Birkbeck, University of London (formally, Birkbeck College), is a public research university located in Bloomsbury, London, England, and a constituent college of the federal University of London. Established in 1823 as the London Mechanics' Institute by its founder, Sir George Birkbeck, and its supporters, Jeremy Bentham, J. C. Hobhouse and Henry Brougham, Birkbeck has been one of the few institutions to specialise in evening higher education.
Birkbeck's main building is based in the Bloomsbury zone of Camden, in Central London, alongside a number of institutions in the same borough. In partnership with University of East London, Birkbeck has an additional large campus in Stratford, next to the Theatre Royal.
Birkbeck offers over 200 undergraduate and postgraduate programmes that can be studied either part-time or full-time, though nearly all lectures are given in the evening. Birkbeck's academic activities are organised into five constituent faculties which are subdivided into nineteen departments. It also offers many continuing education courses leading to certificates and diplomas, foundation degrees, and short courses. Research at Birkbeck in 11 subject areas is rated as ‘internationally excellent’ and ‘world leading’ while over 90 percent of Birkbeck academics are research-active. Birkbeck, being part of the University of London, shares the University's academic standards and awards University of London degrees. In common with the other University of London colleges, Birkbeck has also secured its own independent degree awarding powers, which were confirmed by the Privy Council in July 2012. The quality of degrees awarded by Birkbeck was confirmed by the UK Quality Assurance Agency following institutional audits in 2005 and 2010.
Birkbeck has been shortlisted by the Times Higher Education Awards as University of the Year. Birkbeck is a member of academic organisations such as the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the European University Association. The university's Centre for Brain Function and Development was awarded The Queen's Anniversary Prize for its brain research in 2005.
Birkbeck has produced many notable alumni in the fields of science, law, politics, economics, literature, media, art and drama. Alumni include four Nobel laureates, numerous political leaders, members of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and a British prime minister among its former students and faculty.
|Birkbeck, University of London|
Logo of Birkbeck, University of London
|Latin: Collegium Birkbeck Londiniense|
|Motto||In nocte consilium|
Motto in English
|"Advice comes over night" (Tomorrow is a new day) |
|Established||1823 – London Mechanics' Institute|
1866 – Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution
1907 – Birkbeck College
1920 – Constituent College of University of London
|Chancellor||HRH The Princess Royal (University of London)|
|Vice-Chancellor||Sir Adrian Smith (University of London)|
|Master||David S Latchman|
|Affiliations||University of London|
Association of Commonwealth Universities
European University Association
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
In 1823, Sir George Birkbeck, a physician and graduate of the University of Edinburgh and an early pioneer of adult education, founded the then "London Mechanics' Institute" at a meeting at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand. More than two thousand people attended. However the idea was not universally popular and some accused Birkbeck of "scattering the seeds of evil."
In 1825, two years later, the institute moved to the Southampton Buildings on Chancery Lane. In 1830, the first female students were admitted. In 1858, changes to the University of London's structure resulting in an opening up of access to the examinations for its degree. The Institute became the main provider of part-time university education.
In 1866, the Institute changed its name to the Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution.
In 1904, Birkbeck Students' Union was established
In 1907, Birkbeck's name was shortened to "Birkbeck College". In 1913, a review of the University of London (which had been restructured in 1900) successfully recommended that Birkbeck become a constituent college, although the outbreak of the First World War delayed this until 1920. The Royal Charter was granted in 1926.
During the Second World War, Birkbeck was the only central University of London college not to relocate out of the capital. In 1941, the library suffered a direct hit during The Blitz but teaching continued. During the war the College organised lunch time extramural lectures for the public given by, among others, Joad, Pevsner and Harold Nicolson.
In 1952, the college moved to its present location in Malet Street.
In 2002, the college was re-styled Birkbeck, University of London. In 2003, following a major redevelopment, its Malet Street building was reopened by the Chancellor of the University of London, HRH The Princess Royal.
In 2006, Birkbeck announced that it had been granted £5 million by the Higher Education Funding Council for England to expand its provision into east London, working with the University of East London. The partnership was formally launched on 21 November 2006 and is called Birkbeck Stratford.
Birkbeck is one of the largest colleges of the University of London not to award its own degrees. Although it has held its own degree awarding powers since 2012, Birkbeck has chosen to hold these in reserve, preferring to award University of London degrees.
