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Dean's Welcome

I would like to extend a very warm welcome to the 2024 Arts Week. This is the twelfth year in which we have hosted this celebration of the creativity and intellectual endeavour of what is now the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, and our engagement with Arts research and practice beyond our own institution. It is a pleasure to welcome you whether you are attending in-person in Bloomsbury or joining us for one of our exciting online events.

All of our events are innovative and designed to give you some unexpected and challenging insights into the Arts across a broad range of disciplines and topics and they encompass walks, talks, workshops, screenings and more. I can’t mention them all here, so I’ll just single out a few that have caught my eye, involving our staff and students. On 7 May please join us for a research showcase, ‘Cracking Windows / Passo Veneziana’, in which Birkbeck students Olivia Hamblett and Grace Higgins Brown will discuss their experience of working at the British Pavilion during the 2023 Biennale Architettura. The same day, Wes Brown will be reading from his book, Breaking Kayfabe, in conversation with Julia Bell. We will also be hosting a BBC Writers’ Masterclass on 9 May, with Simon Nelson. On 10 May we’ll be celebrating the launch of two new books on the League of Nations, and to hear from experts as part of a very timely discussion chaired by Jessica Reinisch. The same day we will look forward to a staged reading of a new Ukrainian play, in translation, with a discussion with the playwright Polina Polozhentseva.

In showcasing our work, Arts Week gives an insight into how some of the research in the Faculty and its Schools that contributed to our success in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework (the national exercise that assesses academic research across all disciplines) is being taken forward and what new projects we and our collaborators are working on. In REF 2021 English Language and Literature at Birkbeck was ranked second in the country (and first in London), with 72% of research rated 4* (the highest grade). History of Art and Film, Media and Cultural Studies together contributed to the Art and Design submission, coming fourth in the country (and second in London), with 69% of their research rated 4*. History, along with Classics and Archaeology, was ranked 8th nationally, also with 63% of the return ranked as world-leading.

Our colleagues in Modern Languages and Applied Linguistics also did well with 76% of their research ranked in the highest 4* and 3* categories. Arts Week is a therefore celebration of the breadth and depth of the research in our Faculty, and the contribution which our research makes to society and the challenges it faces today and in the future. We are committed to embedding research in our teaching, so that our students benefit from being taught about society’s most topical and pressing issues by some of the country’s leading academics.

Whichever of our events you choose to attend, I hope you will be inspired by the work that we, our colleagues and collaborators do.

Professor Matthew Davies, Executive Dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences and Professor of Urban History.