Launching the new Birkbeck-SWUFE dual-degree programme

Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics launched a new dual-degree programme with the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in Chengdu, China. 

The new dual-degree undergraduate programme recently introduced by Birkbeck and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) was formally inaugurated on Friday 28 September 2018, at the magnificent campus of SWUFE in Chengdu, China. The event organised by the School of International Business (SIB) and the SWUFE’s Office of International Exchange and Cooperation also doubled as an opening ceremony for the first two cohorts of the dual degree programme. Professor Kevin Ibeh, Pro-Vice-Master (International), Birkbeck, travelled from London to join the event, which was also graced by the Deputy Director of the Office of International Exchange and Cooperation, the Dean of School of International Business, and other staff and students of SWUFE.

In his welcome remarks, the Dean of SIB, Professor Jue Wang, an alumnus of Birkbeck, expressed delight at the Pro-Vice-Master’s visit and the continuing success of the academic partnership between SWUFE and Birkbeck, which has already produced several Doctoral and MSc graduates. He highlighted the strong appeal of the new dual degree Bachelor’s programme to prospective students and reaffirmed SIB’s commitment to a deeper and broader collaboration with Birkbeck in view of the two institutions’ shared interests in enhanced student learning, research excellence and societal relevance.

Professor Ibeh thanked his hosts for the invitation to be part of this important milestone in the development of Birkbeck-SWUFE collaboration and conveyed fraternal greetings from the Master of Birkbeck, the Executive Dean of the School of Business, Economics and Informatics, the Head of Department of Management, and the entire Birkbeck community. The Pro Vice Master congratulated the 100 students already enrolled on the Birkbeck-SWUFE dual degree programme on their selection and noted that he looked forward to welcoming them as they transition to Birkbeck’s Bloomsbury campus for the final year of their undergraduate studies. Professor Ibeh further congratulated the SIB’s leadership and staff, including some Birkbeck alumni, for their demonstrable commitment to developing mutually beneficial collaborative arrangements with world-class institutions such as Birkbeck. He assured them that Birkbeck shares their enthusiasm for high quality, win-win international collaborations.  

The event featured additional remarks, notably by the Deputy Director of the Office of International Exchange and Cooperation at SWUFE, Associate Professor Dr GU Xuan. Dr GU underlined her Office’s unflinching support for the SIB’s partnership with Birkbeck and noted its alignment with SWUFE’s overall international strategy. The event was finely compered by Dr Yuanyuan Liu, who successfully defended her doctoral thesis at Birkbeck this past summer.

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The case for greater evidence-based policing in the UK

Dr Almuth McDowall from Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology reports on the recent international conference on policing education and training.

On Wednesday 27 June 2018, Birkbeck hosted an International Symposium on Evidence-Based Policing.  As most of us are aware, there are quantum shifts ahead in the UK policing training landscape. According to the Policing Education and Qualifications Framework (PEQF), going forward, there will be three graduate routes to entry as a Police Constable: a) an apprenticeship, b) graduate entry conversion, and c) policing degrees. This requires a fundamental rethinking of how we train police officers and what we can expect of them. What can the UK learn from other professions and contexts? This was the overall question guiding our symposium with around 70 delegates, including academics and policing practitioners, many of whom were international attendees.

Professor Jennifer Brown, Co-Director of the Mannheim Centre for Criminology at London School of Economics and Political Science, opened proceedings to question if there is evidence that graduates will do a good job in law enforcement. The consensus is that research is lacking in this area, especially in the UK context, and there is an increasing need to better understand the value that ‘graduate readiness’ adds to policing on the streets. David Gamblin, Research Assistant at Birkbeck, presented research conducted as part of a Home Office Funded Innovation grant which was spearheaded by the Mayor’s Office for Policing in London (MOPAC) and led by Birkbeck’s Department of Organizational Psychology, Birkbeck’s Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR), and University College London (UCL).

This tracked participants from ‘Police Now’, a leadership training programme over time and also investigated their take on ‘Evidence-based Policing’. Findings show high motivation to make a real difference, the importance of the environment once ‘on the beat’, and highlights that direct effort to train in evidence-based approaches can be helpful, but effectiveness depends on how this is done. Tiggey May, Senior Research Fellow at ICPR, outlined qualitative research from the same project which shows that the environment in forces varies greatly and that there is a need to be clear about what can and cannot be expected from graduates in training. Dr Jyoti Belur, Senior Lecturer at UCL, outlined a stakeholder review to question the extent to which forces are ready for the changes in training, highlighting an all-round need for more education and guidance.

