in life is stronger than almost anywhere in the developed world. It doesn’t have to be this way

Teach First are a charity working to end educational inequality. They believe that inspirational teaching and leadership is key to helping every child succeed, regardless of their background. Teach First supports people like you to become revolutionary teachers on their Leadership Development Programme (LDP) in schools across England and Wales.

The LDP is a personalised two-year programme encompassing high-quality training, supportive coaching, and a PGCE qualification. You’ll retrain as a teacher in one of our partner schools, and whether or not you decide to remain in the classroom, the experience and skills you’ll gain will change your life, and theirs.

They’re looking to expand their reach and place more life-changing leaders into Early Years, primary and secondary schools throughout the UK’s poorest communities.

They are hosting a series of presentations exclusively for anyone considering changing career to join their LDP. Their employer presentations will give you the chance to find out more about teaching on the LDP, get your questions answered by their Experienced Hires team, and find out how you can apply for a place in their 2016 cohort.

Visit their website to learn more about the LDP and to book your place today.

Change career. Change lives.

Supporting our students to support the local community

City Future Fund, City News.

Post by Ben Butler, Student Development Manager:

Students celebrating Ada’s 100th birthday in local care home

Rida Khan, Karishma Patel and Anjorna Nanda celebrating Ada’s 100th birthday in a local care home. Their project, The Senior Citizens Venture, aims to tackles loneliness and promote the health and happiness of elderly people.

The Student Development Team has benefited tremendously from donations of both time and money from our alumni community. This has allowed us to support even more of our students through professional mentoring and enabling students with a passion for volunteering to develop their own projects.

Our Annual Report 2014 – 2015 tells you more about the work that we have been doing.

We are extremely grateful for the support we receive from the City Future Fund and will continue to develop our work so that current students are supported from the start of their time at City to the point where they too become an alumnus.

If you would like to find out more about how you can contribute to this work, please contact alumni@city.ac.uk.

 

Making the most of your time at City

Alumni Notice Board, City News.

London Skyline

City University London’s location in the heart of the City of London offers students a wide range of unique opportunities. Georgia Skupinski studied International Politics and Sociology at City and graduated in the summer of 2015. Here is her advice for students joining us this academic year:

Favourite area of London

I have so many favourite areas of London and they’re all so different and diverse, so make sure you explore everywhere you can. Portobello Market is fabulous on the weekend, take a hike up Primrose Hill or the Royal Greenwich Observatory for some great views. Explore the parks, most of them have boats in the summer which are really fun. The museums are free, take advantage of them. The Maritime, Imperial War and the National History museums are my personal favourites. Experience amazing food at Brick Lane market on the weekend, enter the lottery at the theatre – you may win free tickets, go for a run along the South Bank.

London is a city of opportunity, so make sure you make the most of it.

Favourite part of the City campus and place to study

My favourite part of the City campus is the College Building. It’s such a beautiful building and it holds so much history, look it up – the Great Hall was once where the Olympic Boxing was held. I love the College Common room for studying in between lectures, but I am a massive fan of the sixth floor of the library. Everyone respects the ‘silence’ rule and it’s a great place to go and focus.

If you need to do group work, the library has plenty of group study areas that you can book out. I found this really great – far better than trying to coordinate a group study or presentation in a noisy public café.

Places to go for a night out

Locally to City there is a Propaganda held on Friday and Saturday nights which is always a great night out and not too expensive. If you’re considering a more central location, there’s Tiger Tiger, Piccadilly Institute, Loop Bar and Sway – they’re always suitably busy and play everything from chart to 70’s/80’s/90’s music. Camden Koko, in fact the majority of Camden, is great for an alternative night out. If you’re over 21, Infernos in Clapham is a great night for cheesy music. There are so many places to go in London to suit everybody and I recommend the Design My Night website to find the type of night to suit you.

Places to eat

My favourite restaurant is Cafe La Divina on Upper Street, just up the road from City. It’s a great little independent Italian restaurant and the food is delicious while reasonably priced. Oblix in the Shard is also amazing – not so reasonably priced but is great for special occasions, I went there after my graduation.

Places to go for a drink

My favourite bar is either Dirty Martini in Liverpool Street or Madison which is a rooftop bar overlooking St. Paul’s. There are so many bars with great locations in London, so make sure you explore.

Coffee shops

I’m a creature of habit, so my favourite coffee shop is Starbucks, it’s consistently good everywhere I go. However they have managed to bag themselves so many great locations around the City, my favourite being the one in St Katherine Docks overlooked by Tower Bridge. You can sit there and watch the boats go in and out, it’s a really lovely location.

Hidden gems around campus

Tinseltown – I don’t know anyone who hasn’t ended up there at 3am after a heavy night of revision. It’s a short walk from Northampton Square, it’s open until really late and you can eat all the American diner food your heart desires. Nando’s in Angel is also great as City students get 20% off.

There are plenty of great places in Angel to eat – definitely take a walk down Camden Passage and Exmouth Market, both are really close to the University.

Advice for new students starting in September

Your time at University isn’t just about what you learn academically, it’s about you whole personal experience from learning to do your laundry, making new friends, dealing with personal issues and setbacks, to striking the work/social balance. Don’t be hard on yourself if you don’t get it right the first, second or even third time – you will eventually.

Don’t hesitate to ask for support, go and see your personal tutor or the nurse, mental health nurse if you can feel yourself slipping. University life can be a massive change and City is here to support you.

The careers service is amazing, make sure you use it. I didn’t in my first year so I ended up cramming a million appointments into my last two years.

