Staff applications to the Alumni Innovation Grant

Throughout the year Birkbeck receives donations from alumni and friends to support current students and projects around the College. The aim of the Alumni Innovation Grant is to make an immediate impact on the life of the College and offer the widest possible benefit to students, academic departments and the broader Birkbeck community.

We offer up to £5000 for new projects that will benefit the wider Birkbeck community. Our ideal is to support innovative pilot work that will later qualify for support from elsewhere but we are also happy to support one-off projects. (We are also looking for projects that are widely accessible, rather than focusing on one group.)

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Past projects

Birkbeck Careers and Employability - Disability Project

  • A programme was developed across a series of six seminars addressing a range of key employability issues. Some of these were specific to disabled students and their unique barriers, whilst others sought to tackle more commonplace employability subjects. 
  • Seminar topics included: Confidence Building/Thinking Positively, Disclosure and Identifying the Right Employer, Welfare and Self-Management at Work, Making Applications and Writing CVs.
  • The programme was well received by the participants and provided students with an opportunity to share their experiences with each other in an understanding environment. 'This series of workshops has been really helpful. It’s good to see other students around me and it’s given me the confidence in accepting my disability' (feedback from the programme).
  • The project strengthened relations between Disability Services, and Careers and Employability Service, providing a better service to improve career outcomes for students.

Birkbeck Counselling Service

  • The Counselling Service has worked to use the funds kindly donated by the alumni to contribute to the self-help resources available to students. This is a collection of self-help leaflets in paper and electronic format that students can use in conjunction with counselling, or alone to educate and help themselves to manage emotional or psychological difficulties.  These resources are hugely beneficial for students who need help but are reluctant to access the counselling service, and for students experiencing difficulties during holiday periods.
  • The Self-Help collection was launched in October 2015 and has been featured on the Counselling Service website and in Student News and Staff News. Paper leaflets were dispersed throughout Orientation week and the Mental Health Awareness day as well as through students presenting at the Wellbeing Reception area and from direct contact with counsellors. The electronic resources have been accessed by almost 400 students in 7 months, with noted increases in usage at exam time and in the middle of the second term. 


  • A huge number of Birkbeck students look to use their study as a springboard into other careers. GradCare aims to equip them with up to date skills and strategy to allow them to compete in the marketplace and ease the transition from graduation to career progress.
  • GradCare was offered in February and April 2016 and was promoted online and in print. The programme consisted of six separate workshops spread across three days which aimed to rectify misconceptions around traditional areas of employability which can often be held by mature graduates. A series of key issues were covered, exploring unrealised career potential, identification of key skills and how to maintain focus using a practical job-hunting strategy. With 30 participants over the course of the programme, there was a good mix of students from all the different schools, including a mix of undergraduate and postgraduate.
  • Feedback included: “The programme was very helpful. I feel it has helped increase my confidence and motivated me to be more proactive in applying for jobs. The course content was good too, covering a range of aspects of job searching. It provided a good starting point of what to do and think about when job searching.”

Personal Statement Online Review Service

  • The Personal Statement Online Review Service has been running since January 2017. The service provides feedback to prospective Birkbeck students, helping them to submit stronger applications by offering a review of their personal statement by a Birkbeck sessional lecturer. 
  • The service is anonymous and aims to provide general guidance on style, presentation, grammar and structure of submissions.
  • The review service, which is managed by the Student Engagement team, is available to both UG and PG students – approximately 74% of users are postgraduate students.
  • The 2017-18 enrolment data showed that 85% of all those who used the tool went on to apply to a Birkbeck course. The results suggest that the service has been a valuable addition to our work to support students to apply successfully to Birkbeck. 

PhD Career Development Programme

  • PhD students often struggle to find opportunities to develop their career within academia after their studies for a number a reasons, most commonly because of the lack of lectureship opportunities within their given specialism. This three-day programme worked to bridge the gap from a niche mode of study to considering non-academic/alternative careers, helping to identify the transferable skills they have developed and highlighting their unrealised career potential.
  • Feedback from the workshops emphasised the value the PhD students gained from networking with other PhD students from across the College. Most, if not all, participants mentioned that being in a position to meet other research students and share experiences, was extremely useful. This response has helped the Careers and Employability Team consider online support via the online careers portal for our PhD community and they will be offering a bespoke dashboard and set of resources for these students. 

Public engagement training for postgraduates

  • This project’s aim was to provide public engagement training to current postgraduate students across Birkbeck, to support the retention and student experience of the participants. As a pilot, this project has paved the way for future development of a full training scheme covering all levels of the academic career, as well as providing useful transferable skills for the workplace, developing communication, presentation and influencing skills.
  • Birkbeck’s Public Engagement Officer was able to learn from the external trainer and adapt the training content for a variety of sessions and presentations for research staff and students. This success has led to the increased visibility of the Public Engagement Officer across the College, facilitating additional funding bids, and further shadowing opportunities to observe training at other universities to build on current skills.
  • Establishing links with the trainers has allowed them to have input into the setup of the College’s new Public Engagement Committee. This committee has an important role for developing and implementing the public engagement strategy across Birkbeck and has greatly benefitted from the experience and knowledge of the trainers.
  • Students taking part in the training have already gone on to use their new skills in a number of ways, including applying for funding from the College’s ISSF public engagement fund and running activities at the local Knowledge Quarter’s “Curious?” Festival. With additional cohorts we expect this kind of activity to grow. 

History of Art Exhibition 

  • A grant from the Alumni Fund was used to research, curate and install the exhibition ‘Cultural Sniping: Collaborations in the Jo Spence Memorial Library Archive’, which was part of a year-long programme of events celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Department of History of Art. 
  • The exhibition helped students enhance their studies with a flexible, part-time work placement in the evenings or at weekends. This was particularly beneficial to students with full-time commitments, who are often unable to take advantage of daytime work placement schemes. 
  • This was the first exhibition in the Peltz Gallery curated by MA students, and they also helped organise two related public events. By embedding this work in the curriculum, this project offered an innovative pedagogical experience. 
  • All of the students involved felt the experience enhanced their CV, especially as the project gave them greater curatorial opportunities and responsibilities that a usual museum work placement would offer. 
  • The exhibition was visited by a number of curators, including from the Wellcome and from the National Portrait Gallery. It prompted HENI, an arts-service firm, to develop one of their HENI Talks on the work of Jo Spence

Emotional Resilience and Wellbeing at University 

  • Run in collaboration with the YMCA, the 'Mind Body Matters' project offered a six-week programme of twice-weekly exercise classes for students. 
  • The classes contributed to mental and physical wellbeing, promoted emotional resilience, strengthened coping skills, and increased self-esteem and social skills. Two important aims were to prevent the crises that can cause students to drop out and to support distressed students who are reluctant to seek counselling. 
  • All of the students felt that attending the exercise classes had strengthened their coping skills and promoted their self-esteem. All students indicated they had learned new skills to address stress and anxiety, reduce their symptoms and increase their mental wellbeing. One of the students said, 'I really like the exercise programme offered and it is great that the mental health team at Birkbeck recognise the value of exercise for people who experience mental health related issues'.