Meet the Chevening Scholar: Michail Le Roux, from South Africa

An esteemed attorney of the High Court of South Africa, Michail Le Roux joined Birkbeck to study LLM Law and New Technologies to help with his 10-year career plan. Here we get to know more about his background, his experience as a Chevening Scholar and Birkbeck student, and his hopes for the future 

A path that led to Birkbeck 

I’m proud to be an attorney at the High Court of South Africa. I’ve dedicated over seven years of my life to the captivating world of Blockchain & Digital Assets, and it’s been quite a journey, advising on numerous complex cross-border transactions that involve cutting-edge technologies, all in largely unregulated markets. My driving force? An unwavering commitment to professional growth. 

Some time ago, I came up with a ten-year plan, leading me to pursue the prestigious LLM Law and New Technologies master’s course at Birkbeck. I carefully chose this course because it perfectly complements my existing expertise and awards me a formal qualification, making me even more equipped to provide exceptional legal counsel to clients across various domains. 


A course that stands out 

What truly distinguishes this Master’s program is its deliberate focus on empowering legal professionals like me, who are actively navigating the challenges of unregulated markets while having a profound understanding of the legal frameworks shaping the future. I’m a staunch advocate for fellow tech-driven professionals from the Fourth Industrial Revolution to seize this transformative course and enrich their knowledge. 

Now that I’ve successfully completed the program, I’ve got ambitious plans to spearhead two Blockchain projects in the Sub-Saharan African region. The future is looking bright! 

The Chevening Experience 

The Chevening experience is truly unparalleled. Undoubtedly, it stands as the most competitive international scholarship award; honouring professionals amidst the 65,000 applicants and yielding a 3% success rate. It also offers those granted scholarship the opportunity to meet future world leaders and nurture an invaluable network, irrespective of your industry. 

Although I was selected on my first application, I would strongly advise prospective applicants to persevere and apply as many times as necessary. The application process demands rigor, requiring prior work and high achievements to stand out. Nevertheless, this journey embodies the essence of a future leader, and the sacrifices made will undoubtedly reap rewarding outcomes. 

Another thing I came to realise is that the key to an exceptional Chevening experience lies in actively taking part in all network events. Seize every opportunity to connect with as many individuals as possible and share your aspirations. These connections will pave the way for future collaborations with colleagues, investors, partners, and officials. My highlight was immersing myself in all the opportunities that being a Chevening scholar offered in the vibrant heart of London. It’s an experience I cherish deeply.  

My Birkbeck Experience 

The exceptional quality of the lecturers truly set my experience apart. Throughout my Master’s course, I had the privilege of learning from thought leaders who held esteemed positions within the industry. It was an inspiring journey of intellectual growth. 

For anyone contemplating an application to Birkbeck, here’s my advice: ensure a deep understanding of why your chosen course aligns perfectly with your goals. In other words, be intentional and highly selective when making your course choice. It’ll greatly enhance your overall learning journey. 

In conclusion, it’s been a remarkable adventure, and I eagerly anticipate the chapters yet to be written in my future endeavors! 




Meet the Chevening Scholar: Awa Toure, from Mali

The first female from Mali to be granted Chevening scholarship, Awa Toure joined Birkbeck to study MSc Management with International Business and Development as the sole recipient for the 2022 Chevening scholarship intake from her home country. Here we get to know more about her background, her hopes for the future, and her experiences of both Chevening and Birkbeck. 

An enriching path to Birkbeck 

At the age of 15 I left Mali to pursue my studies in Canada. In Montreal, known for its diverse population, I had the opportunity to attend the prestigious high school, College Jean de Brebeuf, and obtain a Bachelor’s degree in International Business from the Écoles des sciences de la Gestion from the University of Quebec. Living in such an international environment allowed me to interact with people from many backgrounds, broadened my horizons, fostered acceptance of different perspectives, and deepened my understanding of diverse cultures. Additionally, during my undergraduate years, I participated in the ERASMUS university exchange program in Madrid, Spain where I attended the Colegio Universitario de Estudios Financieros. Wanting to continue my path of enriching education, I decided to study MSc Management with International Business and Development at Birkbeck, to enhance my technical expertise and nurture my global network at a prestigious institution.  