It’s never too early to start thinking about your future post-City. Think about filling out your summers with internships, you’ll thank yourself when you’re applying for full-time employment or further study after University. Also, see what part-time employment City has to offer. Unitemps and the Ambassador schemes have been a lifesaver for me financially and I’ve really enjoyed myself.

I have absolutely loved my time at City. Your time here goes so fast and I believe that is because I have enjoyed it so much. City promotes such a friendly environment and everyone is very welcoming. As soon as I saw Northampton Square I fell in love and I am sure you will too. I have a lot to thank City for and I hope that you are able to share the same experience.

Meeting new people and make friends

The best way to make friends is to completely throw yourself into everything and attend every event that you can find. Don’t worry if you haven’t found someone to go with, the chances are that the majority of people there won’t know anyone either.

You can also join a sports club or society. You’ll find people here that you have things in common with and that’s a great way to bond. I also recommend the Ambassador Scheme again, as I have made so many friends through this.

Post by Nicola Ranson, Communications Officer

How a City tutor predicted (sort of) I’d write the world’s first book on national anthems

Arts and Social Sciences News.

Republic or Death book cover

Post by Alex Marshall (Periodical Journalism 2003)

Looking back at my time at City a decade ago – I did a journalism post-grad – there’s one conversation that sticks out. It was a day when my tutor, Harriett Gilbert – probably wearing the biker jacket she normally did, maybe with a cigarette in hand – told me I should write a book.

I’m not sure she meant it – she was starting a creative writing course at the time, and might have just needed students – but it turns out I’ve now done as she advised, as if she was a soothsayer of the highest order.

She also told me to write that book in the first person, and said I shouldn’t be afraid of humour. My book follows that advice too. I’m starting to wish I’d asked her for some more life lessons, or at least what lottery numbers I should choose.

Alex in Kazakhstan

Alex ‘doing research’ in Kazakhstan, the only country with an anthem written by its head of state, the country’s dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev

The book in question is the world’s first about national anthems – one telling the fascinating, occasionally bizarre, stories of these songs and the people behind them, showing how in many parts of the world these songs couldn’t me more vital. It also reveals how these songs have been at the centre of some of history’s most important events: everything from the end of apartheid to the Arab Spring.

It’s a book that forced me to use all my City journalism training as it required research in 14 countries, although City didn’t teach me to pretend to be an academic to avoid being arrested, as I had to do several times in Egypt.

It wasn’t clear I’d end up doing this despite Harriet’s comments. The best thing about the City course was it forced us to try every type of journalism: writing for newspapers one day, business magazines the next, even doing bits of radio. For most of my career since, I’ve actually been an environmental journalist, writing about everything from international climate conferences to the frequency of bin collections. Music journalism was just something I did in my spare time.

But one day during the Beijing Olympics, I had the idea to listen to all the world’s anthems and rank them out of 10. The slightly-ludicrous piece I ended up writing about that quest ended up making front-page news in places like Bangladesh and Nepal (“Bangladesh wins silver!” screamed one headline) and because of that I became increasingly obsessed with these songs, why we still have them, who wrote them and what they’ve achieved.

Alex in Nepal

Alex with Amber Gurung, the composer of Nepal’s bizarre national anthem, the only one written on a Casio keyboard.

Interestingly, the place where these songs seemed to have the least meaning was here, in Britain, where most people can’t remember the last time they sang God Save the Queen, let alone all the words. Very few people here would say the anthem is integral to their sense of national identity, or claim it’s the piece of music they turn to at moments of crisis or celebration. Most actually seem to think it’s an awful song that says nothing about Britain today, and they’re right.

That explains why, in a way, I’ve been surprised by the furore over Jeremy Corbyn refusing to sing it. I keep on getting asked to talk about it on radio shows, while a piece I wrote about it for the Telegraph somehow got over 1,000 comments, most telling me to emigrate.

It isn’t the topic I’d have predicted to generate publicity for my book – I was expecting that to be a chapter on the Islamic State’s anthem – but then I imagine Harriet probably warned me about this 10 years ago. Once you’ve written a book, it’s out of your hands – you can’t decide how people react to it.

I should really track her down for a drink. Perhaps she’ll have some ideas about what I should write about for the follow-up.

Alex Marshall’s Republic or Death! Travels in Search of National Anthems is out now. His blog about the book, including more anthems than you could ever want to listen to, is at republicordeath.com 

 

City’s Vision and Strategy 2026

City News.

Vision--Strategy-logoThe University is working on its Vision and Strategy for the next 10 years and has launched a series of engagement sessions with students, staff, the community and other key stakeholders with an interest in the institution’s future direction.

The Vision and Strategy 2026 and the supporting plans and strategies will be developed over a year and will come together from different strands of work – analysis, input from students, staff and other stakeholders and steered and led by the University senior leadership team. A final Vision and Strategy 2026 will be considered in May 2016 by the University’s Council and launched from 1st August 2016.

How you can get involved

As lifelong alumni of City, you are invited to attend a Business Breakfast Meeting on Wednesday 22nd July 2015 from 8.45am – 11.00am at Cass Executive Education, 200 Aldersgate Street, London EC1A 4HD to give us your views on three specific areas: student employability; work placements; and, building partnerships.

This is an exciting moment for City and the event will also be a great opportunity to network, so please do come along if you can. Refreshments will be provided, and you can register to attend by emailing Bijel.Thakrar.1@city.ac.uk who can let you  have further details about the event.

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City, University of London is an independent member institution of the University of London. Established by Royal Charter in 1836, the University of London consists of 18 independent member institutions with outstanding global reputations and several prestigious central academic bodies and activities.

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