Dr Cody Telep, Assistant Professor at Arizona State University, built on these themes by outlining his own programme of research which focused on police receptivity to research. His findings show, perhaps not surprisingly, that there is a real difference between ‘chiefs’ and ‘officers’, especially as more senior officers have a higher chance of being exposed to evidence and being willing to conduct research.

Dr Norma O’Flynn from the Royal College of Physicians presented data from the medical context, noting that more access to evidence means more drug prescriptions. A key question is whether this is always in the interest of the patients. Her presentation also highlighted that one needs to be clear on the purpose of evidence – is improvement in quality, rather than quantity, of care, not a key objective? Dr Karen Lumsden, Associate Professor at the University of Leicester, continued with the evidence-based theme, also using qualitative approaches to understand evidence-based policing. She highlighted the importance of context as a driver and the strong influence of the (policing) performance culture.

Finally, an interactive world café got everyone off their seats to work together towards solutions. All agreed that graduates have the potential to bring critical thinking, a desire to question, and upscaling of skills to policing – if these qualities are actually utilised. This depends on the culture, protecting learning time, good partnership between forces and education providers, and how policing is actually taught. Forces need to be transparent, to co-design and co-deliver training, and to promote the right kinds of skills and knowledge. Academics also need to do their bit by fostering innovation, combining rigour with realism and drawing on best practice research.

Delegates told us how much they had valued the event; in particular, they stressed that we got the balance right between critical dialogue and not ‘losing’ the practitioners with an overly academic take – “Great event full of insightful resources – thank you!” was a resounding comment.

We hope to draw this learning into a publication, so please so stay in touch if you would like to know more about our activities. A Special Issue of Policing: A Journal of Policy and Practice is underway for 2019.

Read Extending the Remit of Evidence-Based Policing.

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A brief history of cryptography and codes

Matthew Jayes from the School of Business, Economics and Informatics reports on a recent conference on the history of mathematics, looking at the evolution of cryptography and the future of ground-breaking ideas.

On the sunny Saturday of 19 May 2018, London was a very special place to be – Chelsea FC defeated Manchester United FC in the FA Cup Final at Wembley; Saracens beat rival Wasps in a high-octane encounter before home fans in Barnet to qualify for Rugby Union’s Aviva Premiership Final; and there was the matter of royal matrimony in Windsor. At Birkbeck, the Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics and the British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM) celebrated the 70th anniversary of Claude Shannon’s 1948 publication of his influential paper, ‘A Mathematical Theory for Communication’ at the annual History of Maths conference. The event featured six speakers, including Sir John Dermot Turing, nephew of Alan Turing, who took the audience on a journey from early cryptography to the present day, and into the future!

Dr Elizabeth Quaglia, Lecturer in Information Systems at Royal Holloway, University of London, opened the presentations with a journey through classical cryptography and the art of secrecy. The word “cryptography” is derived from the Greek words kryptos (hidden; secret) and graphein (writing; studying). Quaglia suggested that secret writing is arguably as old as written language itself, and early forms are to be found on Babylonian tablets dating back to 2500 BC. Today, cryptography is a science that involves a blend of mathematics, statistics, computer science and engineering; however, things were not always so complex. Early examples of concealing information (steganography) were chronicled by Herodotus (around 484 – 425 BC). In 499 BC, Histiaeus commanded a man to shave his head, after which he wrote a message on his scalp and waited for the hair to grow back to conceal the message. Demaratus removed the wax from a writing tablet to score a message directly into the surface and then covered it up with fresh wax. Steganography is still practised somewhat – in fact, Oliver Stone portrayed the hiding and transportation of classified information under a Rubik’s cube tile in his 2016 film based on the story of Edward Snowden.