With great aspirations also come great responsibilities  

I recognize that vicious cycles of internal and external systemic shocks can perpetuate poverty and hunger in a nation. I also recognize that this can be made worse by inadequate government systems and firmly believe that valuable and sustainable development solutions lie in the collaborative efforts of individuals, communities, and markets. So, yes, I aspire to become a powerful international businesswoman, but I also want to serve as a role model and make a positive impact in Mali’s journey towards economic independence and self-sustainability.  

When adaptability is a superpower 

I believe the role I play as a young female in bringing positive change to Mali, must be equally multifaceted as the challenges facing my nation. Understanding the complex and inter-sectoral challenges facing my home country and wanting to serve as well as do well for myself, I have become something of a polymath. My academic and professional experiences have married the disciplines of international business with social enterprise, communications, storytelling, gender rights development, digital access, and transformative justice. What matters most to me is understanding and platforming the trajectories of Malian economy, the stories of its communities, its women and girls, the able-bodied and ability impaired, the rural and urban, the old and young. When public systems fail, we must ask: how have they coped up until now? What do they need to survive and thrive? And how can we support communities in developing and maintaining their livelihoods outside of weak public structures?  

The role of Chevening in my aspirations 

Before applying to Chevening I was unaware of its existence.  During a heartfelt conversation with a friend, who coincidentally happens to be a former Chevening alumnus, we embarked on a discussion regarding the development trajectory of Mali. It was within this enriching exchange that my friend enlightened me about the Chevening program, expressing her conviction that it would be an impeccable match for my aspirations. And now, I find myself standing proudly as a member of this amazing community, to which I am eternally grateful.  

For anyone thinking about studying at Birkbeck: don’t hesitate!

The level of study and intellectual stimulation at Birkbeck has been truly outstanding, with engaging lectures, thought-provoking discussions, and a supportive learning environment. The faculty members have been highly knowledgeable and passionate, offering valuable insights and guidance at every turn. I enjoy every seminar I attend, and know that the learning outcomes from these will follow me for the rest of my life. If there’s anyone out there thinking of studying at Birkbeck, I would wholeheartedly encourage them to take the leap. Birkbeck also offers a flexible and inclusive learning environment, making it an excellent choice to pursue higher education while managing other commitments. I love the flexibility offered by the university to balance work, personal life, and academic pursuits and I am sure you will too. Do not hesitate! 




Meet the Chevening Scholars: Immanuel Tangi Shilamo, from Namibia

In this series we profile Birkbeck’s Chevening Scholars to find out about their backgrounds, what makes them tick and their experiences while studying at Birkbeck. In this edition we get to know Immanuel Tangi Shilamo, from Namibia studying LLM Criminal Law and Criminal Justice. 

Tell us your background and what led you to studying LLM Criminal Law and Criminal Justice?  

I am a Police Officer in the Namibian Police Force. My undergraduate and honours degrees were in criminal justice, and I decided to pursue an LLM in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice because it represents a step-up on the work I have done at undergraduate and honours level. It offers a unique opportunity to integrate criminal law and criminal justice from an interdisciplinary position. This was a very attractive aspect of Birkbeck’s course for me, owing to my experience as a police officer and also coming from a criminal justice background where criminal law was one of the core modules. 


What’s the Chevening Experience been like for you? 

Applying to Chevening has been a fascinating process on the whole. From preparing essays that had to meet certain requirements to progress to the interview stage, to the waiting periods between the stages – there was a level of trepidation at every turn. But actually, every second of the application process is worthwhile when you finally get selected. I was selected after my second application.   

As a scholar, I attended the Chevening conference in Coventry and also the Peak District event in Edale. I also participated in the football match between Chevening and Commonwealth scholars in Manchester. These sorts of events have been great, because I got to meet and get to know other scholars.  

Between tight academic schedules and a busy London social life, I think my Chevening highlight is simply the fact that I have met and engaged with so many people from different backgrounds – from both intellectual and literal perspectives. Everyone has come from all over the world and is studying something different and fascinating.   

What advice would you give to future Chevening scholars?  

