Birkbeck Bakes!

The results of Cookie Hour! Photo courtesy of D&A’s
Charlotte Belson.

Social distancing has meant that many of us are becoming well-acquainted with our kitchens, turning us into a community of home bakers. It has been impossible to ignore the increase in banana bread, impressive sourdough and delightful cake photographs filling our news feeds. The Development and Alumni team has been keen to get in on the baking action too! Last week, the team had a virtual ‘Cookie Hour’, a fun way to spend some time with each other with a tasty treat at the end of it!

Vanessa Bell’s ‘Apples: 46 Gordon Square’

To pay homage to our Bloomsbury based office, we would like to share a recipe which is inspired by Vanessa Bell’s painting ‘Apples: 46 Gordon Square’. The painting shows a tray on apples perched by a window in 46 Gordon Square, the Bloomsbury building that is now home to Birkbeck’s School of Arts. 46 Gordon Square was home to a number of members of the Bloomsbury Group. Vanessa Bell and her sister, the writer Virginia Woolf, moved to the house in 1904. Following this, the house was occupied by celebrated and influential economist John Maynard Keynes. Today, a blue plaque on the building commemorates Keynes’s time in Gordon Square.

The following recipe is by Jans Ondaatje Rolls, who wrote The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Recipes for Life, Love and Art, which is both a cookbook and a social history of the ‘Bloomsbury Group’ of writers, artists, and intellectuals who based themselves in Bloomsbury in the early 20th century.

Apple Squares

You will need:

Recipe taken from:
The Bloomsbury Cookbook
( Jans Ondaatje Rolls)
  • 128g plain white flour
  • 4 tbs caster sugar
  • 249g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 410g soft brown sugar
  • 120g melted butter
  • 80g dried apples (diced)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp flour


  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C
  2. Combine the plain white flour, caster sugar and butter until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  3. Press the mixture into 2 buttered oblong baking dishes and bake for approx. 13 minutes in the centre shelf of the oven.
  4. Beat the eggs and soft brown sugar together. Stir in the melted butter, apples, lemon juice, vanilla and 2 tsp of flour.
  5. Pour into the base and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
  6. Cool and cut into squares. Makes 46.

We’d love to see how you get on! Use the hashtag #BBKBakes on social media to show us your baked goods, and to share other recipes with our community of Birkbeck bakers.

Cambridge House Telephone Campaign – meet the student fundraisers!

The Birkbeck Autumn Telephone Campaign 2019 has now begun. A team of Birkbeck current students will be in contact with alumni to update their contact details, and talk to them about a new a College priority project, Cambridge House.

During recent research into the student experience at Birkbeck, we were able to gather feedback from our students on their study environment, and discovered that there was an urgent demand for more Birkbeck teaching and social spaces. Cambridge House will be a new learning space created to meet this demand, and allow Birkbeck students to be taught in Birkbeck buildings.

The space will be a community hub to over 600 people at any one time, and will enable students to come together in a way no other Birkbeck space can currently provide.  It will have much needed classroom space, offering nine classrooms – each divided by retractable walls allowing academics to customise them to their requirements.

The autumn telephone campaign will be raising funds for the new building which will also be equipped throughout with state-of-the-art equipment, such as video lecture capture, a digital video wall, and audio-visual equipment. Read about the student callers and why they decided to get involved with the fundraising campaign below.

Meet the student fundraisers:

Alex C, MRes Comparative Literature

Alex C

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as I believe it has a friendly and fair ethos. Fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it enables further research, and I’m really looking forward to engaging with alumni and learning more about how funding has an impact within academia”.

Alex T, BSc Planetary Science and Astronomy

Alex T

“I’m a 4th year student and have really enjoyed my time at Birkbeck so far, so would love to give back to the College. I’m looking forward to speaking to alumni and finding out what they’ve done since leaving Birkbeck”.

Allen, BA Creative Writing and English


“I enjoy talking to people and by being a telephone fundraiser for Birkbeck will allow me to promote the College whilst feeling a sense of achievement. Telephone campaigns are important to improve the student experience and also to maintain contact with alumni”.

Dan, MSc Counselling and Psychotherapy


“I chose to study at Birkbeck as the course had an excellent reputation. I joined the telephone campaign team as I wanted to give back and help to improve the student learning experience”.