Information has been hidden and smuggled, discovered or not, throughout the history of civilisations. Encryption, therefore, was developed in order to change the information to something that could only be understood by the sender and the intended receiver. The role of the unintended receiver, or eavesdropper, has been to make sense of this code through decryption. Various systems have been used, from the Spartan scytale to Caesar’s Cipher, which was a substitution algorithm involving a shift of letters three positions along. For example, ‘BIRKBECK’ may become ELUNEHFN moving forward or YFOHYBZH moving backwards. You may already notice that the security of this type of cipher is rather weak since there are only 25 code keys, which is the number of places one can shift along the alphabet to substitute, and one defunct key (the zero shift, which would render plain text). Given a relatively short period of time, the eavesdropper could try these keys and break the code easily.

It was soon discovered that to make the trial of keys by an eavesdropper too time-consuming to be practical, it is crucial for the key space to be large. The substitution cipher solved this problem by introducing the technique whereby each letter of the alphabet had a different alphabetic permutation – imagine mapping the alphabet to another alphabet sequenced entirely at random – rendering the number of keys to be 26! (factorial) or 4 x 1026. This method became ubiquitous and Quaglia provided a number of historic cases, including Mary, Queen of Scots’ exchange with her co-conspirators in the Babington Plot.

As with much innovation and discovery, the decryption method for this technique began with academics. In this case, Koranic scholars – notably  Al-Kindi – were using a technique to date words by looking at the frequency with which they appeared within the text (a practice still used, for example, in Google Books Ngram Viewer). Cryptanalysts (eavesdroppers) learned they could apply this method to consider the frequency of letters or words, especially popular letters and significant words such as the names of leaders or places, within a language (example of the frequency of letter use in the English language by Cornell Maths).

Quaglia highlighted that the Babington Plot was foiled through frequency analysis. This technique works well on monoalphabetic ciphers, even those using a large key set through substitution; so, the next step to deceive eavesdroppers was to introduce polyalphabetic ciphers credited to Leon Battista Alberti in the 15th century. This method used more than one permutation for each letter of the alphabet, and letters used most frequently were given the most permutations to try and hide linguistic effects previously discovered by frequency analysis. Blaise de Vigenère added keywords to this method, where popular or regularly-used words were codified using a single symbol to represent the whole word, creating le chiffre indéchiffrable (later known as the Vigenère cipher).

The Vigenère cipher held strong for roughly three centuries until it was finally beaten by the Englishman Charles Babbage, although he kept the solution secret. Quaglia described how one might break this cipher, first by identifying the length of the keyword using the Kasiski method and then determining the keyword using the faithful frequency analysis. Quaglia acknowledged there are many other ciphers to discuss and discover, but to keep to time, suggested that there are still many mysteries and unbroken secrets to discover in history through the study of codes and ciphers.

Klaus Schmeh accepted this baton and provided a thorough account of the types of challenges one might face when looking at cryptograms (defined as an encrypted text from the point of view of someone who wishes to break the code – the eavesdropper), especially those dating from around 1400 – 1970. These cryptograms are often still complex and require time and effort, especially as they are pre-computer age and one can encounter difficulties with the quality of the plaintext itself. Think of a damaged or stained document in an earlier form of modern language or using obsolete abbreviations. Schmeh clarified the concept of nomenclators – coding entire words rather than one letter at a time. He then described the complexity and impracticality of early codebooks, like a dictionary with specific code symbols for each word. The audience was also given a robust overview of Enigma, with a key space of around 276 keys.

Schmeh provides many wonderful examples of historic ciphers and codes through his blog and has blogged about this event too (Why this crypto history conference in London was better than the royal wedding). For cryptography enthusiasts, Schmeh highlighted the Kryptos artwork at CIA headquarters, the fourth and final section of which still requires breaking.

The last of the morning’s speakers was Sir John Dermot Turing, who discussed the combined effort required by codebreakers at Bletchley Park and beyond. Turing argued that the contributions of some linguists, mathematicians, and engineers working on cryptography during World War 2 has been sadly under-celebrated. Choosing to use his platform to rectify this, Turing provided a warm and thorough account of the codebreakers Knox, Tiltman, Welchman, and Clarke. Joan Clarke was a pioneering cryptanalyst, a role reserved for men at the time, and was asked to apply for the role of linguist, then deemed to be the most suitable equivalent role and pay grade available for women. Turing went on to highlight the work of Marian Rejewski, who remarkably reverse-engineered one of the most complex machines of the day without ever having seen one. Rejewski had been studying permutation in group theory and dedicated himself to finding the wiring for the rotors of the Enigma machine, which once successful afforded the technique to manufacture a machine (Bomba) to discover the daily settings in use by Enigma. This information was passed to the Allies in July 1939, prior to the German invasion of Poland and war being declared in September 1939.

