Image Credit: Matt from London, Birkbeck College, University of London, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
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Birkbeck College, University of London
Birkbeck is a constituent college of the University of London and specialises in evening higher education. These courses can be taken either part-time or full time, and while they specialise in Bachelor's degrees, they also offer Master's and PhDs. As well as this focus, it has recently begun to concentrate on research in the arts and humanities.
Its main campus is based in Bloomsbury, central London while the university has recently opened a new, £33 million, campus in Stratford, East London.
Birkbeck is also fiercely committed to widening participation and social mobility, with the goal of raising aspirations and the confidence of students from 'hard-to-reach' and non-traditional groups, most of whom are out of formal education and don’t have the benefits of school or college HE advisors to help them find their way into university.
QS World Ranking (2022)
Times Higher Education (2021)
Green Credentials (2019)
Young vs Mature
Male vs Female
Birkbeck was created by Dr George Birkbeck, a pioneer in adult education, in November 1823 when he founded the London Mechanics' Institute dedicated to the education of working people in London. He announced these plans at the Crown and Anchor Tavern on the Strand with over two thousand people in attendance, including a number of MPs and philosopher Jeremy Bentham. Its foundation meant that, for the first time, artisans and craftsmen in the capital could learn about science, art and economics.
In 1830, the Institute became one of the first to admit female students and by 1858, as Birkbeck was the first choice for students who wanted a university education, but who could not afford to study full-time, it was able to offer University of London degrees.
In 1907 the Mechanics' Institute changed its name to Birkbeck College and by 1920 the college had become a constituent college of the University of London with it receiving its Royal Charter six years later.
In 2007, the College opened Birkbeck Stratford to extend higher education into 'hard to reach' communities in partnership with the University of East London. It also leads the Linking London: Lifelong Learning Network, a partnership of educational organisations that work collaboratively to maximise their contribution to student engagement, social mobility and in pursuit of improvements in social justice through education.
The University boasts four Nobel Prize winners and a British Prime Minister among its staff and students. Its current faculty include Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek as International Director of the Birkbeck Institute for the Humanities, and at the London Consortium (a collaboration between Brikbeck and a number of art institutes in London) faculty includes Tom McCarthy, Roger Scruton, Salman Rushdie and Tilda Swinton.
Birkbeck's courses take place in the evening: a full-time degree takes up 3-4 evenings a week while a part-time degree takes up anywhere between 1-3 evenings a week depending on how long you choose to take to study and the modules you are taking. These courses take place between October and June. In this way, you can spend your day working, looking after family, undertaking an internship, or in further studying.
Birkbeck is spread over two campuses, a twenty-minute tube journey from one another.
The University's main campus is in the heart of Bloomsbury, close to many other University of London colleges, encompassing a number of buildings including the former residence of Virginia Woolf. The campus is surrounded by Tube and mainline rail stations, including Russell Square, Tottenham Court Road, Euston and King’s Cross and within easy walking distance are some of the world’s most famous museums and galleries, including the British Museum and the British Library. The West End shopping areas of Oxford Street and Covent Garden are also a short walk away, as are the lively bars, restaurants and clubs of Soho and Chinatown.
The second campus, University Square in Stratford, East London include a 300-seat lecture theatre; a dedicated dance and performance arts space; a student advice centre; a café; and the Weston Learning Centre. Stratford station is just a five minutes' walk away, and offers excellent transport, including Docklands Light Railway, Tube, rail and bus services.
For September start dates prospective students need to apply through UCAS. Birkbeck also offer alternative start dates for some courses and students can apply to these directly through the University website.
The University generally asks for UCAS tariff points, although for some subjects they waive traditional entry qualifications and base their decisions instead on knowledge, previous work experience and academic potential. Common alternative entry routes include an access to Higher Education Diploma of the Certificate of Higher Education.
Schools & Departments
School of Arts
- Department of English and Humanities
- Department of Cultures and Languages
- Department of History of Arts
- Department of Film, Media and Cultural Studies
School of Business, Economics and Informatics
- Department of Computer Science and Information Systems
- Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics
- Department of Management
- Department of Organisational Psychology
School of Law
- Department of Criminology
- Department of Law
School of Science
- Department of Biological Sciences
- Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences
- Department of Psychological Sciences
School of Social Sciences, History and Philosophy
- Department of Applied Linguistics & Communication
- Department of Geography
- Department of Philosophy
- Department of History, Classics and Archaeology
- Department of Politics
- Department of Psychosocial Studies
Birkbeck is one of the world’s leading research-intensive institutions. Their scholarship informs public policy, achieves scientific advances, supports the economy, promotes culture and the arts, and makes a positive difference to society.
In the 2014 REF 73% of their research was rated as either ‘world-leading’ (4*) or ‘internationally excellent’ (3*), improving their 56% score from 2008. Birkbeck's science submission performed exceptionally well with Psychological Sciences rated 5th in the UK, Earth Systems & Environmental Sciences rated 6th and Biological Sciences rated 11th. Half of Birkbeck’s submissions were rated in the top 20 nationally with Sociology rated 13th, Philosophy 15th, Politics 17th and History 18thjoining the success in science.
One of the 2014 REF's focus was the impact of research on the world beyond academia, which Birkbeck also scored highly in, with three subject areas - Psychology, Psychiatry and Neuroscience; History; and Art & Design - achieving 100%.
UK Students (2022/2023)
The Birkbeck Cash Bursary scheme assists undergraduate students with the costs of study, such as purchasing books, printing and travelling to lectures. Eligibility is assessed as part of the online enrolment process and they do not have to be paid back.
