Behind the scenes @ Senate House

In Stewart House Reception with Student Affairs Manager Huw Morgan-Jones.

In Stewart House reception with Student Affairs Manager Huw Morgan Jones.

More than three years have rolled by in a flash from I enrolled with the University of London International Programmes, as a student of BSc Accounting and Finance, under the academic direction of the LSE. Since then I have experienced the troughs and crescents of life – from changing my stream of study from Accounting to International Relations, witnessing the tragic death of one of my aunts, taking immensely challenging and rigorous exams, attending demanding lectures at the LSE and the SOAS summer schools, performing Indian classical music at SOAS, to even trying a hand at punting in the River Cam (which by the way was almost a flop)! With the results of my third year of study being declared (and which I am quite happy about), it feels a bit surreal to think I am onto my fourth and final year of study with the University of London and LSE. Back in India after spending one of my most productive and busiest times in London, I must confess that getting to tour the Senate House – the nerve centre of the International Programmes has been highly inspiring.

University of London's Senate House

The University of London’s Senate House

I had participated in a video conference with eight other fellow students, as a part of the Student Experience Survey. As a token of appreciation, I was to get an Amazon gift card. Instead of receiving it on email, I expressed my wish to receive the gift in-person and it was agreed. Not a newbie anymore in London (thanks to my 2015 stay), I walked to Senate House from my hostel – the Indian YMCA – and requested the always jovial receptionist to inform of my arrival. Shortly after, I was taken to Stewart House through a corridor which connects it with the imposing Senate House. No sooner did I enter the main office of the International Programmes; I was in complete awe of the sheer scale of it. Perhaps much larger than a full-sized football field, there were hundreds of staff glued to their computers in the office.

Walking along in the soul-pricking silence, there were rooms dedicated specially for web conferences, rooms hosting important meetings, chambers with frosted glass for the senior members of the staff. Not only this, I could also see the Quality, Standards and Governance directorate (responsible for maintaining the quality and standards of University of London awards), the Admissions team and the Student Advice Centre (probably the people with whom we interact the most), in deep work. Among all, the section which struck me the most was the sorting, packing and parcel section (I am not quite sure if that’s the correct name) – I mean the place from where all the materials are despatched to all of us students, the stationery for the examinations are sent and again received in the incarnation of exam scripts. With the results to be declared in a matter of a few days, the mere sight of the facility, even from a distance was sure to give me a shiver in the spine. The reason why I have been most struck is that, it is like a fully functional post office, if not a real one. And it is absolutely justifiable. Sending and receiving important and confidential material from almost every country in the world, it is the place which probably involves the most intricate operations and is quite fascinating.

Studying most of the time 7,000 miles away from my institution, it is often difficult to imagine the human efforts that go into running a ‘world class’ that is ‘valued everywhere’ and yet can be ‘studied anywhere’. From receiving updates on the VLE, receiving study materials, downloading videos of talks by academics, doing the continuing registration, to getting queries solved by the Student Advice Centre, the whole process seems automatic, but this is absolutely not the case. Information technology and the world wide web may have shrunk the distance between the learners and the university like never before, but this tour of the office of the International Programmes has enabled me to appreciate the deep efforts that go behind the scenes to make this a success. This is no easy walk in the park as I could sense the ambition of progress and improvement.

Like all my fellow students, I would absolutely remain a student who would be putting forward the criticisms and the areas in which all of us can improve. There will be failings, constructive criticisms and improvements. However, amidst all of that, I would like to thank all the staff of the University of London International Programmes, on behalf of the student fraternity for all their hard work and toil behind the scenes, to help over 50,000 students all over the globe (literally) gain a University of London degree and most importantly, help all of us being worthy of making a positive impact in our society. It is definitely a pity that the realisation dawned on me in my final year of study, but as the saying goes, better late than never!

Budhaditya is studying the BSc International Relations by distance learning in Kolkata, India.

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