In 1876, the London Society for the Extension of University Education was founded, boosting the aims of encouraging working people to undertake higher education. In 1988, the Department of Extra-Mural Studies of the University of London was incorporated into Birkbeck, becoming at first the Centre for Extramural Studies. In 1903, it became the Department of Extra-Mural Studies of the University of London and it was integrated into Birkbeck in 1988 as the School of Continuing Education. In 2009, the Faculty of Lifelong Learning was incorporated into the main College structure.
Birkbeck is principally located between Malet Street and Woburn Square in Bloomsbury, with a number of institutes, teaching hospitals, and scientific laboratories on nearby streets. The Friends House is also partially owned by Birkbeck Law School. The School of Arts, including the Department of English & Humanities, is housed in Virginia Woolf's former Gordon Square residence in Bloomsbury. Other notable former residents of this house include John Maynard Keynes, Vanessa Bell, and Lydia Lopokova. The Gordon Square building includes the Birkbeck Cinema and the Peltz Gallery.
Many Birkbeck classes are taught at other locations around the Bloomsbury area, due to a combination of Birkbeck's widening participation strategy to make higher education accessible and also because nearly all classes on one day are taught at the same time, resulting in heavy competition for limited space.
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (BIR) was established in 2004, with the renowned but controversial Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek appointed as International Director. According to its website, the Institute aims to, among other things, "engage with important public issues of our time through a series of open debates, lectures, seminars and conferences" and "foster and promote a climate of interdisciplinary research and collaboration among academics and researchers". The launch of the Institute wasn't without controversy, provoking an article in The Observer newspaper titled "What have intellectuals ever done for the world?" which criticised the ostensible irrelevance and elitism of contemporary public intellectuals. The current director of the institute is Costas Douzinas.
2004 also saw Birkbeck enter into a research and teaching collaboration with the Institute of Education, jointly founding the London Knowledge Lab. This interdisciplinary research institute brings together social scientists and computer scientists to address research questions about technology and learning.
Meanwhile, the London Consortium graduate school — a collaboration between Birkbeck, the Tate Galleries, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Architectural Association, and, until 1999, the British Film Institute – has been running since the mid-1990s, offering masters and doctoral degrees in the interdisciplinary humanities and cultural studies, resourced and jointly taught by all the participating institutions. Its permanent and adjunct faculty include figures such as Tom McCarthy, Colin MacCabe, Laura Mulvey, Steven Connor, Marina Warner, Juliet Mitchell, Stuart Hall, Roger Scruton, Salman Rushdie, Tilda Swinton as well as Slavoj Žižek. Its current chair is Anthony Julius.
Since 2003, when Professor David Latchman of UCL became Master of the Birkbeck, he has forged closer relations between these two University of London colleges, and personally maintains departments at both. Joint research centres include the UCL/Birkbeck Institute for Earth and Planetary Sciences, the UCL/Birkbeck/IoE Centre for Educational Neuroscience, the UCL/Birkbeck Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, and the Birkbeck-UCL Centre for Neuroimaging.
Science research at Birkbeck has a notable tradition. Physicist David Bohm who made notable contributions to the theory of Quantum mechanics was professor of Theoretical Physics from 1961–87, Nobel Laureates Aaron Klug and Derek Barton both worked in the faculty of crystallography and eminent physicist Roger Penrose at the Department of Physics. Birkbeck is part of the Institute of Structural Molecular Biology, which includes the Bloomsbury Centre for Structural biology, established in 1998. This is a collaborative venture between Birkbeck College and University College London and is a leading academic centre for translating gene sequences and determining protein structure and function. It also includes the Bloomsbury Centre for Bioinformatics, a collaborative venture also between Birkbeck College and University College London for research into Bioinformatics, Genomics, Systems Biology, GRID computing and Text mining.
|Times / Sunday Times (2019)||122|
|British Government assessment|
|Teaching Excellence Framework||Silver|
Birkbeck is often not included in current rankings of British universities league tables, since these are usually based on the statistics for full-time undergraduates, although the university participated in domestic rankings for the first time in 2018 guides. Birkbeck was ranked 13th in The Guardian's 2001 Research Assessment Exercise and 26th in Times Higher Education's equivalent table. In the 2008 RAE results, Birkbeck ranked in the top 25% of UK multi-faculty Higher Education Institutions. The RAE rated the quality of research in a range of subjects at 159 Higher Education Institutions in the UK. Birkbeck submissions from Earth Sciences, Psychology, History, Classics and Archaeology and History of Art, Film and Visual Media were rated in the top five nationally. In REF2014, half of Birkbeck's submissions were rated in the top 20 nationally, and eight submissions received 100% ranking for Research Environment. 73% of Birkbeck's research was rated "world-leading" (4*) or "internationally excellent" (3*).