Fatmata, MSc Educational Neuroscience


“Being the recipient of a legacy scholarship myself, I find the contribution alumni make to an institution invaluable. I wanted to be part of a project that will make a change. I chose to study at Birkbeck because the course is fantastic, the location is ideal and the research is world-leading. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to talk to different people, listen to their stories and find out what they have gone on to do”.


Graham, MA Philosophy

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as there is a diverse student body, and for the evening lectures. I’m taking part in the telephone campaign as I wanted to develop my skills in this area and help Birkbeck to continue its unique mission”.

Jason, BSc Marketing


“I chose to study at Birkbeck due to its distinctiveness in being able to study in the evening. This provides the opportunity to continue working. It’s also in the heart of London which means that the location is convenient! I wanted to be a student fundraiser as a way of giving back to the College – I think that if Birkbeck has changed your life, then you should give back to the institution that has changed you”.

Joe, BA Psychosocial Studies


“I think fundraising for Birkbeck is important to improve teaching, research and the student experience. I am proud to be a part of Birkbeck and its history of providing opportunities to working-class people. I’m looking forward to building on my fundraising experience and speaking to Birkbeck alumni”.

Natalie, BA Linguistics


“I applied to be part of the call team as I found the nature of the job interesting, I like conversing with people. What I enjoy the most about the role is the sense of personal achievement and growth, raising money to contribute to future developments at Birkbeck”.

Naomi, MPhil/PhD Film and Media Studies


“I love Birkbeck and I want to get more involved and give back. I’m aware of how important it is to provide student support, and how fundraising has an impact on student facilities and widening access. I originally chose to study at Birkbeck because of the convenience, but I moved onto my PhD because I liked the College so much!”

Safina, MA Creative Writing           


“I wanted to contribute whilst I was still a student and be a part of the telephone fundraising team. Fundraising is essential to widening access and providing opportunities to diverse students. I’m looking forward to hearing alumni’s personal stories”.

Shakeela, BSc Social Sciences


“I wanted to take part in the Telephone Campaign as I like to speak to alumni and find out about their experiences. It was also a way to meet a variety of students I wouldn’t have met before. I feel fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it encourages continued support for the projects here, some of which I’ve benefited from myself”.

Will, LLM


“I chose to study at Birkbeck because of the reputation of the Law department and its location. I know that fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it improves student support and student services. I’m looking forward to being part of the Birkbeck fundraising team as it’s an opportunity to contribute to the College for an exciting project”.

The telephone campaign will be running until Saturday, 30 November. If you’d like to receive a call from one of our students, please get in touch with Tara Millington (

Alumni Profile: Regan Leahy, MSc Development Studies 2018

Regan Leahy chose to come to Birkbeck in 2015 after being recommended the course in MSc Development Studies. Originally, she had intended to pursue a law career, having undertaken a position at international law firm Hogan Lovells in 2013 and established a career path in the firm. In understanding the growing overlap in corporate social responsibility and development, Regan decided to combine her skills and interests, both personal and professional, to undertake further study.

In July 2019, Regan was selected as the first ever UK SDG Pioneer winner and then went on become the global winner for advocacy and sustainable solutions, both awarded by the UN Global Compact Network.

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were set by the United Nations Development Programme in 2015 as a global call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and to ensure peace and prosperity for the year 2030.

Regan took the time to talk more to us about coming to Birkbeck, her recent achievement and some advice for those considering a similar path.

What did you enjoy most about Birkbeck and what it offered you as a student?

I really enjoyed the diverse groups of people in my classes. It made the classroom discussions and debates more interesting to have a wider variety of people with backgrounds in industry, academia, and the third sector. I also enjoyed the methodology of the classes I took where we started at the beginning to get back into the academic mind-set. I had only been out of academic study for a few years so remembered how to read and analyse, but I thought it was so clever the way our assignments were structured to help us get back into the swing of things.  

How did the volunteer programme contribute towards the Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN?

