Stella’s Starting Study Vlog

This post was contributed by Stella Asante (student ambassador) and Gemma Bauman (student engagement officer). Here, Stella gives an insight into starting at Birkbeck. 

Walking into your first class can be nerve racking! Gathering your books, taking a seat and looking around wondering who to talk to and what your lecturers will be like. This feeling of uncertainty is perfectly normal – it’s the feeling of a challenge; a new adventure.

But, what do you need to know to be a little more comfortable with this feeling?

Final year Linguistics and Japanese student, Stella Asante, shares her tips on Freshers at Birkbeck, covering:

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Birkbeck Graduate Research School Relaunches

This post has been contributed by Rima Amin, Registry Officer at Birkbeck.

To Brexit or not to Brexit, that was the question posed to students and speakers at the Birkbeck Graduate Research School’s (BGRS) “Relaunch” event on Monday, 23 May. The event hosted a Brexit debate followed by a drinks reception and an informal group discussion on the development of the Research School.

The BGRS is a network providing resources, skills workshops and social events to support students during their time at Birkbeck. These are currently provided through the BGRS website, academibirkbeck-entrance1.jpgc workshop calendar and email communications.

The BGRS is currently revising the services it provides, how it communicates and seeking further ideas on how it can be improved to meet research students’ needs better.

In his welcome speech Pro-Vice Master Julian Swann said “Tonight is about engaging in debate on Brexit which is an event of great topical interest to us all. Development of the research school is a priority for Birkbeck, so along with the debate tonight we look forward to having you give us your views about how to create a stronger community for research students.”

Chaired by Professor Rosie Campbell from Birkbeck’s Politics Department, the debate began with Ben Harris-Quinney from the Leave side making his case saying: “Research students are a crucial group who can find great opportunity in Brexit as they are people ready to engage in the world with ideas.”

He said that Britain is a bigger contributor of academic research opposed to its European counterparts inferring that research students are currently giving more than they are gaining.

Next was the turn of Lord Richard Balfe from the remain side who began by criticizing campaigners on both sides of Brexit who treat the referendum as though Britain is going to end if they don’t get their way.

Lord Balfe spoke of Britain in the 1950’s where racism was rife and signs saying “No dogs. No Irish” were visible on the streets. He said that Britain had come a long way since then and migrants have played a key role to the current well-functioning economy in Britain.

The students raised challenging insights to both speakers. Lord Balfe was questioned over the lack of transparency over decision-making in European Parliament compared with British Parliament.

The conclusion from the remain drapeaux européensside: “One person’s red tape is another person’s working rights- we should be proud of what we have achieved.” And that from the leave side: “With champagne receptions and lobster dinners, the EU can appear glamourous, but when you see through it, you realise democracy is more effective when local.”

The Chair of the debate thanked the speakers and the questions from the students calling the contributions “a much richer discussion than what we can find in the papers.”

Research student Ekua Agha said “The debate was extremely innovative and provoked a lot of thought on the issues. The informal setting but formal discussion was struck at a nice balance.”

Birkbeck Graduate Research School would like to thank Ben Harris Quinney, Lord Richard Balfe and all attendees.

It’s not over.

If you couldn’t make last night’s debate, we still want to hear your thoughts on how we can develop the research school. Here are the questions we asked research students at the event. Please send your thoughts to researchstudentunit@bbk.ac.uk. 

1. What do you want the Graduate School to be/do?
2. What’s the best thing about studying at Birkbeck?
3. If you could change 1 thing about your time at Birkbeck, what would it be?
4. How do you want to find out about training & events?
5. What do you think about tonight’s event?/Ideas for future events?

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Islington 91-year-old resident graduates with theatre degree

A theatre-loving 91-year-old graduated from Birkbeck this week with a Master’s degree in Shakespeare and Contemporary Performance.

Patricia Bishop and her daughter, Hilary

Patricia Bishop and her daughter, Hilary

As part of her dissertation project, Archway resident ­Patricia Bishop watched 37 performances of Shakespeare’s work at the Globe Theatre in the space of six weeks – at one point seeing three performances in a single day.

One of the UK’s oldest graduates, Patricia received her Master’s degree at a formal graduation ceremony in Senate House, Bloomsbury, on Wednesday (20 April). This is her third degree, having initially graduated with a BA in Psychology in 1945 from Bedford College for Women (now part of Royal Holloway), and then a BA in English from Birkbeck in 2010.