Alan Turing was able to combine the knowledge generated by Rejewski and his Polish colleagues with Knox’s cribbing methods to build the prototype bombe machine, which took around ten and a half minutes to run through all 17,000+ permutations of the Enigma set-up. While this was impressive, Sir John Dermot Turing suggested that the value of the intelligence resulting from Enigma decryptions was relatively low. Instead, it was the Lorenz cipher machine used by the Nazi German High Command that yielded the highest value intelligence – the decryption of which was developed by Tiltman, Tutte and Flowers (for more, see Colossus by Jack Copeland). Turing used the rest of his presentation to discuss and dispel some myths surrounding Bletchley Park, and he answered audience questions, including one from a gentleman who studied under Max Newman in Manchester.

At this point, I should admit that my personal journey in mathematics ended after a below-average grade in AS Level Decision Maths back in 2001. Thus, when Professor János Körner from Sapienza University of Rome delved into the history of Claude Shannon’s work on information theory, I feared the complexity would be beyond my grasp. It is testament to Körner’s delivery and the diagrammatical nature of Shannon’s work – criticised at the time in peer review – that the concepts were accessible to a layperson like myself (for more see Waldrop in MIT Technology Review, 2001). Körner hinted at the management of creativity at Bell Laboratories – Shannon was often found juggling and riding a unicycle in parallel – and the benefits of interdisciplinary research. As a communications professional, I also found the concept of noise in a channel rather interesting in relation to spoken interpersonal communication. However, for the stronger mathematicians in the audience, Körner embarked on a journey through the unsolved zero error capacity issue, work by Lóvasz, the Berge conjecture on perfect graphs and its eventual proof by Chudnovsky, Robertson, Seymour and Thomas in 2006.

The political nature of cryptography and its history was discussed further by Professor Keith Martin, also at Royal Holloway, University of London, as he wove through the 20th century to contemporary issues and beyond. Focusing on the development of standards, first the Data Encryption Standard (DES) then later the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), Martin provided a bold narrative of the conflict around regulation from trade controls of cryptographic hardware to the modern dilemmas faced as cryptography has become more fluid as software. Citing Snowden as an interesting example, Martin argued that the cryptography context has become so ubiquitous, large, and complex that it is now incredibly difficult for individuals to fully grasp the entirety of global information systems and their security. Therefore, today’s eavesdropper is just as likely to be looking for points of vulnerability within the entire system, rather than just decryption per se. Martin concluded that the ethics of cryptanalysis (who performs it and why) will continue to be relevant for years to come, as will cryptography in relation to the Cloud, the Internet of Things (including human-embedded technologies), and Quantum Computing. On this latter topic, Martin suggested that he was looking forward to discussing the cryptography community’s response at future history of mathematics conferences.

The speakers had provided rich context on the history of cryptography and codes, from the political to the technical, and discussion of secrecy in its many related forms; so when Clifford Cocks CB, FRS delivered the final presentation on his discovery of Public Key Cryptography in secret at GCHQ, later discovered in parallel by Diffie, Hellman, and Merkle, the audience was very well aware of just how important this breakthrough was (for more, see Levy in Wired).

The encryption methods by Cocks – and later Rivest, Shamir and Adleman (RSA) – are metaphorically similar to padlock-and-key security systems, although delivered through beautiful mathematics.

What I enjoy most when hearing directly from those responsible for major breakthroughs is the humble sense of human accomplishment and pride they have in their work. Cocks was no exception to this, clearly proud of his accomplishments and the successes of his colleagues, while considering them within the broader context of human knowledge discovery (see also films such as Particle Fever and AlphaGo). This prompts us to ask: who do we celebrate, how and why? Studying the history of mathematics, science and scholarship, in general, affords the opportunity to learn about the individuals and groups who achieved great things, whether or not they were acknowledged at the time. It allows us to look at the social constructs and infrastructures in place at the time – for example during times of war – helping us to question the kind of environment we make available to encourage further discoveries.

For this reason, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM) and the Department of Economics, Mathematics and Statistics at Birkbeck for organising this insightful and accessible conference. On behalf of the audience, I extend gratitude to the speakers and the organiser, Professor Sarah Hart.

To attend upcoming BSHM events, including ‘Mathematics in War and Peace’, Wednesday 24 October 2018, please visit the website for more information.

Birkbeck offers courses in mathematics and history.

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Global labour and the UK: On Brexit, migration, creativity, and talent

Matthew Jayes from the School of Business, Economics and Informatics discusses a recent event from the Department of Management looking at global labour and the effects of internationalism and immigration in the workplace.

L-R: Professor Michael Mainelli, James Sproule, Professor Jonathan Portes, Dr Paz Estrella Tolentino, Dr Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, Douglas McWilliams, Derek Bates

Birkbeck’s Department of Management hosted the second annual International Business Seminar in partnership with the Worshipful Company of World Traders on Wednesday 16 May 2018. The seminar featured speakers from academia and industry, including Chair of the event, Michael Mainelli, Executive Chairman of Z/Yen Group and Master of the Worshipful Company of World Traders. The audience ranged from Birkbeck staff, students and alumni, World Traders, policy-makers, and business representatives.

The evening opened with presentations from two renowned academics who discussed their own research related to the themes of Brexit, migration, identity and talent. Jonathan Portes, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at King’s College, London, began by summarising the current policy context surrounding the UK’s imminent withdrawal from European Union (EU). Portes, whose father migrated to the UK from the United States to join Birkbeck’s then newly-established Economics department as joint-Chair, highlighted official statistics indicating the decline in numbers of EU citizens migrating to the UK since the referendum result. In advance of the latest quarterly official migration statistics, Portes suggested he did not expect to see a significant reversal of this trend. For those who might endorse the Conservative and Unionist Party manifesto pledge to reduce net migration to the “tens of thousands” and therefore see these statistics as ‘a move in the right direction’, Portes highlighted the concern amongst businesses of access to talent and skills. Indeed, reflecting on the Chair’s opening remarks about the number of non-British EU nationals currently employed in the UK working in the Financial Technology (FinTech) sector and drawing from examples of Higher Education and Healthcare, Portes suggested this trend should be a cause for concern.

The Migration Advisory Committee was commissioned to report on the economic impact of immigration and future implications for policy, with findings due in September 2018. This report is expected to provide the evidence base for policy and debate, although amid rumours of an immigration white paper possibly being brought forward to July 2018, Portes called for a commitment to evidence-based policymaking. In 2019 then, should the UK expect an Immigration Bill to confirm the system to be adopted once its membership of the EU has ended? For Portes, this system might be similar to the one for non-EEA nationals, although there are still open questions. For example, will there be a preferential system for EU nationals (or specific EU member states)? Will there be sector-specific or regional differences? Portes suggested that there is fundamentally a division between those who would like to see a liberal system and those who wish to see greater restrictions, noting that this division is not a ‘remainer-leaver’ issue. Ending his presentation with a hint of optimism, Portes concluded that the immigration policy area is ripe for renewal and improvement, saying “there is an opportunity here if we can take it.”

Dr Rebecca Gumbrell-McCormick, Senior Lecturer in Management at Birkbeck, responded by providing a robust summary of the Trade Union response to global migration. Drawing from a selection of Portes’ published articles, her own research, and other leading voices in this field, Gumbrell-McCormick looked at broader global migration patterns and associated causes of tension. Global labour migration reacts to push and pull factors, notably the continued divergence between wages and working conditions. Focusing on the difference between Northwestern Europe and Central Eastern Europe, Gumbrell-McCormick asserted that businesses have created a demand for low wage labour deliberately through their business models. Such demand is serviceable only when there are limited or no alternatives for workers in their locale. According to Gumbrell-McCormick, the UK trade union response has demonstrated solidarity with global workers, highlighting the need for fair movement from an early stage in the debate. However, there are still concerns remaining, for example, trade unions are fighting the abuse of self-employment status by foreign workers – but also by British workers too.

The European trade union response to global migration has been more varied, with Gumbrell-McCormick highlighting the differing response to free movement from German and Austrian trade unions. One area felt to be consistent across trade unions in the UK and European counterparts was the willingness to work together with foreign worker communities, providing information, support and solidarity on matters of rights being upheld. Gumbrell-McCormick suggested that the UK trade union position on migration and free movement is largely similar to the business position, highlighting the need for trade unions to play a role of critical friend to prevent any reduction in the quality of worker rights.