Barefoot Futures is Hogan Lovells’ global skills-based volunteering programme that inspires young people to take SDG-related action in their local community. The workshop is delivered by volunteers from Hogan Lovells to students in schools all over the world and seeks to raise awareness about the SDGs and innovative solutions by introducing students to the Barefoot solar mamas of Barefoot College and how young people can use STEM solutions to achieve the goals. Over 195 volunteers have taught 1,400 students in 31 schools in 12 countries and 87% of students agreed they would like to develop new solutions to global problems in the future.

What are the challenges that you face and what advice can you give to students considering similar career paths?

The intersection of development and business is only growing and business and NGOs will require experts with knowledge on both topics. As with the SDGs, collaboration is key and different industries, sectors, and organisations need to use their skills, people, and influence to create sustainable change. The challenge is showing different stakeholders that this is what the world needs and showing them how they can help. Businesses need to widen their measures of success and NGOs need to create engagement opportunities for businesses that are more than just financial. For students considering similar career paths, I’d recommend getting out into the world and networking! The best collaborations and uses of my degree have come from meeting different people and figuring out how to bring them all together under a shared vision and project.

It’s fantastic that you have inspired so many students. To round it off, did you want to say whether you are optimistic about the future and that these kinds of partnerships and business can broadly be a key solution to the world’s problems?

I’m happy to say that I am optimistic about the future. Young people in the world today are not shying away from tackling complex, global issues that are affecting their local communities. From plastic use to gun violence, young people want to live in a world that reflects their values and I’m delighted that the private and third sectors are collaborating to give young people and the adults who works for them the opportunity to use their voices, talents, and influence to build the world we want.

Hogan Lovells partner with Birkbeck to ensure prospective students are not deterred from studying law on account of their financial situation. Their generous scholarship programme supports two talented students in Birkbeck’s School of Law

Alumni Profile: Dr Simon Smith (PhD English, 2014)

Dr Simon Smith completed his PhD from Birkbeck in 2014. An appointed lecturer in Shakespeare and Early Modern Drama at the University of Birmingham, Smith recently received acclaim for his recent publication Musical Response in the Early Modern Playhouse 1603-1625‘ receiving both the University English Book Prize alongside the 2018 Shakespeare’s Globe Book Award. In the book, Smith argues the case of music as a dramatic tool in plays often as a cue for audience response, whether participation or to shape meaning and serve as a reminder of critical moments. This award could be considered a significant feat given that Smith admits no prior expertise in musical knowledge.

What drew you to complete your PhD at Birkbeck and how did you fit your studies into your working life?

I chose Birkbeck for my PhD because of the vibrant postgraduate community, because of the educational, scholarly and social principles that Birkbeck embodies, and because of its proximity to the British Library! I was also aware of Birkbeck as a place with a longstanding reputation for early modern studies.  My fondest memories at Birkbeck may be of the early modern reading group meetings – sociable, student-led evening gatherings in which we read texts I would never otherwise have come across. I studied full-time with AHRC funding, so I was highly privileged in that sense and was able to work part-time in order to make ends meet whilst renting in London! I taught quite a bit as a Globe Education Lecturer at Shakespeare’s Globe, and for Birkbeck as an Associate Tutor once I was a couple of years into the PhD – I’m proud to say that my most brilliant undergraduate student has stayed on at Birkbeck and is now completing a fully-funded PhD on early modern drama.

How does your recent publication contribute towards the field of early modern drama?

Musical Response in the Early Modern Playhouse asks why music matters in the plays of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, examining Jacobean dramatic texts and cultural expectations.

The book offers insights into the dramatic craft of Shakespeare and other playwright. It suggests new interpretive angles on play-texts and illuminates the culture of play-going and the significance of music in early modern England.

The study reveals many previously unrecognised ways in which music contributes to early modern dramaturgy.

Musical Response re-reads the playhouse as a space intended above all for serious ‘play’, reconceptualising the ways in which Jacobean performance sought to engage playgoers with fictional narratives, and revealing the inherent playfulness of early modern drama itself.

And, if you could choose, what’s your favourite Shakespeare play and why?