Make the best of your year in the UK. Time really flies. Before you know it, you are booking your flight back home. Therefore, when you get a chance, expand your circle, make friends, engage with new people. But don’t forget your purpose for coming to the UK either! Prioritise your schoolwork as much as possible. 

How about your Birkbeck experience?  

The highlight at Birkbeck has been the quality of the education. The delivery of the modules really stands out. The demonstration of the depth of knowledge by the tutors and module convenors is very clear to see and understand. Also, the diversity of module topics and how they were offered was impressive. Birkbeck created a highly intellectually stimulating environment for me. 

What plans do you have for the future?  

After completing my studies, I plan to return to my home country and share the knowledge and experience I gained while studying in the UK, both with my colleagues in the Namibian Police Force and also generally with the criminal justice community in Namibia. Through this, I am hoping to contribute to the goals and aspirations of the Namibian Police Force in particular, and the criminal justice system at large. 

What would you say to someone thinking of applying to Birkbeck? 

You don’t need a second invitation. Birkbeck will not only serve as an intellectually stimulating knowledge hub, but you will also enjoy the convenience of evening education, which offers you time to expand your horizons and get to experience the best of both social and academic life on offer in London.  

More information: 


Emma “Ma” Francis – Canteen worker throughout World War II 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Emma Ma Francis

“Ma” Francis was one of Birkbeck’s unsung heroes, an essential worker during the second world war who made a considerable contribution to sustaining university life. 

She joined Birkbeck’s Fetter Lane premises in 1896, and left fifty years later, aged eighty. When bombs dropped in the vicinity, she was “unruffled,” calmly handing out mugs of coffee and “sardines on toast, with fried tomatoes twopence extra.”  

On 11th May 1941, incendiary bombs started falling on the College. Ma Francis made her way to the College’s kitchen. A “policeman in Fetter Lane tried to stop me,” she later recalled, who told her “Can’t go down there, Ma!” She abruptly retorted, “Impudence. Young man … I’ve got my work to do – you can’t stop me.” And work she did. Although the building next to Birkbeck was a “raging inferno,” Ma Francis made coffee for everyone on a Primus stove and then served 150 people for lunch. She was heard muttering, “Lucky I cooked the joints yesterday!” 


Eva Pascoe – Angel investor and e-commerce consultant 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Eva Pascoe

Eva is an angel investor and e-commerce consultant and co-founded London’s first internet cafe, Cyberia, in 1994. She pioneered the Internet’s early online and offline communities, online secure payment and expanded the business globally across Europe and Asia backed by Saatchi&Saatchi and Mick Jagger.   

Pascoe raised £3,000 to finance her first venture, a software company, by knitting and selling mohair jumpers: “This was in the middle of a deep recession and here was I, a woman with a funny accent – the banks just laughed at me.” 

She was a key figure in introducing online shopping to British fashion brand, Topshop, setting up their e-commerce team in 1999. Eva also created the first HTML courses for the public in Cyberia and ran the first women-only courses for women interested in getting into technology, focusing on closing the gender gap in technology use. 

She studied for a BSc Psychology and Ergonomics of Human-Computer Interaction at Birkbeck and, jointly with Gene Teare, was the winner of a Sunday Times Technology Award. 


Christina Pagel – Mathematician and Professor of operational research, UCL 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Christina Pagel

Christina is a mathematician, professor of Operational Research and an advocate for women in STEM.  

She has used tools from her research to design and analyse political data from public polls, particularly in the context of Brexit and health policy and during the COVID-19 pandemic won a HealthWatch UK award, for her work in public engagement in science. 

In 2019, Christina was one of the awardees of the Lyn Thomas Impact Medal from the Operational Research Society for work related to congenital heart disease and was one of two recipients of a special recognition award from the British Medical Journal in response to her work during the pandemic. In 2022, she was appointed as Vice President of the UK Operational Research Society. 

Christina began her academic studies in the fields of medieval history and classical civilization. She returned to study at Birkbeck to complete a Master’s in Applied Statistics with Medical Applications in 2012. This led her to a career in operational research, applying mathematical modelling and data analysis to healthcare situations. 