In between these degrees she led a fulfilling career in clinical psychology in England and France, working primarily with young people and their families. She held research and clinical positions in a variety of settings, including the Tavistock Clinic, HM Prison Holloway, and latterly at the Learning disability Services in North London, where she retired at 80.

Patricia's story was covered in the Islington Gazette. Click here to read the article

Patricia’s story was covered in the Islington Gazette. Click here to read the article

Her love of literature and theatre began at a young age when she was a student at Pontefract Girls’ High School in Yorkshire, however she didn’t pursue it as a career path. Upon retiring at the turn of the century, she resolved to fulfill a longtime ambition to explore literature in an academic setting. Birkbeck’s modes of evening and part-time study allowed her to maintain some balance between spending time with her family, some volunteering activities and attending to her studies.

Patricia wasn’t daunted by the classroom environment.

She said: “Of course I was one of the older ones, but most people were in their 20s and 30s which was nice. I have always worked with young people as a psychologist, and so I liked that about the classes.

“In fact the contact with people from different backgrounds and with younger minds was most enjoyable and refreshing. It was good for my morale that younger students often told me that they found my enthusiasm and effort a source of encouragement.”

However, getting to grips with academic writing took some adjustment.

She said: “Although I have been writing reports for years, it’s quite different writing an essay conveying your thoughts on literature. To explain ones enjoyment and to relate it to others’ ideas on the subject is the challenge, but very rewarding as one begins to achieve it. What is important at Birkbeck is that help is available with methods of study and writing in particular in addition to inspiring teachers.”

Patricia was interviewed on BBC Radio London on her graduation day. Listen here (from 02:23:40)

Patricia was interviewed on BBC Radio London on her graduation day. Listen here (from 02:23:40)

In addition to gaining academic support during her two degrees at the College, Patricia also reached out to Birkbeck’s Disability Service and Library for help with mobility and gaining access to learning materials.

“I have huge appreciation for the team at Birkbeck. Throughout my time I have experienced enormous encouragement, support and really practical help,” she said.

For her Master’s dissertation, exploring how Shakespeare’s plays can be meaningful without understanding the language, she attended the Globe’s multilingual festival of Shakespeare’s works which ran as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad. In total, she saw all 37 productions in the six-week season

“I really did become something of a fixture at the theatre,” said Patricia, who is still a regular audience member, attending the theatre up to twice a month.

This week, she graduated alongside nearly 200 fellow postgraduate students from the college’s School of Arts at an afternoon ceremony held in Senate House’s Beveridge Hall.

Patricia Bishop

Patricia Bishop

In the audience was her daughter Hilary, granddaughters Violet (16) and Leila (13), and son-in-law Daniel, all of whom were very much looking forward to seeing her graduate once more – especially her granddaughters.

“They think it’s great. They’re very happy and proud. Last time I graduated at Christmas time in 2010, my granddaughters came to the ceremony and absolutely loved it. So they were impatient for me to finish as I have been rather slow in completing my MA, and they have been looking forward to the next ceremony,” she said.

Looking forward, while Patricia isn’t planning to pursue another degree, she is continuing to satisfy her academic interests by attending weekly sessions at the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution plus many events and discussions in the literary world such as those held at the University of London and elsewhere

As with her time at university, she said she continues to enjoy “the luxury of studying something in depth, having good teachers, and new experiences”.

Her advice to others is to the point:

“I would say go for it, choose what you really want to study or learn more about. And to succeed, you need to learn to focus.”

Jeremy Corbyn House of Commons

Jeremy Corbyn MP, Leader of the Labour Party, mentioned Patricia’s success during Oral Questions at the House of Commons on Thursday 21April 2016. Click the image above to watch the clip.

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Keeping students competitive

This post was contributed by Charles Shaw, founder of the Birkbeck Economics & Finance Society

Students at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (CM 2016. All rights reserved)

Students at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (Venture Capital Movement or VCM 2016, All Rights Reserved)

The best thing about studying in London, apart from the outstanding education options, is the sheer number of opportunities to expand one’s professional network. This is particularly important for those students seeking careers in finance or professional services, where tens or even hundreds of applicants are often chasing the same job.

As many students are no doubt discovering, an excellent academic record is necessary but not sufficient as employers often want relevant work experience and excellence in an extra-curricular activity. Internships are also rare, making it at times particularly challenging to obtain practical experience and to gain relevant insight in one’s chosen future industry.