Othello is probably my favourite to teach, because of the sheer range of possibilities it offers in the classroom –I’m yet to find an approach students aren’t prepared to run with. If I had to choose just one though, it would probably be Twelfth Night, for Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s ‘challenge’ letter alone…

Birkbeck bursary recipients graduate with smiles

Earlier this year in spring, over a thousand Birkbeck students graduated from their studies and received their degree. Thanks to alumni donations many deserving students receive financial support throughout their studies. Support can change the Birkbeck experience for students like Ellie, Rakim, Adam and Oluwatobi – read more about their stories below:

Ellie Braithwaite

Ellie Braithwaite (MSc Educational Neuroscience)

“Birkbeck caught my attention because of the amazing psychology and neuroscience resources and researchers. Since finishing my masters, I have been working at Birkbeck as a research assistant in the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development. I am working with some inspiring people. This is a role I would not have been able to do before getting my Masters, both in terms of experience and confidence. I am now applying for PhDs and hope to do this at Birkbeck – something I never thought I would do before completing my Masters!

Without the bursary I received I would not have been able to pay course fees, travel to attend lectures, or to buy the laptop and resources I needed to succeed. I’d like to say a huge thank you to alumni donors– without you I wouldn’t have had all the amazing experiences I have had, nor would I have so many doors open to me now.”

Rakim Yusufkhan-Jeffrey

Rakim Yusufkhan-Jeffrey (BA Linguistics & Japanese)

“Prior to my studies at Birkbeck, I had been in the midst of a difficult time in my life. Shortly after starting my studies at college, I fell ill. This meant that I had to withdraw and was unable to study or work for a number of years. As time went on, I felt stuck.

Then I discovered Birkbeck, and found that it welcomed students of all backgrounds and qualifications. I felt that this was a much needed second chance to attain a qualification and start my career. I enrolled on BA Linguistics and Japanese, and was able to rediscover my passion for the Japanese language. I also gained a newfound love for the topic of Linguistics. Learning about how languages are both taught and acquired in the Language Learning module particularly proved to be very interesting and enjoyable.

I hope to use my degree to become a teacher or translator in the near future. Without financial assistance through my bursary, I would have struggled to make the trip to university during the week and would not have been able to afford many of the materials I needed, such as the textbooks used in each class. Receiving the bursary provided me not only with the opportunity to attend university, but to succeed at it.

Without alumni donors, many students like me would not have been able to comfortably attend and take part in education. No words are sufficient to express how grateful I am for the opportunity that they have given to me, and I sincerely thank them for their generous help throughout my years at Birkbeck, an institution that I hold so dear to my heart.”

Adam McLaren

Adam McLaren (BA Politics Philosophy and History)

“My inspiration to study at Birkbeck was due to the fact that many of the books that I’d read were written by Birkbeck professors. Furthermore, I knew it had an excellent philosophy and humanities faculty. Originally I had the ambition to get into politics, but when I started my degree I became particularly interested in psychiatry and the history of psychology, especially the works of Freud and Jung – I had found something that I was truly passionate about.

Alumni funding gave me the confidence to focus on my studies without being distracted by financial worry. Funding meant that I could buy a laptop, textbooks and travel to my lectures. The bursary helped me to do things like visit the Carl Jung and Freud Museum, and read extra books and journals that tied into my academic work.”

Oluwatobi Amusan

Oluwatobi Amusan (MSc Investment Management)

“I had been working in accounting for 5 years when I decided I wanted to challenge myself and progress my career. I had studied Accounting and Finance for my undergraduate, and was eager to pursue a master’s degree. I liked that Birkbeck caters for people who want to work at the same time as studying, as it provides an opportunity for study for those who have a lot going on in their daily lives.

I chose the Investment Management course as I wanted to change the direction of my career. Postgraduate study was an adjustment from undergraduate study. I particularly liked the Financial Modelling module, I had never done anything like it before and I really enjoyed the difficulty of it. It was stimulating talking to mature students on my course and I learnt a lot from people who worked in different industries with diverse life experiences.  

Receiving funding really helped during my degree. It cut out a lot of stress, and I’m very grateful. Being a student can be expensive; having to buy course materials, pay tuition fees and travelling to lectures, on top of other financial responsibilities. The bursary meant that I could complete my degree without any added financial worry about how I was going to pay for things. Thanks to my bursary, I was able to complete my degree with no hiccups, and with the grade I wanted.

