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Nearly 1000 students set to graduate this week

The ceremonies take place in Birkbeck’s 200th year, adding extra significance to the celebrations.

A group of students stand at the foot of a staircase wearing graduation ropes and caps. They smile. At the top of the staircase, behind them, are large letters spelling out BBK that are lit up.

This week will see a cohort of nearly 1000 undergraduate students graduate from their studies. The celebrations will unfold across seven ceremonies spanning three days, commencing from Tuesday 5 to Thursday 7 December. 

Senate House, the distinguished headquarters of the University of London nestled beside Birkbeck’s Bloomsbury campus, will be the impressive backdrop to the ceremonies as students, their friends, families, and Birkbeck staff come together for the festivities. For those unable to attend in person, the ceremonies will also be accessible via live-stream on the university’s website. 

Professor David Latchman, who will retire as Birkbeck's Vice-Chancellor at the end of the year remarked, “These will be the last graduation ceremonies I oversee in my role of Vice-Chancellor at Birkbeck and it’s with enormous pride that I offer my congratulations to all graduates who have exhibited unwavering dedication to study and personal growth. This cohort of graduating students is testament to Birkbeck’s transformative impact over its 200-year commitment to changing lives since its establishment in 1823. It has been an honour to be part of that history.” 

Adding another layer of distinction to the ceremonies, Professor Joanna Bourke, College Orator, will pay tribute to the contributions of Birkbeck Fellows. Each Fellow, recognized through the annual election by the College Governors, has demonstrated exceptional service or achieved distinction in their respective fields or in connection with Birkbeck. 

December’s ceremonies will shine a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of the following Fellows:  

Claire Callender 

Claire Callender OBE is Emerita Professor of Higher Education Policy at Birkbeck. An expert on student finances in higher education, Professor Callender has written widely on the topic. Prior to joining Birkbeck in 2008, she was Professor of Social Policy at London Southbank University and was a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University. In 2010, she was appointed Professor of Higher Education Studies at University College London alongside her role at Birkbeck. At UCL, she is a Deputy Director of the ESRC-funded Centre for Global Higher Education working in partnership with the universities of Oxford, Lancaster and Bath.   

Professor Callender has undertaken research for some of the most significant inquiries into student funding in the UK. She has been called upon to give evidence to various House of Commons and House of Lords Select Committees and worked closely with policymakers. In 2003 she was appointed a member of the Academy of Learned Societies for the Social Sciences and in 2011 selected as a Fellow of the Society for Research into Higher Education. Professor Callender was awarded a New Century Fulbright Scholarship in 2007. In 2017, she received an OBE for services to higher education. Through her research, she continues to try to shape higher education policy. 

Lynda Nead 

Lynda Nead is an art historian, curator and broadcaster, currently holding the Pevsner Chair of the History of Art at Birkbeck. Her research focuses on British art, media, and culture, often focusing on gender. She is a Fellow of the British Academy, the Royal Historical Society, and the Academia Europaea. 

Prior to joining Birkbeck in 1986, Professor Nead taught History of Art at the University of Leicester and the University of Kent. She has also held positions as a Visiting Professor at Gresham College in London and as Moore Distinguished Professor at the California Institute of Technology. 

Professor Nead participates in the work of museums and galleries, serving on boards such as the Museum of London Academic Advisory Board, the English Heritage Blue Plaques Panel, and the Modern and Contemporary Advisory Committee London’s National Gallery. She was a Trustee of the Victoria & Albert Museum and is currently a Trustee of the Holburne Museum in Bath, as well as the Campaign for the Arts, a charitable organization dedicated to promoting access to arts and culture. 

In recognition of her academic contributions, Professor Nead was elected a Member of the Academia Europaea in 2013 (MAE), a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society in 2017 (FRHistS), and a Fellow of the British Academy in 2018 (FBA). 

Ron Smith 

Ron Smith is Emeritus Professor of Applied Economics at Birkbeck. Prior to joining Birkbeck in 1976 to teach statistics and econometrics, he taught at Cambridge University and has also been a visiting Professor at London Business School and the University of Colorado at Boulder.   

His research interests focused on econometrics, defence economics and political economics and has published extensively on these topics. His 2009 book Military Economics: the interaction of power and money was shortlisted for the Duke of Westminster’s medal for military literature. In 2011 he was awarded the Lewis Fry Richardson lifetime achievement award for contributions to the scientific study of militarised conflict by the European Consortium of Political Research, and is a Fellow of the International Association for Applied Econometrics.  

Professor Smith has acted as consultant to Frontier Economics and the UK National Audit Office on defence projects. He is an Associate Fellow of RUSI and been on the editorial boards of Defence and Peace Economics, Journal of Peace Research, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Cambridge Journal of Economics, International Review of Applied Economics and Applied Economics and the Journal of Applied Econometrics. 

