Championing debate: Birkbeck’s new membership scheme

Be Birkbeck is open to all and intended to involve, inspire and inform individuals about debate and research

Be Birkbeck is a new initiative which is open to all and intended to involve, inspire and inform individuals about university debate and research. The scheme, launched this month by Birkbeck, enables members to access learning events at a world-class university.

Leading academics will address controversies in the arts, science, law, social science, and business during the first six lectures. The lectures will be designed with broader educational participation in mind: pre-lecture reading will be available to members as well as online discussion groups following each lecture. Membership costs start from only £5 a month.

Rationale for Be Birkbeck

Be Birkbeck is a response to the ways in which university education has been become narrowly defined as providing qualifications. Many people want to explore new areas, think about new ideas and find out about the latest research without signing up for a qualification, be it a degree or some other certification. The scheme will enable these individuals to be part of Birkbeck’s academic community, to engage with like-minded people and to have the opportunity to discuss and debate ideas.

Professor Miriam Zukas, Executive Dean of Birkbeck’s School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy, is leading the development of Be Birkbeck. She said: “It’s important that universities engage with citizens, and this involves much more than teaching and giving qualifications. Be Birkbeck is about constructive debate, enabling people to ask better questions and to make more informed judgments in the broadest possible sense.

“This is about redefining the way in which universities engage with communities. It’s about the contribution of universities to civic society.”

2013 is the 190th anniversary of George Birkbeck’s establishment of Birkbeck. To celebrate what was, at the time, a controversial and innovative decision to offer education to working Londoners, the first lecture series will examine controversies in a range of disciplines taught at Birkbeck.

Be Birkbeck lectures

The following lectures will be delivered by leading Birkbeck academics this year:

  • The Brave New World of DNA: Professor David Latchman CBE, Master of Birkbeck, 30 April
  • What is pain? Controversies in the history of medicine: Professor Joanna Bourke, June
  • Why economists cannot forecast: Professor Ron Smith, July
  • Kafka’s novellas: Can there be a rule of law? Professor Peter Fitzpatrick (later in 2013)
  • Is there life elsewhere in the universe? Professor Ian Crawford (later in 2013)
  • Scandal: Controversies, riots and protest at the theatre: Dr Aoife Monks (later in 2013)

Be Birkbeck exemplifies Birkbeck’s unique mission to provide part-time higher education to meet the changing educational, cultural, personal and career needs of adults, in particular those who live or work in the London region. The scheme shares Birkbeck’s research and expertise through events, partnerships with other organisations, and through the promotion of civic debate.