Thanks to my degree I will have skills and knowledge that I can use forever. I’m working in a sector that I’m passionate about, and I’d like to say thank you to the donors who have helped me to achieve what I’ve wanted to do. My bursary is something that I’ve not taken for granted. Funding can really change the life of others, like it has changed the life of mine.”

Summer telephone campaign raises over £60,000 for Birkbeck students.

Birkbeck’s summer telephone fundraising campaign has come to an end after five weeks of calling. The team of dedicated student fundraisers spoke to over 1,100 of the College’s alumni.

The £61,506 in alumni donations will support students and enhance their Birkbeck experience by providing bursaries, employability workshops, disability support and ensuring they have access to the best facilities during their time here.

Shakeela, a returning caller studying Social Sciences said: “I’ve been on the call team for over two years now, and I love talking to Birkbeck alumni in each campaign. It’s a great feeling being able to raise vital funds for Birkbeck, whilst also getting some invaluable advice from alumni who are well-established in their chosen professions – I find it very rewarding”.

Telephone campaigns allow Birkbeck to stay connected with alumni by ensuring that we have the correct contact details, and also inform them about upcoming volunteering and mentoring opportunities.

If you’d like to receive a call from one of our students in the next telephone campaign, please get in touch with Tara Millington

Mentoring Pathways: Reflection of a Mentor

Written by Anna Wesson (Occupational Psychology, 2012)

“Why do you want to be a mentor? Do you know what’s involved?”

These were the words that echoed in my head as I went into the training for the Mentoring Pathways programme. The blunt answer was no. I had some fuzzy ideas about making a difference, but beyond that, I wasn’t clear about what to expect.

As an alumnus of Birkbeck, I have first-hand experience of the magic of the place. The Master’s course I completed in 2012 overhauled my life, causing me to alter my perspective on myself and my career. For me, there was one piece missing. Going through the educational process, I wanted the opportunity to explore how to embed my learning into my life.

Fast forward six years, and I came across the mentoring programme by accident. I realised that this was my opportunity to support someone having an experience like mine all those years ago.

Mentoring was a fascinating experience and one with unexpected consequences. In working with my mentee, I was forced to get clear on my story, why I had made the choices I made, what served me, and what I would counsel against. It forced me to get under the skin of some of the commercial decisions I have made and justify them, which I really enjoyed.

My mentee and I spent time discussing her academic work, and in that, I discovered new writers and texts, and enriched my practice in unexpected ways.

I had expected to enjoy supporting a student in a way that allowed them to think about things differently. What I had not expected was the breadth of learning for me and the richness that it offered.

I can wholeheartedly recommend being part of the mentoring programme. As well as being run exceptionally smoothly, it offers a development opportunity for both mentors and mentees. I strongly encourage you to sign up next year.

Anna Wesson is an executive coach, working with emerging leaders in professional services.

The Mentoring Pathways programme offers Birkbeck graduates and corporate partners the opportunity to mentor a current Birkbeck undergraduate or postgraduate finalist.

The programme aims to support students’ career aspirations and expose them to professional networks, by bridging the gap between academic learning and workplace practices.

Applications have opened for the Mentoring Pathways 2019/20 intake, find out more about becoming a mentor.

Birkbeck’s Telephone Fundraising Campaign – meet the 2019 student callers

The Birkbeck Summer Telephone Campaign 2019 has now begun. A team of passionate Birkbeck student fundraisers will be contacting alumni over the next five weeks to fundraise for College priorities.

Alumni gifts provide financial support to deserving students, and this support can often be the difference between being able to complete their studies, or not. Relieving some of the financial burden for a student enables them to perform to the best of their ability by minimising the stress induced by monetary pressures.

Not only do alumni gifts provide assistance to these deserving students but they can also have an impact on life at the College, ensuring that future generations of students have the best facilities, support, advice and career guidance during their time at Birkbeck.

Tara Millington, Regular Giving Officer at Birkbeck has said: “the telephone campaigns are a wonderful testament to the Birkbeck alumni community. Alumni often feedback about how much they enjoy speaking to a current student. Whether it’s financial support, providing work placements or volunteering to be a mentor, our alumni continue to contribute to make Birkbeck such special place to study.”

