University of London serves up food for thought on human rights - for a fiver

The School of Advanced Study's Human Rights Consortium held its first soup evening earlier this month, where students pitch their ideas for researching human rights projects

The words "soup" and "education" probably conjure up an image of an impoverished student making an emergency visit to a food bank.

Not quite the association that the University of London's School of Advanced Study's Human Rights Consortium had in mind when it held its first soup evening earlier this month.

It has taken an idea pioneered in Detroit, where students pitch their ideas for researching human-rights projects to an audience who have forked out a fiver for the privilege of listening to the presentations and having some soup in a convivial atmosphere.

Those pitching the ideas have five minutes to get their project over to the audience – and the audience can then ask them a maximum of two questions and vote on the winner. The winning project gets to take home all the money collected at the door to help fund their proposal.

This month's session attracted five students – all from UK universities and doing dissertations in human rights.

It is certainly the right time to encourage research in this area, with controversy over the Conservative manifesto commitment to abolish the Human Rights Act.

The winner was Niresh Umaichelvam, a City University student who is investigating domestic violence from the perspective of South Asian women.

Dr Corinne Lennox, the Human Rights Consortium's senior lecturer, said: "We hope this will be the first of many 'soup' events that bring together human rights researchers across London and the UK."

But despite all of the marketing, there was no soup. Wrong time of year, apparently. So those who pitched up had to make do with mini bowls of Moroccan tagine, fish and chips, chicken and couscous and, to round off the communal meal, cubes of tiramisu.

Now if they'd advertised it on that basis, I think that a few more students and academics might have come forward.

Next time, though, it probably really will be soup that's on offer.

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