The 2010 QS World University Rankings placed Birkbeck at 93rd in the world for Arts and Humanities. In the same year the Times Higher Education World University Rankings placed Birkbeck 152nd overall. In 2011 QS World University Rankings placed Birkbeck at 111th for Arts & Humanities. In the 2011–12 Times Higher Education World University Rankings Birkbeck was ranked 149th in the world. The data also show that Birkbeck is ranked 23rd in the UK. In the 2012–13 Times Higher Education World University Rankings Birkbeck is ranked 200th in the world and 31st in the United Kingdom. In the QS ranking Birkbeck climbed up two places to 109th for Arts and Humanities.
In 2010, Birkbeck was shortlisted for the prestigious Times Higher Education University of the Year Award.
The University consists of five schools that comprise a total of 19 diverse academic departments, which are:
The Guardian's 2001 RAE subject ranking league tables put Birkbeck in the top 10 for research in the following subjects: English (1st), History (1st), History of Art (2nd), Philosophy (6th), Psychology (5th), Iberian and Latin American Languages (1st), Earth Sciences (4th), Law (9th), Economics and Econometrics (5th), and Politics and International Studies (5th).
Birkbeck's School of English and Humanities was rated 5* in the 2001 Research Assessment Exercise, as were the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, the School of Crystallography (2009 became part of the Department of Biological Sciences), and the section for Spanish and Latin American studies within the School of Languages, Linguistics and Culture, and the Dept. of Psychological Sciences in the School of Psychology—ranking these departments with, and in some cases above, Oxford and Cambridge University.
As Birkbeck primarily offers part-time courses, often in the evenings, student life is less centralised than in other universities. It does not offer its own halls of residence, for instance, though Birkbeck students do have access to the University of London's intercollegiate halls.
Birkbeck Students' Union offers a number of societies for students, as well as a football club that competes in the University of London league. It also provides student representation and support, a student magazine, a student shop and a bar. Birkbeck students also have access to the societies and clubs of the Student Central, whose building adjoins Birkbeck's Bloomsbury site.
The college arms include a lamp and an owl, symbolising the college's motto 'In nocte consilium' (translated as "study by night"). Because of this, the student magazine was called Lamp and Owl. Its name was changed in 2010 to 'Lampanelle', and after an 18-month hiatus returned in February 2012 with the name having reverted to The Lamp And Owl.
The original name of the institution was the London Mechanics' Institute. For this reason, the annual literary magazine published by the Birkbeck MA Creative Writing programme is called The Mechanics' Institute Review.
The college has entered teams in University Challenge over the years, with varied results. In 1997, a team scored just 40 points – at that stage the lowest score since the series had been revived, though this has since been broken by New Hall, Cambridge, the University of Bradford and the University Challenge: The Professionals team of Members of Parliament. 1998 saw a reversal of fortunes when Birkbeck reached the final, losing to Magdalen College, Oxford. In 2003, Birkbeck again reached the final, facing another team of mature students from Cranfield University. On this occasion, Birkbeck won.
Birkbeck's School of Law actively competes in national and international mooting competitions of simulated court proceedings. At the 2012 Inner Temple Inter-Varsity Moot Birkbeck went through to the quarter-finals, being selected as one of the final eight teams of the 32 UK Universities (64 teams) which competed for the prestigious Inner Temple award. In 2012 Birkbeck was entered in the prized University of Oxford-based Price Moot Competition and finished within the top 15 Law Schools in the competition. The competition draws Law Schools from universities all around the world and focuses on international law.
Andrew James Henderson (born September 8, 1950) is a palm-systematist and Curator of the Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanical Garden. He has authored taxonomic descriptions of 140 species, subspecies and varieties of plants, especially in the palm familyAntony Beevor
Sir Antony James Beevor, (born 14 December 1946) is an English military historian. He has published several popular histories on the Second World War and the 20th century in general.Daniele Archibugi
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Helen Ruth Saibil FRS FMedSci (born August 12, 1950) is a Canadian-British molecular biologist and Professor of Structural Biology at the Department of Crystallography of Birkbeck, University of London. Her research is largely focuses on molecular chaperones and protein misfolding.
Saibil completed undergraduate studies at McGill University in 1971 followed by a PhD at King's College London, receiving her thesis in 1977 entitled Diffraction studies of retinal rod outer segment membranes. Saibil went on to work at CEA Grenoble and the University of Oxford. Saibil has been at Birkbeck since 1989, and was elected to the Royal Society in 2006 and the Academy of Medical Sciences in 2009.Ian Christie (film scholar)
Ian Christie (born 1945) is a British film scholar. He has written several books including studies of the works of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, Martin Scorsese and the development of cinema. He is a regular contributor to Sight & Sound magazine and a frequent broadcaster. Christie is Professor of Film and Media History at Birkbeck, University of London.Jay Belsky
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Jerry White is a British historian who has specialised in the history of London. From 1997 onwards he has worked on a trilogy of books about London from 1700 to 2000.Joanna Bourke
Joanna Bourke FBA (born 1963) is an historian and academic. She is professor of history at Birkbeck, University of London.London Consortium
From 1993 to 2012, The London Consortium was a graduate school in the UK offering multidisciplinary Masters and Doctoral programs in the humanities and cultural studies at the University of London. It was administered by Birkbeck, University of London, one of the constituent colleges of the University of London, and fell under the Humanities list of courses at Birkbeck.
The London Consortium was a collaborative program composed of Birkbeck, the Architectural Association, Institute of Contemporary Arts, the Science Museum and the Tate Gallery. As of 2013, The London Consortium exists solely as a legacy partnership between the constituent institutions for the benefit of the remaining PhD students until the completion of their dissertations.London Knowledge Lab
London Knowledge Lab was a transhumanist research centre in Bloomsbury, London. It was founded in 2004 as a collaboration between the Institute of Education and Birkbeck, University of London. It was an interdisciplinary research centre, bringing together over 50 researchers from both social sciences and computer science backgrounds. The Institute of Education and Birkbeck announced the end of their collaboration in February 2016. Both institutions are continuing the work in their own separate Knowledge Lab research centres.Malet Street
Malet Street is a street in Bloomsbury, in the London Borough of Camden, Central London, England. It runs between Torrington Place and the British Museum, parallel to Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road.Nikolaus Wachsmann
Nikolaus Daniel Wachsmann (born 1971 in Munich) is a professor of modern European history in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, University of London.Paul Hirst
Paul Quentin Hirst (; 20 May 1946, Holbeton – 17 June 2003, London) was a British sociologist and political theorist. He became Professor of Social Theory at Birkbeck, University of London in 1985 and held the post until his death from a stroke and brain haemorrhage.Romesh Ranganathan
Romesh Ranganathan (born 27 March 1978) is a British stand-up comedian and actor. He was nominated for Best Newcomer at the 2013 Edinburgh Comedy Awards. He has made numerous appearances on comedy panel shows, and in 2016 he co-presented It's Not Rocket Science, alongside Rachel Riley and Ben Miller. He is known for his deadpan comedy.He was formerly a regular panellist on The Apprentice: You're Fired!, Play to the Whistle and The Museum of Curiosity. In 2016, he completed his first major tour, Irrational Live, in which he performed in large venues such as the Hammersmith Apollo. Ranganathan will also join A League of Their Own as a regular panellist in 2018, replacing Jack Whitehall.Ronald Herniman
Ronald George Herniman (17 August 1905 – 22 January 1998) was Archdeacon of Barnstaple from 1970 to 1988.
He was educated at Birkbeck College. He served in the RAF during World War II. Ordained in 1953, he began his career with a curacy at Christ Church, Cockfosters. After this he was Director of Philosophical Studies at Oak Hill Theological College from 1955 to 1961. He was the Rector of the Exe Valley Group of Churches from then until 1972; and after that of Shirwell with Loxhore. His widow, Grace, died in 2010.Simon Bird
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Steven Kevin Connor, FBA (born 11 February 1955) is a British literary scholar. Since 2012, he has been the Grace 2 Professor of English in the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge. He was formerly the academic director of the London Consortium and professor of modern literature and theory at Birkbeck, University of London.Toby Litt
Toby Litt is an English writer and academic in the Department of English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London.Torrington Square
Torrington Square is a square in Bloomsbury, owned by the University of London, located in central London, England. Today it is a square in name only, most of the houses having been demolished by the university. The southern end of the square is dominated by the University of London's Senate House. Birkbeck College and the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) are located here. To the southwest is Malet Street and to the southeast is Russell Square. The square is the site of a weekly farmers' market, held on Thursdays.