Michelle Mitchell OBE– Chief Executive, Cancer Research UK 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Michelle Mitchell

Michelle is Chief Executive of Cancer Research UK and is motivated by creating lasting and impactful change in the world today through innovative research. 

She was the first in her family to attend university, gaining an MSc Politics and Administration degree from Birkbeck in1997, and spent the early years of her career in London working for a local MP.   

Michelle felt more attracted to charity work as this was where she believed real social change could be brought about. Her work in the charity sector has seen her working in numerous exciting roles including the Chief Executive of the Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Director General of Innovative UK and also a Non-Executive Board Member of NHS England.   

Under her leadership at Cancer Research UK, the Brain Tumour Award funding scheme was launched, in collaboration with the Brain Tumour Charity and a refreshed research strategy for children’s and young people’s cancers. 


Sidney Webb – Fabian and founder of the London School of Economics 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Sidney Webb was a leading British socialist economist and one of the founders of the Fabian Society. He helped to reorganize the University of London into a federation of teaching institutions and served in the government as a Labour Party member. 

Sidney studied Law at Birkbeck and was one of Birkbeck’s most enthusiastic students. In 1879-80 alone, he won the Institution’s English Essay Prize, Mednyansky Essay Prize, Henken Prize in correspondence, Ravenscroft Prize for English grammar, Chester Prize in political economy, and the Birkbeck Prize for mental science, as well as prizes for logic and geology.  

In 1880, along with sixteen other students, he sent a memorandum demanding representation of students on the Committee and equal privilege for “lady members.” While their initial requests failed, Webb and his co-activist William Bull eventually got themselves elected to the governance committee and oversaw the progressive changes to the leadership of the Institution that they’d called for over many years. 

With his wife, Beatrice, a sociologist and economist, Sidney deeply influenced British institutions and social thought during the first half of the 20th century. Among his many contributions are the creation of the system of secondary state schools and, using a gift inherited from the Fabian Society, helping to found the London School of Economics. 

Four years after leaving Birkbeck, Webb was to become one of the founding members of the socialist Fabian Society and he later co-established the London School of Economics (LSE). 


Annette Anthony – co-founder of Impact X Capital Partners 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Annette Anthony

Annette is an executive coach and Founding Member of Impact X Capital Partners, a venture capital firm focused on supporting underrepresented founders and innovators across Europe.  

She trained as an executive coach and has worked at the U.S. Senate and also supported a U.S. presidential campaign. Alongside Impact X and her work as an executive coach, Annette has been involved with many organizations which champion the arts, broaden education, and tackle structural inequality. 

Annette came to Birkbeck to explore creative writing and took the course titled ‘The Secret Lives of Women.’ She recently finished her first book, Always Enough, A Global Food Memoir, which combines her family memories and global experiences with the food that connects them.  She is now writing her second book and feels that Birkbeck played an essential part in her journey to becoming a writer. 

She has said that she doesn’t hinge her achievements on career successes: “What I am most proud of is surviving this life with my moral DNA and values intact. I believe that in all the challenges of life, the highs and lows, one must be able to face oneself in the mirror and always calibrate on your values. I am proud that I remain curious, engaged, and can still smell the roses.” 


Leslie Primo – art historian 

To commemorate the College’s bicentenary in 2023, we’re showcasing 200 ‘Birkbeck Effects’ which capture the incredible stories of our vibrant and diverse community, highlighting their achievements and impact on the world. 

Leslie Primo

From a mature undergraduate student of History of Art, Leslie Primo is now a world class art historian and has been consulted for Art on the BBC 

Leslie left school aged 16 with barely any qualifications and no awareness of higher education. It wasn’t until years later, while working in the National Gallery gift shop in London, that Leslie’s colleagues saw his passion for art history and suggested he apply to Birkbeck.

He graduated from Birkbeck with a BA in History of Art in 2004  and went on to complete an MA in Renaissance Studies in 2010. At Birkbeck he received huge support, not only helping him adjust back into education, but also identifying his dyslexia which hadn’t been diagnosed before.

Leslie received additional support from Birkbeck’s disability office, including full funding for his first computer. Acknowledging his dyslexia for the first time meant Leslie could make sense of his school years and understand why he left the traditional education system with very few qualifications. Leslie now teaches art history at Imperial College London.