Birkbeck is a world-class research and teaching institution, a vibrant centre of academic excellence and London’s only specialist provider of evening higher education.
The history of Birkbeck
On the evening of 11 November 1823, around 2000 people flocked to the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand to witness Dr George Birkbeck and his supporters, including Jeremy Bentham, JC Hobhouse MP and H Brougham MP, discuss education for the working men of London. From this grew the London Mechanics’ Institute, dedicated to the education of working people, formally created on 2 December at the same location.
This foundation meant that, for the first time, artisans and craftsmen could learn about science, art and economics – a concept so controversial that Dr Birkbeck was accused of 'scattering the seeds of evil'. Undeterred, Dr Birkbeck called his supporters to action: 'Now is the time for the universal benefits of the blessings of knowledge.' Many donors were convinced by the important mission and enough money was raised to open the College and push forward a radical new vision. Seven years later, the Institution took a further radical step by becoming one of the first colleges to admit women as students.
By 1858, Birkbeck was the first choice for students who wanted a university education but who could not afford to study full-time. This role was formalised in 1920, when Birkbeck officially became part of the University of London.
The principal aims of Birkbeck are to:
- Provide part-time higher education courses which meet the changing educational, cultural, personal and career needs of adults; in particular those who live or work in the London region.
- Enable adult students from diverse social and educational backgrounds to participate in our courses.
- Maintain and develop excellence in research and provide the highest quality research training in all our subject areas.
- Make available the results of research, and the expertise acquired, through teaching, publication, partnerships with other organisations and the promotion of civic and public debate.
The key supporting objectives are to:
- Offer our students an integrated range of flexible, research-led courses across all levels of provision.
- Achieve and maintain strong research cultures in support of interdisciplinary work in each school and faculty.
- Ensure the College provides an inclusive working and learning environment for its students and staff so that all may develop to their full potential.
- Develop the College’s capacity to respond rapidly to new and changing opportunities in higher and further education.
- Develop sustainable partnerships within the London region and beyond.
Birkbeck, University of London is an exempt charity under the terms of the Charities Act. Under the Charities Act 2011, universities are supervised by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) as principal regulator, who are charged with ensuring the Universities fulfil their obligations under Charity Law.
Birkbeck is proud to have a number of strategically important partnerships with some of the world’s leading universities.
All of Birkbeck’s international partnerships have been designed to allow the free exchange of ideas and to promote training for academic staff, whilst progression agreements have been articulated to allow overseas students to combine their studies with a degree at Birkbeck.
- University of Sao Paolo
- Hong Kong Shue Yan University
Birkbeck also has agreements with the following global universities:
- Northwestern Polytechnical University, Xian
- Columbia University
- The Federal University of Goias
- The State University of Rio de Janeiro
- Villanova University
- University of Pretoria
Birkbeck's governance structures ensure that it has effective strategic leadership and executive management to fulfil its mission as a leading research and evening teaching institution.
- Governors: The Governing Body, referred to in the College as Governors, is collectively responsible for overseeing all of Birkbeck’s activities.
- Committees: Governors and College management are supported by a number of committees. Their role is to oversee and advise on specific areas of activity and, in certain cases, to exercise powers delegated to them by the Governing Body.
This school offers programs in: