Expanding Horizons with the British Conference of Undergraduate Research
IATL Blog & Reports | Fiona O'Brien | IATL Team | 2 June 2018
The British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) , is an annual interdisciplinary conference which is comprised of research presentations by students from higher education institutions across Great Britain. The University of Warwick is a key partner with BCUR, and IATL, the Institute for Advanced Teaching and Learning , manages this partnership therefore ensuring that the students are supported in this interdisciplinary experience. Since 2011, the IATL team at Warwick has been actively involved in BCUR by participating in its steering committee and sending students to present. In 2012 Warwick hosted BCUR and welcomed students from all parts of Great Britain!
In the run up to BCUR the organisers hold a smaller event called Posters in Parliament (PiP) in the Houses of Parliament, London, where students from BCUR participating institutions send their two best BCUR presentation applicants. The PiP students present their research on posters to MP’s, policy makers and fellow academics. Since the beginning of PiP, Warwick has had one student win a runner-up award and this year a student named as the overall winner.
The IATL team working with BCUR aims to help and support its students in their BCUR interdisciplinary experience. IATL helps to promote the opportunity to present at BCUR to Warwick students and then support them where needed with writing and submitting their abstracts and with the logistics of attendance. Each year members of staff also attend with the students.
Since its inception Warwick has contributed to the development of the main conference of BCUR, as well as Posters in Parliament by sharing best practice from its own experiences of hosting BCUR and advising each new hosting institution on their preparations via the steering committee. Since 2011 over 200 Warwick students have presented their research.
With such strong links to BCUR the Warwick and Monash journal, Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research has published three BCUR special issues which have included some of the most trafficked articles for the journal British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) 2011 Special Issue, British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) 2012 Special Issue and British Conference of Undergraduate Research (BCUR) 2014 Special Issue.
BCUR’s ethos supports the University of Warwick’s education strategy in a variety of ways. BCUR provides participating students with the experience and skills necessary to strive for excellence in their research and gives students the skills to communicate their work regardless of discipline and other essential skills for future employment.
This year BCUR18 was hosted by the University of Sheffield and was hailed as the biggest conference yet, with over 69 HE institutions and 600 delegates attending! Over the two-day event, students had the chance to present their work verbally, by poster, or by performance or installation, in sessions which involved presentations from a wide range of disciplines.
The spoken presentation sessions included 3 or 4 fifteen-minute presentations on a variety of research topics and allowed time for questions and discussions too. The poster and performance / installation sessions gave the students a chance to chat about their work and discuss the posters and experience the performances.
The format of BCUR gives undergraduates an excellent opportunity to expand their horizons and to see how others approach and communicate research work. The conference also provides the chance to network with people from the other institutions, across a broad spectrum of disciplines. You can look at the extensive programme here.
Having the chance to present work to others who are also involved in research in different disciplines, means that students can learn how a researcher from another discipline would structure their research work. This in turn can allow students to think about how their own work is structured and how it can be communicated to a lay audience. Learning to communicate and present to a non-specialist audience is key for future employability and funding applications.
The BCUR experience for a student is an impactful learning journey; they learn how to submit research to an academic conference, write an abstract, revise work, and write and design effective presentations. All of all of which is great preparation for life after university. In 2018 Warwick was delighted to have 27 students present their research at BCUR through spoken presentations, posters or performance.
If you are reading this as a student and would like to get involved in BCUR – take a look on the IATL website in the autumn for the BCUR19 call for abstracts. Once you have submitted you will have the chance of being selected for both BCUR19 , which will be in April 2019 at the University of South Wales in Cardiff, and for the related BCUR event Posters in Parliament, at the Houses of Parliament in London.
You might also consider checking out the International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR) Experience pages at www.icurportal.com for more information on Warwick’s own international video-linked conference for undergraduates or consider submitting your research to Reinvention: an International Journal of Undergraduate Research. ICUR offers the unique opportunity to present your undergraduate research work to audiences around the world and gain different cultural perspectives. ICUR is hosted at Warwick as well as at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia and joined by other HE institutions across the world. Like BCUR, ICUR offers an opportunity for students to present their work in an interdisciplinary forum, but this time with live multi-way video links to other locations.
If you are a member of staff we’d love to hear about your experiences from other interdisciplinary forums. Also, if you have any students who you consider to be suitable and interested in the ICUR Experience or BCUR please let them know about these great opportunities.
If you’re interested in any of these experiences then don’t forget to look out for the BCUR Call for Abstracts in the autumn term, or check out the ICURportal.com to find out ways you could get involved with ICUR as a presenter, volunteer or even as an ICUR student director.