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Community (noun): the people of a district or country considered collectively, especially in the context of social values and responsibilities; society.

The Community Research for Students (CRIS) initiative is new to UCL and is designed to offer an exciting new way to do postgraduate dissertations. CRIS connects not-for-profit organisations that work with the Union’s Volunteering Service with academic staff and master’s students who are keen to research a community need in the capital.

What can I gain out of this? 

It’s a win-win situation for all with each project being tailored to suit the requirements of the student, the supervisor and the community organisation. 

As a student doing a dissertation in this way will make you stand out from the crowd at the end of the year and help you in your future plans, whether they are continuing in academia or working in another sector. Unless your specific postgraduate programme offers this as part of the dissertation experience, this is the only way at UCL to work with different partners on your research dissertation.One student from 2018/19 even secured a job directly as a result of her experience on the CRIS programme and new-found skills!

You will  meet other like-minded students from a wide range of different masters programmes across UCL. This will broaden your network, both social and professional! 

How does it work? 

We’ll be here, every step of the way. It all starts with understanding your training needs and offering you a unique, bespoke training, rather like doctoral students are offered e.g. public engagement skills or strategies for managing collaborative work. These community research skills development learning sessions are only available to CRIS students considering a collaborative dissertation. We’ll work with you to help identify a community partner, initiative the first meeting and chair a getting-to-know-you introductory meeting between you, your supervisor, and the community partner. We’ll be working with you throughout your dissertation to monitor progress and ensure your research is kept right at the very centre of things.

What do others say?

Don’t take our word for it - here’s what our very first participants have said about their CRIS process:

“A master’s is like a series of fleeting interactions and CRIS is the one constant….it gave a sense of belonging” [Political Sciences student]

“I really appreciate your guidance and feedback on my initial dissertation ideas, it was really great to better frame how CRIS could be an enriching way forward and walk through my ideas aloud.” [MSc Security Studies student]  

“[CRIS] is turning what I assume would otherwise be dissertation dread into research excitement!” [MSc Public Policy student]

“I came back to university to learn how communities can be meaningfully engaged in creating public health solutions. Arriving in London as an international student, I didn’t expect to have time to explore this by actually practising it. Figuring out a new country, city, and program takes months! I didn’t expect I would have enough capacity to also learn the landscape of local organisations, find a partner willing to collaborate, develop the skills to work with them effectively, and accomplish all that in time to meet my dissertation deadlines. I was thrilled to hear about CRIS and find out I was wrong! The program has given me access to UCL’s network, introduced me to wonderful partners, and is helping me learn how to collaborate with them well. It would not have been possible for me to do this without CRIS connecting the dots and supporting me every step of the way. I’m excited to have this opportunity to make the most of my year at UCL. This experience is already giving me valuable research and partnership skills that I look forward to bringing with me as I explore jobs in both research and non-profit programs. Thank you, CRIS!” [MSc Global Health & Development student]

“I knew I wanted to do research on behalf of a socially focused organisation for my masters dissertation, but before I came across CRIS I lacked the connections and inspiration. Straight after meeting with CRIS I felt energised to start my research. From the initial meeting they provided advice and connections based on my research interests and were very encouraging of my abilities as a researcher. I highly recommend the program.” [MSc Public Policy student]

“UCL’s community engagement scheme speaks to the ethos of the kind of applied research we promote and encourage in global health - research that is done with people rather than publications in mind. Community engagement means fostering dialogue not simply disseminating findings or messages - and the UCL scheme is clearly designed to ensure that everyone’s voice gets heard and plays a role in creating inclusive communities of research practice. It’s a fantastic initiative!” [Professor Sarah Hawkes, MSc Global Health & Development]

“I’m very excited by the future potential in this… We’re about to commission some original research and I’d love for [CRIS] to become a regular fixture in our annual calendar – we’ve an annual congress attended by 1,000+ delegates which we could offer the research to be presented at.” [Community Organisation]


If you’d like to be a part of CRIS, please email Anne Laybourne.