Sarah Hart  

Sarah Hart is Professor Emerita of Mathematics at Birkbeck. She studied at Oxford and Manchester universities, gaining her PhD in 2000. Postdoctoral research and teaching followed, including a prestigious Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Fellowship, before being appointed as lecturer at Birkbeck in 2004. In 2013, she became Professor of Mathematics and served in management roles for Birkbeck, including as Head of Mathematics and Statistics, Assistant Dean, and Programme Director for the MSc Mathematics. She is the first woman Professor of Geometry at Gresham College, and was appointed in 2020.   

Professor Hart’s academic publications mostly cover the area of pure mathematics known as group theory, which has many applications, for example in coding theory and cryptography. She is actively involved in the British Society for the History of Mathematics and has served a three-year term as President of the Society from 2021-2023.  

Professor Hart is a sought-after public speaker, and many of her public lectures and talks in schools cover her interest in the links between mathematics, culture and creativity. Her 2023 book, Once Upon a Prime: the Wondrous Connections between Mathematics and Literature, was positively reviewed in press, including The Sunday Times, The Observer, The Economist, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal. 

Trevor Fenner 

Trevor Fenner is Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at Birkbeck. After graduating from the University of Cambridge with an undergraduate degree in Mathematics and a postgraduate in Computer Science, he joined Birkbeck and was awarded his PhD while teaching. He continued at Birkbeck until his retirement in 2022, apart from a year at Queen’s University, Ontario. 

His research interests are in the areas of algorithms and data structures, particularly combinatorial algorithms and graph algorithms, random graphs, and graph reconstruction. He is a member of the Algorithms Research Group. Professor Fenner has also published papers on about algorithms for problems in bioinformatics, thematic clustering in a domain taxonomy, stochastic models for web dynamics, bibliometrics, heuristic game playing, numerical linear algebra, combinatorial matrix and relational database theories.  

His teaching at Birkbeck included Data Structures, File Organisation and Algorithms, and Programming Language Paradigms, Object-oriented Programming, Functional Programming, Algorithms and Programming, Graph-theoretic Techniques, Numerical Analysis, and Machine Codes and Assemblers. His administrative roles included Departmental Chair, Programme Director, and Exam Board Chair. Active in the Birkbeck branch of the University and College Union for over 40 years, he was secretary, treasurer, on the Staff Joint Committee and the Framework Negotiation Group. 

Mike Oaksford  

Mike Oaksford is Emeritus Professor of Cognitive Science at Birkbeck. After receiving his PhD from the University of Edinburgh, he was a research fellow at the Centre for Cognitive Science, University of Edinburgh before moving to the University of Wales as a lecturer. He was then senior lecturer at Warwick University before moving to Cardiff University as Professor of Experimental Psychology, a post he held until he joined Birkbeck to lead the Department of Psychological Sciences until 2022. Under his leadership, the department was ranked in the top 10 in the UK for research in three consecutive evaluations. 

Professor Oaksford’s research concerns how people reason and construct arguments and how emotions affect people’s reasoning and argumentation. He is one of the founders of Bayesian Cognitive Science, using Bayesian probability theory as a formal tool to model cognitive function. He organised international academic conferences, wrote over 150 papers, and the book Bayesian Rationality together with Nick Chater, with whom he co-edited multiple books.  

In 2002, Professor Oaksford was made a Fellow of the British Psychological Society for “outstanding contributions to psychological research” and was awarded a DSc by Edinburgh University. In 2012, he was appointed Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science for his “sustained outstanding distinguished contributions to the advancement of psychological science.” 

David Latchman 

David Latchman CBE is a geneticist and has been Vice-Chancellor (formerly Master) of Birkbeck since 2003. He graduated with First-Class Honours in Natural Sciences from the University of Cambridge then earned an MA and PhD before holding a post-doctoral research fellowship at Imperial College London. In 1984, he became a lecturer at University College London (UCL), eventually rising to the positions of Professor of Molecular Pathology, and Director of Windeyer Institute of Medical Science at UCL. Subsequently he served as Dean of the Institute of Child Health at UCL and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.  

Research in his laboratory at UCL led to the formation of Biovex, a company whose viral gene therapy product is now used as a life extending treatment in cancer patients with melanoma. In 2003, Professor Latchman assumed the role of Vice-Chancellor at Birkbeck, overseeing its development and advocating for part-time degrees and government support for adult access to higher education. He has used his position to stand against government proposals to cut funding for students. His advocacy has seen further funding for part-time students and universities.   

He has served on various committees, including the London Development Agency, Universities UUK Research Policy Network, National DNA Database Ethics Group, and London First, as well as being Chair of London Higher which represents all London universities. In the 2010 Birthday Honours, Professor Latchman was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to higher education. 

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