First to respond to the presentations was Douglas McWilliams, Deputy Chairman, Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), stating “migration is an amazingly creative but disruptive force.” For McWilliams, the UK needs the boost to creativity and dynamism afforded by those who choose to relocate for better opportunities. Indeed, for him, the UK cannot afford to reduce net migration to the tens of thousands through restricting inward movement. McWilliams challenged the audience to ponder how the impact of migration can be measured in relation to dynamism rather than net tax contributions, since he expects the former would prove much more valuable. This theme ran throughout the discussion in various forms; for example, the audience was asked by James Sproule, Member, European Advisory at L.E.K Consulting, to consider how a state might reliably measure creativity, grit, ambition, dynamism and entrepreneurialism in individuals accurately through a visa application process. The panel’s industry representatives were clear these types of attributes are those required for the future success of productivity and the UK economy.

Other themes emerged throughout the panel discussion and audience questions, the first of which asked what new steps businesses should be taking to attract and retain talent. Gumbrell-McCormick cited Birkbeck as an example of good practice, liaising with the organisation’s trade union and providing ongoing information and support for EU nationals. McWilliams suggested that the focus for business should be on providing good work, ensuring jobs are interesting and rewarding. Significantly, a lowered voice from the back of the lecture theatre could be heard to muse “Berlin has interesting jobs too.”

Professor Michael Mainelli chairs the panel discussion

As an employee of Birkbeck’s School of Business, Economics and Informatics, as well as a 2016 alumnus of the MSc Creative Industries (Management), I could not help but reflect on my personal experiences. I am also a member of the Work and Employment Policy Advisory Committee at the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI). The LCCI published a report in November 2016, ‘Permits, Points and Visas’, prepared by McWilliams’ CEBR, which outlined a number of recommendations from the London business community following the outcome of the referendum. The panellists suggested that the context has shifted and relaxed since the report; however, the needs of the capital should not be underestimated. Portes indicated that it is highly likely controls on migrant labour will be focused not at national borders but at the workplace, with landlords and public service providers. Whilst the concept of a distributed system could be argued as more democratic than a highly centralised system, certainly concerns of small businesses around resource capacity should be considered.

Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA), produced ‘Good Work’, an independent review of modern working practices. The relationship between good work, good living standards, and talent requires further research, especially when considering business competition for global talent. Whilst the current immigration policy context may be focused on restrictions, the speakers sounded a word of warning that the UK may not receive the desired quantity of visa applications from those it wishes to attract if there are too many restrictions in place.

For me, this also raises questions about the nature of talent and skills development. Beyond the aforementioned concern of how an administrative process may accurately measure desirable individual qualities, there appears to be the issue of temporality and lived experiences. For example, how many successful businesses emerge from chance encounters or from identifying a niche in a market one has been working in for some time (perhaps in a low-skilled role)? My experience of working on the development of Enterprise Pathways at Birkbeck allowed me to interact with many wonderful, dynamic Birkbeck students, many of whom are aiming to change careers entirely. Thus, whilst government austerity was discussed on the evening, surely the current debate around talent and migration must focus on how the UK can better develop its capacity to support citizens and migrant communities, both of which are rich sources of innovation and creativity.

The final audience question of the evening was posed by a student of business, economics and computer information systems at Georgia State University, currently undertaking an internship in London. Questioning the relationship between creativity and migration, the panel responded with their thoughts and, for some, their own experiences as migrants. McWilliams was resolute in his assertion that “changes to one’s environment and increased exposure to, or integration with, greater diversity certainly leads to better creativity.”

Portes reinforced this belief, asserting that “diversity makes us collectively better.” Certainly, this is a belief strongly held at Birkbeck and is manifest in our widening access and outreach activities, and demonstrated by our pioneering Compass Project which enables asylum seekers to have access to higher education, recognised with a major prize at the Guardian University Awards 2018.

This International Business seminar series is an important addition to the ever-present polite public debate at Birkbeck, and on behalf of staff, students and alumni, I would like to extend my gratitude to the Worshipful Company of World Traders for their ongoing support. If you are interested in attending future events at Birkbeck, please visit the events calendar.

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