Birkbeck Access to Learning Fund (BALF) awards are for part-time undergraduate students who need help with their course related costs, e.g. essential books, photocopying, childcare, the cost of an essential field trip or help with travel to and from the University. Awards are normally made for students who have already received the Birkbeck Cash Bursary.
Birkbeck also offers a limited number of bursaries, supported by generous donations from alumni and organisations supportive of Birkbeck's mission, which are available for current undergraduate and postgraduate students meeting the eligibility criteria.
The library is housed over five floors with 423 study spaces while there's access to almost 25,000 e-journals, e-books and databases online. It is open 7 days a week during term-time and it is also open during the holidays with reduced hours.
Birkbeck students are also entitled to join and borrow from over 140 higher education libraries in the UK, including 25 in the London area. The University of London's Senate House Library constitutes one of the largest humanities and arts-focused libraries in the UK higher education community, with about 2 million items including collections of national and international importance.
As a student of the University of London, there are other resources to take advantage of including Birkbeck's own extensive range of seminars, lecture series and activities. The University also has links with national cultural institutions such as the Tate, the Museum of London and the Institute of Arts.
Printing, photocopying and scanning facilities are available in the libraries.
Birkbeck students can book any one of the Library’s three study pods. They are ideal for group work. Other study facilities include silent study area, group study area and accessible study area. There is also a Phone zone in the library if you need to make or take a phone call.
Moodle is the University's online learning environment which allows you to view course materials and learning resources online. You can also chat online with lecturers and other students about classes and topics that have come up for discussion.
The University offers a range of academic support courses covering English language, academic writing and study skills.
Their IT facilities include purpose-built computer classrooms (with at least 1 open 24 hours a day); a wide range of general software applications and specialist academic packages; WiFi facilities for students with special needs and advice available on the use of assistive technologies to help with specific disabilities; and IT service desk; and practical, hands-on training workshops, with self-training materials.
The Centre for Film and Visual Media provides a range of facilities for teaching, research and conferences, including a state-of-the-art, 70-seat cinema with film and digital projectors. The Centre also hosts the London Screen Study Collection - an archive of London's moving image heritage.
Facilities at Birkbeck's students' union include student representation and advocacy, a student bar with regular entertainment, clubs and societies, a shop selling light snacks and drinks and stationery.
Birkbeck Students' Union constantly seeks to increase their student engagement in providing as many clubs and societies for everyone.
International students are also entitled to make use of the social and recreational facilities of International Students House, which incude bars, a cybercafé, sports clubs, a dance venue and a cinema.
Health & Well-Being
The University has a dedicated team to support students with disabilities and dyslexia who support you from your first enquiry, throughout your application, enrolment, on your course and upon graduation. Support includes arranging for a Camden Green Badge (the equivalent of the National Blue Disabled Persons Badge); arranging for a Disabled Person's Railcard or London Transport Freedom Pass; specialist equipment loan; access to financial aid; library and IT support; learning support and skills training; exam support; and arranging support workers.
All students can register with the Gower Street Practice which, in addition to normal GP services, offers psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy, and is experienced in helping students.
The College has an evening nursery, for children aged 2 to 10 years, which is open 5.30pm-9pm, Monday to Friday during term-time, and is staffed by qualified nursery staff.
The Counselling Service offers all Birkbeck students the opportunity to talk, in confidence, about any personal issues that may be impacting upon their studies or overall experience at University. The Service offers a 50-minute initial assessment where students get the opportunity to consider their difficulties with on of their fully trained and accredited counsellors. From there a range of servies may be offered such as short-term counselling, self-help resources, or sign-posting and referral to external agencies.
Religion & Spirituality
The University of London's chaplaincy offers pastoral counselling, and support and guidance in matters of faith and spiritual development for all students and staff of the Christian and Jewish traditions, and those with no religious background. Their activities include open meetings, lectures, workshops, weekends away, and discussion groups aimed to foster dialogue and encourage tolerance and respect between all people of faith. There is a daily framework of prayer and silence, and weekly celebrations of the Eucharist. Birkbeck's multi-faith room is available to Birkbeck students and staff of all faiths, and of no faith, for prayer and quiet contemplation.
The Chaplains can also provide information about the Islamic, Buddhist and other faith communities.
Birkbeck Careers and Employability Service provides careers advice, events and information services for current students including confidential one-to-one careers coaching and interview practice; psychometric testing; advice and resources on managing your career; access to internships and jobs; and resources on starting your own business and student enterprise.
Catered and self-catered
Catered (per week) (2021/2022)
Self-catered (per week) (2021/2022)
Many students at Birkbeck choose to live at home, however there is a wealth of accommodation options available to Birkbeck students at a range of prices depending on how far you wish to travel to the University, whether you'd like to share with other students, and whether you'd like to stay somewhere with an active social community. Birkbeck has a quota of rooms in the University of London's intercollegiate halls of residence and in the UNITE Green Lane development.
English Language Requirements
If English is not your first language Birkbeck asks for a minimum IELTS 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each subtest or equivalent. Some courses ask for higher grades - check with the University to see exactly what English language requirements you'll need.
The International Students' Guide contains all the information you need for coming to Birkbeck, including online academic preparation tools, banking & finance, visa information, and useful tips about living in the UK.
Their online study skills materials and interactive tutorials are free to use and you can work through them at your own pace before and during your course to help you succeed.