The Summer Campaign will run between 4 June and 6 July – if you’d like to receive a call from one of our students, please get in touch with Tara Millington (

Birkbeck’s Telephone Fundraising Team:

Aaron, Msc Criminology

“I wanted to be part of the telephone campaign so I could contribute to Birkbeck’s ongoing success. I chose to study here because it was an evening course with a diverse range of students and interesting course content. I’m most looking forward to engaging with alumni and engaging with people outside of my department”.

Alex, MRes Comparative Literature

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as I believe it has a friendly and fair ethos. Fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it enables further research, and I’m really looking forward to engaging with alumni and learning more about how funding has an impact within academia”.

Alexander, BA Global Cinema

“During the campaign, I most look forward to the conversations I have – I enjoy hearing about difference courses that alumni studied. I’m passionate about raising money to support Birkbeck students, it is a unique place thanks to its range of courses and it’s flexibility with evening study”.

Ayelen, MPhil / PHD

“As a scholarship recipient myself, I like the idea of giving back some of my time to Birkbeck and being part of the Telephone Campaign team – plus I enjoy speaking to people! Fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it gives future generations of students the opportunity to pursue tertiary education. I chose to study at Birkbeck through my admiration for the lecturers here.”

Charles, MA Text and Performance

“I wanted to join the fundraising team so that I could be part of something that was a fulfilling and meaningful way to make a difference at Birkbeck. Fundraising is important to continue the support and services that Birkbeck offers to students and stay true to its original vision. I’m most looking forward to hearing interesting stories from alumni and seeing what they’ve been up to since graduating.”

Edwin, MA Text and Performance

“I wanted to participate in the Telephone Campaign because Birkbeck has contributed significantly to advancing my knowledge and skills in my chosen field (Theatre & Politics). Bursaries are immeasurably useful to me, and so I believe fundraising is crucial. I enjoy having a chat with alumni who have shared my experience, and hearing their stories”.

Fran, MA Museum Cultures

“Birkbeck is known for its amazing support, and I want to be part of that by fundraising to help students achieve great things! My favourite part of being a student fundraiser is having nice conversations and hearing alumni’s motivations to give back.”

Janelle, MSc Public Policy and Management

“I chose to study at Birkbeck as I wanted to learn alongside fellow mature students who have had work experience. I want to reach out to alumni in the campaign and strengthen their relationship with Birkbeck.”

Jed, BSc Biomedicine

“I’m looking forward to having interesting conversations with alumni, and seeing if they have any advice for me as a current Birkbeck student. My course is of great teaching quality and I’m looking forward to raising money to help support future students.”

Joseph, MSc International Development

“I am developing my career in the 3rd sector and wanted to gain some fresh and relevant experience. Raising funds for Birkbeck is important as it is becoming increasingly difficult for universities to access government funding. I’m looking forwards to having some lovely conversations with Birkbeck alumni!”.

Luke, BA English

“I like the fact that Birkbeck offers evening study, which worked better for me. I am looking forward to being part of the call team so that I am to learn about the experiences of previous students. It is great to be able to support Birkbeck and connect with a wide range of alumni.”

Natalie, BA Linguistics

“I applied to be part of the call team as I found the nature of the job interesting, I like conversing with people. What I enjoy the most about the role is the sense of personal achievement and growth, raising money to contribute to future developments at Birkbeck” .

Oliver, Certificate of Education, Economics

“Fundraising is important as it gives students who may not be in a fortunate financial situation an opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Being part of the telephone campaign will be a good experience to improve my communication skills, which I will be able to apply in my future career.”

Shakeela, BSc Social Sciences

“I wanted to take part in the Telephone Campaign as I like to speak to alumni and find out about their experiences. It was also a way to meet a variety of students I wouldn’t have met before. I feel fundraising for Birkbeck is important as it encourages continued support for the projects here, some of which I’ve benefited from myself.”

Shuvashish, BSc. Social Sciences

“Working as part of the Telephone Campaign team is a step towards fulfilling my long-term career goal to work within the charity sector. I’m looking forward to interacting with alumni and having the satisfaction of raising crucial funds for Birkbeck.”

