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Corporate statements

Birkbeck statement (2 September 2021)

Birkbeck is proud of the value that the diversity of our students and staff bring to College life. We are committed to creating an environment where diversity is celebrated, and people are treated fairly and with respect.

We are aware that some members of the Birkbeck and wider community are diametrically opposed to the personal views and work of one of our staff and we recognise the anger and anxiety that this has caused.

The views of individual members of staff employed at Birkbeck should not be taken to represent the views of the College and the College community.

As an academic institution, our Charter and Statutes guarantee academic freedom within the law, despite the painful and difficult choices to which this can lead. While individual members of staff are free to express their personal views, provided they do so within the law, we have high standards of mutual respect and conduct, and policies that set out our standards of behaviour.

We also have formal processes through our Dignity at Work and Study policy for students and staff to raise issues and concerns and we investigate and respond to them when they do. Where complaints have been received, investigated and actioned, we are unable to comment on specific outcomes. Should specific complaints be received in the future through this route, these will be fully and fairly investigated in line with our processes.

We recognise that we still have some way to go to achieve our aims and goals relating to equality and diversity and are committed to continuing our work to do so.

This includes:

  • through reaching nationally recognised standards relating to race, gender and disability, and improving our performance against those we have reached
  • through following up our research into why some groups of students tend to do less well than others with measures to address this
  • through actively supporting staff and student networks related to protected characteristics.

Statement on Afghanistan: Birkbeck stands in solidarity with all those affected by the crisis in Afghanistan (24 August 2021)

Birkbeck is working with a range of partner organisations to do all we can to support Afghan scholars and students trying to continue their education and work.

Birkbeck will be working to do everything we can to help forced migrants from Afghanistan build a new life as they arrive in the UK. With our Compass programme already acknowledged as a national leader in supporting forced migrants through education, we are uniquely placed to assist.

Because of our Compass Project, Birkbeck is recognised across the UK as a pioneer for its work with forced migrants. We are the only university in London to have secured University of Sanctuary status.

The Universities of Sanctuary have issued the following statement: "We are deeply concerned about the lives of the many people now at risk in Afghanistan, including many Afghan academics, scholars, and students trying to continue their education and work. Please support the actions at the end of this statement.

"It is difficult to imagine the plight of those at risk both in Afghanistan and in the UK, the emotional and financial hardship some of the scholars may be facing, and the uncertainty about their families or friends still in Afghanistan. Thousands of people have tried to escape on flights out of the country and many more have already crossed borders.

"In the UK, there are currently over 2500 Afghan people still awaiting refugee status. Many students may need to resort to claiming asylum to ask for protection and might lose their funding and face serious disruptions to their studies and their lives."

Universities of Sanctuary believe:

  • The UK Government must improve its commitment to refugee resettlement and commit to hastening a sizable (at least 20,000 in the first year) resettlement process in the immediate term.
  • No Afghan students shall be subject to any restrictions or pause to their education in relation to their student visas or UK scholarships. Specifically:
    • The UK Government must speed up its evacuation and visa processing of Afghan Chevening scheme recipients.
    • Universities should ensure that current students who are unable to pay fees are adequately supported and able to continue their studies.
    • The UK Government should ensure that a funding scheme is set up to support Afghan students who are unable to pay their fees.
  • All Afghan students and staff in our universities who are currently in Afghanistan be supported to return to the United Kingdom and their families to be offered protection as a matter of urgency.

Read the statement in full.

It is not the first time Birkbeck has been a haven for those leaving their home countries in fear and we remain steadfast in this commitment especially when many countries around the world face increasingly difficult times.

Statement on the acquisition of Student Central (26 July 2021)

We are really pleased to have been able to acquire the Student Central building.

The building provides a unique opportunity for us to transform our students’ learning and social spaces and deliver on our mission to widen access and participation in higher education.

We are one of the smaller Colleges in the University of London and our student body is very different from the others. We have a high proportion of mature, part-time students who come from a broad range of backgrounds, often without traditional qualifications, and with commitments such as work and caring responsibilities that would prevent them from studying at other institutions.

At the moment, we teach our students in dispersed locations around Bloomsbury, many of which are rented and away from our main campusWe have limited social and communal space for them on our main site. Our students consistently tell us the impact this has on their student experience and the challenge that moving from location to location represents, bearing in mind our concentrated evening teaching. 

Student Central is next to our main building and our intention is for it to be developed to serve our students and give them the facilities they deserve. The building will provide new and improved space for our Student Union. It will provide high quality teaching space at the heart of our campus, together with social and communal space that will enable our students to connect, engage and participate inside and outside the classroom, allowing them to get the most from their time with us.  

Following its decision to close the facilities housed in the building on the basis of dwindling use and financial viability, the University of London invited all of its members to bid through a clear process for a long lease on the building. Birkbeck was successful and has now completed the acquisition of the building.

We recognise the importance of supporting our students’ wellbeing and health, alongside ensuring that we provide them with the very best educational opportunities in high quality learning environments. We will be highlighting to them the excellent local fitness and leisure facilities that are within a few minutes’ walk in Bloomsbury.