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Next week marks the graduation of over 1,200 students

This year, Birkbeck marks its 200th anniversary, making it extra special for those graduating.

Graduates celebrating at the 2022 Autumn Graduation

An impressive 1,294 postgraduate students are set to graduate next week, with ten ceremonies taking place over four days, from Monday 24 to Thursday 27 April.

Ceremonies will be held in Senate House, the University of London’s headquarters, located next to Birkbeck’s campus in Bloomsbury. Students, their friends and families, and Birkbeck staff will gather for the celebration, with the ceremonies also being live-streamed on the university’s website for people not able to attend in-person.

Professor David Latchman, Vice-Chancellor of Birkbeck, commented: “This year, Birkbeck is commemorating its 200th anniversary, making it extra special for students graduating in such a landmark year in the College’s history. Congratulations to all those graduating, who have shown such dedication to their studies and to furthering themselves. I am proud that Birkbeck continues to change lives in such remarkable ways, and that it has done so ever since its founding in 1823.”

Professor Joanna Bourke, College Orator, will recognise the contribution of four Fellows, by delivering an oration for each individual. Elected annually by the College Governors, the award of a Birkbeck Fellowship recognises individuals who have either given outstanding service to the College or who have attained distinction in their fields or in connection with Birkbeck. 

The Fellows being formally recognised at this April’s ceremonies are: 

Annie Coombes 

Annie E. Coombes is Emerita Professor of Material and Visual Culture in the History of Art Department. Her roles at Birkbeck have included Head of the School of History of Art, Film and Visual Media, overseeing the development of the Birkbeck Cinema and the School's transformation during a period of major restructuring. In 2013 she founded Birkbeck’s Peltz Gallery to foster collaborative interdisciplinary research between artists and academics. During her tenure as Director, the Peltz Gallery developed a reputation for exhibitions engaging critically with challenging political and human rights issues.   

Coombes has been awarded numerous Visiting Professorships internationally, including at the Advanced Cultural Studies Institute of Sweden, at the Australian National University and as Distinguished Mary Jane Crowe Professor of Art History at Northwestern University. 

Her internationally recognised research on the legacies of violent colonial histories in Britain, Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa has resulted in key positions as Expert Advisor to the African Union Human Rights Memorial Project and as member of the Panel of Experts advising on the exhibition and display of the returned Benin ‘bronzes’ to Benin City. She is also an assessor of nominations for UNESCO’s World Heritage Site status. 

Judy Singer

Judy Singer is an Australian sociologist who conceptualized the term ‘Neurodiversity’ in the late 1990s in an Honours Thesis presented at the University of Technology, Sydney. Without her, there would be no talk now about neurodiversity, a concept which has grown exponentially in recent years, influencing academia, education, and work. Her work is cited in thousands of academic papers, doctoral theses, blogs, books and other publications.    

Judy has a long career in community organizing based on her experiences of intersectional disadvantage and discrimination in the areas of disability, gender, and socio-economic class. Identifying as the second of at least three generations of neurodivergent women, she was the founder of the world's first support group for people raised by autistic parents. Judy also became the secretary of Sydney’s largest support group for the parents of autistic children, and was a co-founder of Sydney’s only independent social club for autistic teenagers.  

As a public housing tenant, she has served as a Director of Shelter NSW, Australia’s peak advocacy body for public and affordable housing. Concerned by rising antisemitism, she has also served several terms as an elected member of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies. Since her work finally gained recognition in 2017, she has been fully occupied with advocacy within the neurodiversity discourse. 

Hetan Shah

Hetan Shah graduated from Birkbeck in 2002 and 2003 with a Master’s in Contemporary History and Politics, and then a Postgraduate Certificate in Economics with Mathematical Economics. He is currently chief executive of the British Academy – the UK’s national academy for humanities and social sciences. Prior to this he was chief executive of the Royal Statistical Society for eight years.  

Hetan also holds a number of non-executive roles, He is a board member of Our World in Data, a website bringing together long run data on the world’s greatest challenges, and the Legal Education Foundation, a grant making body seeking to strengthen the justice system. Hetan also serves on the advisory boards for the Bennett Institute at Cambridge University, the Resolution Foundation think tank, and UCL’s Policy Lab. Until recently he was Vice Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute, which focuses on ensuring artificial intelligence and data are used for public good.  

Alongside his role at the British Academy, Hetan is also a visiting professor at Kings College. An advocate for the power of research, Hetan speaks very highly of his experience at Birkbeck and was involved in delivering virtual congratulations to graduates during Covid-19. 

Michael O’Neill

Michael O’Neill is an experienced financial services executive who has led multiple major financial institutions, earning a reputation for successfully turning around businesses experiencing difficulties.    

Born in California, Michael spent much of his early life in Asia and Europe. He graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in European Civilization in 1969 and served as a lieutenant in the Marine Corps between 1969 and 1971. In 1974 he received an MBA from the University of Virginia. Since then, Mike has worked successfully for the financial sector in institutions such as Continental Illinois, Bank of America, Barclays Bank and the Bank of Hawaii.  

Between 2006 and 2008 Michael completed graduate courses in the History of Early Modern Europe at Birkbeck, and in 2009 he joined the board of CitiGroup, the global financial services group. He served as chairman of Citigroup from 2012 to 2019, and is credited with leading the group’s strategic transformation following the global financial crisis.  

Michael is an advocate for post graduate education and supports PhD students in the College’s Department of History, Classics and Archaeology.   

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