Alumni Help to Secure Birkbeck’s Future

Many alumni and supporters choose to help secure Birkbeck’s future by remembering the College in their wills. No matter their size, gifts in wills make an enormous difference to the College and to students who may otherwise be unable to continue their studies. Every year, more than 2,000 deserving students receive bursaries to help pay for books, travel, childcare and other study expenses. Much of this support comes from gifts in wills.

This spring, Birkbeck students spoke to more than 300 alumni about the positive impact that gifts in wills have on the College. The students had the opportunity to thank alumni who have already remembered Birkbeck in their wills and to share information with those who are considering giving in this way. The callers shared stories of students like Helen Dunbar and Željka Oparnica who both received financial assistance to study at Birkbeck from gifts in wills. This support made a huge difference to both Helen and Željka.

Helen Dunbar and her son Max enjoying Graduation 2018

As Helen shares, ‘Without the scholarship, it would have been impossible for me to finance my studies. The Scholarship enabled me to achieve my goal of postgraduate study and push myself to a higher level of academic study’.

Kara McMahon, Trusts & Legacies Officer at Birkbeck, was delighted by the success of the campaign. ‘Gifts in will make a tremendous difference to individual students here at Birkbeck, and it is a pleasure to work with growing numbers of alumni who choose to support Birkbeck with gifts in their wills. I often speak with alumni who tell me how Birkbeck changed their lives, and they want to make sure that future generations of students have these same opportunities and experiences. The telephone campaign has been a wonderful chance for our current Birkbeck students to hear these stories and say thank you’.

You may also want to hear from alumnus Malcolm on his decision to remember Birkbeck in his will:

If you would like to know more about leaving a gift in your will to Birkbeck, please get in touch with our team by calling Kara McMahon on 020 7380 3187 or emailing

Refugees at Home

 “How can I learn or study when I don’t know where I will sleep tonight?” It’s not a question many Birkbeck students and alumni have to ask themselves, but for one group, it’s a reality.

Students accepted onto The Compass Project for asylum-seekers and refugees face a real challenge in finding somewhere to stay in London while they attend classes. Many of the students are “dispersed” – sent by the Home Office out of London and they can’t afford to pay for somewhere to sleep.

This is where Refugees At Home plays an important role. This small charity matches asylum-seekers and refugees with generous hosts who provide accommodation at their homes.

Compass Project student Alaa explains:

“I received a scholarship from The Compass Project to study at Birkbeck for a full year. I was extremely glad to have this opportunity to get back into higher education. Unfortunately, after failing to get into Home-Office accommodation in London, I didn’t have anywhere to live. I was very sad and disappointed as I thought I had lost the chance to study again, until I was saved by Refugees At Home.

Naureen, the Compass Project coordinator, introduced me to Refugees At Home who, in a very short period of time, connected me with a lovely lady who was willing to host me in her home. She was very welcoming and understanding, and it was a real pleasure to know her. I am now studying my course whilst feeling safe and confident, thanks to the lovely hosts who are offering their help to people in challenging circumstances.”

Refugees At Home has a particular link with Birkbeck through the longest-serving member of the placement team, Rachel Davenport.  Rachel is a Birkbeck alumna and says:

“To me Birkbeck has always been an institution that has offered people the opportunity to study where they might not otherwise have been able to do so. The students on my course were made up of a wide range of backgrounds, which made discussion insightful and varied – it was one of the best parts of my studies.

Being surrounded by a range of perspectives different from your own is invaluable, and something that drew me to working at Refugees a Home. I think that hosting offers the same potential – it opens up new ways of thinking, while at the same time making a profound difference in someone’s life. The Compass Project is a great reflection of these values and I’m really proud that we are able to contribute to it in some way. Many people would not be able to study without the help of hosting along the way, and to lose those voices at Birkbeck would be a great shame.”

Sara Nathan OBE, who is the Co-founder and trustee of Refugees at Home says:

“I’ve hosted about 15 young men in west London so far – from Syria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Libya. It’s a life-enhancing experience. They have shared their lives, their stories, their cooking – and some are very good cooks, the others get coached on-line by sisters in Saudi Arabia or mum in Syria. Hosting brings me at least as much as I contribute to my guests’ lives. It’s never dull.”

The charity is a huge support for Birkbeck’s Compass Project. If you’d like to learn more, or find out about becoming a host, visit their website: