Logo of Birkbeck, University of London
|Latin: Collegium Birkbeck Londiniense|
|Motto||Latin: In nocte consilium|
Motto in English
|Advice comes over night (Tomorrow is a new day) |
|Type||Public research university|
|Established||1823 - London Mechanics' Institute |
1866 - Birkbeck Literary and Scientific Institution
1907 - Birkbeck College
|University of London|
|Chancellor||The Princess Royal (University of London)|
|Sir Adrian Smith (University of London)|
|Master||David S Latchman|
|Affiliations||Association of Commonwealth Universities|
European University Association
Royal Academy of Dramatic Art
Birkbeck, University of London (abbreviated BBK) 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 is one of the few universities to specialise in evening higher education in the United Kingdom.
Birkbeck's main building is based in the Bloomsbury zone of the London Borough of Camden in Central London. 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. 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 is a member of academic organisations such as the Association of Commonwealth Universities and the European University Association. The university is also a member of the Screen Studies Group, London. 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 is ranked within the top 350 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 and QS World University Rankings 2020. Birkbeck has been shortlisted by the Times Higher Education Awards as University of the Year.[when?] The university's Centre for Brain Function and Development was awarded The Queen's Anniversary Prize for its brain research in 2005.
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 university was renamed Birkbeck, University of London. In 2003, following a major redevelopment, its Malet Street building was reopened by the Chancellor of the University of London, 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. It also offers many continuing education courses leading to certificates and diplomas, foundation degrees, and short courses.
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 University consists of five schools that comprise a total of 19 diverse academic departments, which are:
The Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities (BIR) was established in 2004, with the renowned but controversial Slovenian philosopher Slavoj ?i?ek 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 ?i?ek. Its current chair is Anthony Julius.
Since 2003, when 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, UCL/Birkbeck/IoE Centre for Educational Neuroscience, UCL/Birkbeck Institute of Structural and Molecular Biology, and 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 at the Department of crystallography, Derek Barton at the Department of Chemistry together with eminent physicist Roger Penrose and David Bohm at the Department of Physics. Computer scientist Kathleen Booth wrote the first assembly language. 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.
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*).
|Times / Sunday Times (2020)||N/A|
|British Government assessment|
|Teaching Excellence Framework||Silver|
Birkbeck's Centre for Brain Function and Development was awarded The Queen's Anniversary Prize for its brain research in 2005. In 2010, Birkbeck was shortlisted for the Times Higher Education University of the Year Award.
In 2019, the Times Higher Education World University Rankings ranked Birkbeck 85th in the world for Psychology. The university is constantly ranked in the top 100 in the world by QS World University Rankings for English Language & Literature and Philosophy. Internationally, Birkbeck is ranked within the top 350 universities in the world by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2020 and QS World University Rankings 2020.
In 2018, Birkbeck announced that it will withdraw from UK university rankings because their methodologies unfairly penalise it, since "despite having highly-rated teaching and research, other factors caused by its unique teaching model and unrelated to its performance push it significantly down the ratings".
Birkbeck College Students' Union was founded in 1904 and was one of the founding members of the National Union of Students. It was governed by a Council, elected from and responsible to the students. Students initially paid an annual membership fee to join, but students are now automatically registered as members when they enrol onto a course at the college.
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 various sports clubs that compete 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.
Patrick Blackett, professor of physics and Nobel prize winner in Physics 1948
T. S. Eliot, lecturer in English and Nobel prize winner in Literature 1948
Aaron Klug, winner of the 1982 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
Eric Hobsbawm, historian
William Joyce, politician and Nazi propaganda broadcaster
Sir Arthur Wing Pinero, dramatist and stage director
Antony Beevor, military historian
Roger Scruton, philosopher and activist
J. Philippe Rushton, professor and influential researcher on race and crime
Slavoj Zizek, philosopher and International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities
Bear Grylls, adventurer and television presenter