With this in mind, Birkbeck’s Economics & Finance Society enters student teams into select competitions, with the hope that preparation for and participation in such contests augments their understanding of financial concepts, and sharpens their technical skills in preparation for the challenges of the job market.

Last month, the Society entered a team in the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC). This event, supported by the British Private Equity & Venture Capital Association, is designed to simulate the analysis, preparation, and delivery that private equity and investment professionals engage in when evaluating risk-return trade-offs and executing exit options. Taking place over the course of one day, students from multiple disciplines have the opportunity to test their understanding of the praxis of corporate finance against top teams from other universities.

About the competition

Although this marked the first time that the competition took place in London, VCIC enjoys a strong tradition of participation in United States. The original Venture Capital Investment Competition began at UNC Kenan-Flagler in 1998 as an educational event for MBAs to learn about venture funding.

The format has largely remained unchanged. Experienced investors act as judges and students have the opportunity to interact with actual entrepreneurs to analyse capital structure of young firms and decide potential investment opportunities; students work in teams to conduct due diligence, look through topical, complex business problems and present valuation, investment analysis, and relevant proposals concerning syndication, option pools, and anti-dilution measures.

VCIC in London

The event had a strong London flavour to it as a number of the capital’s institutions were represented. Eight teams were participating in total, with students from LBS, LSE, Queen Mary’s, UCL, King’s, Cambridge and Birkbeck. The event received wide coverage in diverse international media, including outlets in United States and Singapore’s The Straits Times reflecting the London’s international workforce and diverse student population. In addition, all of the participating start-ups were London-based technology companies, reflecting the capital’s vibrant network of tech hubs.

The competition was organised under the aegis of UCL School of Management, and served as a both a training ground and a marketplace. On the one hand, future finance professionals were able to learn a great deal about technology commercialization and investment due diligence by working with owners of actual start-up companies. On the other hand, students were able to engage with the full spectrum of entrepreneurial activity, from a company’s planning and execution strategy, to the due diligence process for potential investments. In turn, firms’ owners benefit from students’ management insight and strategic recommendations they otherwise might not obtain.

Although the competition is new to London, it enjoys a strong tradition of participation in United States. Indeed, the event, which originated in North Carolina in the midst of the technology bubble as an opportunity for graduate students to learn about venture funding, is now in its 18th year. As a result of this tradition, the winning team, LSE, was invited to take part in the VCIC International Finals at UNC Kenan-Flagler in North Carolina, United States.

Deepening understanding of financial processes

2 VCM 2016. All rights reservedDuring the competition, students were able to deepen their understanding of the links between potential investors and business owners. Such links include, for example, both the explicit contractual arrangements between entrepreneurs and venture capital providers, and the implicit contract which gives a successful entrepreneur the option to reacquire control from the venture capitalist by using a floatation as a means by which the venture capitalist exits from an investment. Students were also able to gauge the viability of alternative forms of investment such as acquisitions, alliances, and licensing.

The company evaluation case-studies provided up-to-date and real-life corporate finance challenges that offered participants practical experiences in the field of financial services. Overall, the competition was an opportunity to interact with students from other top academic institutions, to immerse in a global business context where competitors are potential partners, and to become familiar with the challenges of managing a company.

The importance of gaining field-based knowledge

Was it a valuable experience for participants? Without a doubt, yes. Students of investment have long been interested in how firms can achieve growth. In this vein, a long tradition of scholarship exists on the various tools that firms can employ to pursue financial growth and corporate development. While there are extensive opportunities available for learning about various means for business development and corporate growth, both at undergraduate and graduate level, there are relatively few opportunities for students to augment the entrepreneurial concepts learned in lectures and seminars with practical field-based knowledge. There are even fewer opportunities to solve realistic business problems with a corporate finance focus under the direct guidance of senior M&A practitioners, industry experts and company directors.

It is hoped, through the continued engagement of London’s business and investment leaders, as well as through our academic network, that we can help prepare our society members for job market success. This competition, and others like it, can help understand how business strategy would flow down to operations and to financial performance of a business. It highlights how competition, contracts and external factors dictate business in terms of pricing and quality. It was also an opportunity to integrate appreciation of demand, pricing, legal factors, finance and accounting, and strategy, towards a common goal of financial performance.

The Birkbeck team consisted of: Dimitrios Bissias (MSc Economics), Ahmed Razzaq (LLM), Hannah Duck (BSc Statistics and Economics), and Ved Vyass Boojihawon (BSc Financial Economics with Accounting).

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